ontario news watch

Manitoba Tories decide not to proceed with online voting in leadership race

WINNIPEG — Manitoba Progressive Conservatives are kicking off their leadership race and have decided not to use online voting.

The party has announced that nomination forms will be available starting Friday for a leadership that will be decided on April 26 of next year — a date that was revealed two months ago.

The Tories are looking to replace former premier Heather Stefanson, who announced her plan to step down after the Tories lost October’s provincial election.

Interim leader Wayne Ewasko had left the door open to a leadership run, but now says he has decided not to enter the race due to family reasons.

The Tories recently changed their constitution to allow for online voting in addition to their traditional mail-in ballots.

But Brad Zander, head of the party’s leadership committee, says online voting won’t be adopted for this race, partly because of cost concerns.

“After the election, the party has some ground to make up financially, and with each different option you provide in terms of voting, it increases costs,” Zander said Thursday.

Concern about introducing a new voting system at a time when party staff and volunteers are already facing other changes was also a factor, Zander said.

The Tories overhauled their rules in January in an attempt to avoid the kind of controversy that erupted when Stefanson narrowly won the leadership in the fall of 2021.

There was a last-minute surge in party memberships and many members complained they did not receive mail-in ballots in time to vote. An internal review of that race’s problems pointed to other issues, including the possibility that the party’s one-member, one-vote system left it open to a takeover from single-interest outsiders.

The new leadership rules require more time between the cutoff of membership sales and the deadline for people to mail in ballots. The rules also tweak the formula for counting votes.

They continue to allow every Tory member to cast a ballot, but they incorporate a point system to limit the weight of constituencies with big membership numbers. The aim is to ensure that the leadership race cannot be decided by a flood of new members in one or two constituencies.

The Tories latest electoral setback was a byelection defeat last week in Stefanson’s Tuxedo seat to the governing New Democrats. The Tories had held that seat ever since its creation in 1979.

Ewasko said the Tories were hampered by an early election call but saw some positive news that multiple candidates sought to be the Tory candidate

“It was a snap election call by the premier. That being said … the Progressive Conservatives were the only party to hold a (contested nomination) contest,” Ewasko said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2024.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press