The voice of party members must be heard in the selection of a new party leader, or democracy will have been denied.
As the Ontario PC Party continues to try and pick up the pieces following a horrible week, there are growing rumbles about cancelling the promised leadership race after the departure of former party president Rick Dykstra.
As reported by the Globe & Mail, “Support for what would amount to conducting a leadership race in fewer than 60 days began to waver, the insiders said, following Mr. Dykstra’s announcement via Twitter on Sunday night he is “taking a step back for someone else to lead us through the hard work.”
While the report mentions claims by insiders that “the party executive is coming under pressure from grassroots members to hold off until after the election,” it is very unlikely that most true grassroots members want to be denied their chance to pick a leader.
Raising further questions is the fact that interim leader Vic Fedeli seemed to want to lead the party into an election without a leadership race, until the party executive voted to give members a vote.
If that was all of a sudden reversed, there would be serious doubts as to the fairness of a process where some MPP’s got to elect the next potential premier of a province without any input from tens of thousands of PC Party members.
The PCs appear to be drifting towards a mindset focused on weakness, rather than realizing the potential strengths a leadership race could bring. It would garner the party massive amounts of attention and media, sign up tens of thousands of new members, eclipse anything the government wants to talk about for months, and culminate in a leadership announcement event that would draw big ratings.
If approached with confidence, a leadership race can provide the PCs with a boost in name recognition for many potential candidates, and show Ontario that democracy is alive and well within the party.
The alternative – breaking their word on a leadership race and allowing backroom decisions to dictate the party leadership – could severely depress enthusiasm and voter turnout.
Of course, the hope among those wanting to betray the promise of a leadership vote would be that there is so much anger towards Kathleen Wynne that they will just win no matter who their leader is. And yet, the past shows that the Kathleen Wynne political team is as good at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as the Ontario PCs have been at doing the opposite.
Defeating Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals will require a province-wide movement, and that movement will be best created by a leadership race.
The Ontario PCs want the voters to trust them with power. They must first show that they trust their own members with the power to vote for their new leader.
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