If you remember sitting and watching the map turn red on November 8, 2016, the Progressive Conservative leadership race might have given you some intense flashbacks. For the second time in recent memory, a man beat out a woman for an elected leadership position despite winning fewer votes. Feeling uneasy yet?
When PC leader Patrick Brown resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations, triggering this race, it seemed the Ontario PCs were in for a female leader. Out of the four candidates, three — Christine Elliott, Caroline Mulroney and Tanya Granic Allen — were women and they were up against Doug Ford, brother of the late infamous former-Toronto-mayor, Rob Ford.
Then, Brown entered the race for the position he had just vacated, adding to the conviction that one of the women would win. Between the current Me Too/Time’s Up movements and the circumstances of the race in the first place — regardless of Brown’s guilt or innocence — it seemed unlikely that Ontario PCs would vote in a man when there were three qualified women with their hats in the ring. If we learned anything in 2016, it was to not assume election outcomes. Ever.
Brown pulled out of the race 10 days after entering it, citing several reasons as to why and offering support to all four remaining candidates. After his departure, polls showed Ford and Elliott neck in neck at the top. Approaching the March 10 voting deadline, there was a court injunction filed to extend the voting period by one week — despite the record-setting number of voters — because some party members did not receive voting packages in the mail. The application was rejected by a judge and the results were set to be read Saturday afternoon. Except they weren’t.
The PC party members who turned out to the leadership convention in Markham, ON Saturday to hear live who was to be the new leader of their party were sorely disappointed when no such announcement was made and were sent home still without answers. In the early evening, the Ford family announced that Doug had won the leadership, but the Party remained silent until after 10:00 p.m., saying only that the results were “under review” and that “a candidate” was contesting them.
The official announcement of Ford’s win came late that night, though it was clear who the displeased candidate was when Christine Elliott refused to concede the election. She released a statement citing “serious irregularities” in the race for her resistance to the results. Those irregularities included that Elliott had won the popular vote and the majority of ridings and that there was less than a 150-point discrepancy between her and Ford. She also claimed that “thousands of members” had voted in the incorrect riding.
— Mike Crawley (@CBCQueensPark) March 11, 2018
Like we all learned in the American election in 2016, there are races where you can win the popular vote, but still lose the elected position. Using a similar electoral college process, the PC leadership race is one of them. Despite winning the popular vote and the most ridings, Elliott lost the votes that counted the most. Literally. PC Party leadership voting is complicated because the party wants to ensure that the candidate represents voters across the province, rather than just the most in highly concentrated areas. That means that not all votes are equal when they are tabulated. For a detailed breakdown of how that works, the CBC explains it well.
Sunday, Elliott met with Ford at an undisclosed “Toronto-area” location to discuss the results of the election and the fate of the party. After that meeting, Elliott conceded the election to Ford and offered him congratulations and her support. Ford said that Elliott would be playing a key role in the party’s run against Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in the June 7 provincial election.
— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) March 11, 2018
Early polls suggest that, despite what people may think, Doug Ford will be able to carry the PCs to victory against the Liberals in the spring. The Donald Trump comparisons are also running wild online and not just because of the numbers that got both leaders elected. Both Ford and Trump came from infamy and ran populist campaigns that railed against “elites.” Political commentators believe that a Ford win isn’t impossible and is, in fact, quite likely.
We’ll see what happens in June.