Conservative leadership race left in chaos; members sent home with no winner declared

Online ballots, missing ballots, electronic voting machines, computer technicians and long delays messed up the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership race that was supposed to conclude Saturday evening in Markham, Ont.

“This is not a good night for the PC Party of Ontario,” said Frank Klees, former PC Ontario cabinet minister, in a media scrum reported by CBC. He called on all members of the party’s executive to resign.

Mike Wallace of CBC News reported a series of machines declared Doug Ford the winner of the tumultuous 44-day race that included lots of bickering, not only among the party’s leadership candidates, but also among the members who cast ballots. Crawley first announced the winner about 5 p.m. Saturday. But it wasn’t official. And now party officials are saying it might not be official until Sunday. And who knows if Crawley’s announcement offers the whole picture. Apparently, there’s more bickering among the party’s candidates about the result.

All the attention after Crawley’s announcement was directed at the voting machines, which were supposed to speed up the process, but only contributed to turning this race into chaos.

Can anybody trust these machines anymore?

Maybe, it’s time to stop pushing buttons to decide the winners of political races. Maybe, it’s time to do things the old-fashioned way – count the ballots by hand. If a race is close, count the ballots again. Double check all the ballots and make sure everything is on the up and up.

Surely, if the ballots had been counted by hand, a result would have been announced late Saturday afternoon.

It should be clear by now that machines aren’t the way to decide a leadership convention or a municipal, provincial or federal election campaign.

Now, we have a provincial party deciding who will be its next leader by online ballots and pushing buttons on machines. It doesn’t instil a lot of confidence. And there’s even less confidence now that no result has been declared.

Apparently, they did a recount by hand Saturday at the PC Leadership Convention but they still have no winner. Apparently one of the candidates has challenged the result. We could guess who, but we won’t.

Gone were the days when after a first ballot, candidates would go around negotiating with delegates in other camps to try and woo their support, adding to the drama and the excitement of a leadership race. The excitement on the floor of the PC Leadership Convention Saturday seemed to turn into frustration and anger as members and candidates waited seemingly forever to get official results. And then they didn’t get any.

This was just another chapter in all the chaos that has surrounded this race.

It started with the departure of the apparent frontrunner Patrick Brown, who withdrew amid unproven allegations of sexual misconduct. Then, it became a battle between Ford and Christine Elliott, each exchanging barbs at each other throughout the campaign.

Now, somehow, all the computer glitches, arguments and disputes aside, this Progressive Conservative Party has to find a way to come together in a concerted effort to defeat Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. Who, between Elliott and Ford, offered the party’s best chance to beat Wynne?

The Toronto Sun examined just that question back on March 3.

“Doug Ford is an antidote to that deeply rooted and growing cynicism, which poses a nightmare for Kathleen Wynne, who personifies that voter discontent,” wrote James Wallace.

Writer Adrienne Batra had a different view: “Christine Elliott has once again stepped up for her party, her province and if she is rewarded with being the new PC Party leader on Saturday, she will be the next premier of Ontario. With all of the drama that has engulfed the Tories in the last few weeks, Elliott has proven herself to be the adult in the room the party so desperately needed.”

So who will win this race and who will have the respect of the Progressive Conservative Party? We still don’t know. Who knows if we ever will?

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Jeff Wilkinson

About the Author: Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson  is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining  Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and

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