MLA Heather Stefanson, former MP Shelly Glover make final Manitoba PC leadership ballot
Leader will become Manitoba's 1st female premier — 'a historic and significant milestone,' says PC president
The race to lead Manitoba's Progressive Conservative Party, and become the new premier, is down to two candidates — one of whom will become the first woman to lead the province.
Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson and former Conservative MP Shelly Glover are the only names that will appear on the ballot that will determine who becomes leader of the governing party, and therefore premier, on Oct. 30, the Progressive Conservative Party announced Thursday.
Stefanson said in a statement she is pleased to be on the ballot.
"Regardless of what happens in this race, Manitoba will be lead by a woman for the first time in its history," she said. "This is an exciting and historic time for Manitoba!"
Glover has not yet commented.
Former PC chief financial officer Ken Lee, who said he intended to run for the leadership, did not make it through the party's screening process.
PC spokesperson Keith Stewart declined to elaborate on the reason Lee did not clear the screening.
In a statement, PC leadership election committee chair George Orle said the party has "a rigorous application process that embodies a broad range of factors, all of which have been carefully considered."
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In order to appear on the ballot, candidates had to submit an application "in a prescribed form," submit nomination signatures from 50 party members "in good standing," provide evidence of selling 1,000 new memberships and submit a $25,000 entry fee, the party said.
Prospective candidates also had to submit to an interview to "to ensure a commitment to the principles and values of the party," the party said.
Lee said on Facebook he does not know why he was denied a place on the ballot.
"As a Manitoban and a proud Canadian, this is a very sad day for freedom and democracy," Lee said.
"My dedication to this party is unquestionable. And they do not have the courtesy to explain to me why have been denied a place on the ballot. It seems to be this decision was discretionary."
McPhillips MLA Shannon Martin, who had also said he intended to run for the leadership, announced on Facebook late Wednesday he also didn't make the cut.
Historic 1st comes with caveat
Whoever wins out of Stefanson and Glover — the former a cabinet minister under Brian Pallister, the latter a cabinet minister under Prime Minster Stephen Harper — Manitobans will see something they never have before.
"After having 23 male premiers, Manitoba will soon have its first female premier, a historic and significant milestone in advancing female representation in leadership positions," Stewart said in a statement.
That history-making move comes with a caveat.
"The government is very unpopular. It'll be tough for either Heather Stefanson or Shelly Glover to lead the party to victory in the next election," said Royce Koop, a professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba.
"If the party is looking for a clean break from the time (of) Brian Pallister as leader and premier, Shelly Glover is going to better be able to bring that about," Koop added.
In June, a Probe Research poll suggested that support for the New Democrats had climbed to 47 per cent among decided voters, compared to 29 per cent for the PCs.
"Conservatives themselves are frustrated, deeply frustrated. They read the polls. They hear from their neighbours. They talk," said Mary Agnes Welch with Probe Research. "Conservatives themselves know that the last couple of years in Manitoba [were] not great for them."
She characterized the race to replace Pallister as one between a "blue blood" Manitoba PC insider in Stefanson and an "elite" outsider in Glover.
"This could … surface a whole bunch of different tensions within the [Progressive] Conservative Party here and really conservative parties across the country," said Welch.
Party members will select the new leader in a one-member, one-vote system. Stefanson and Glover may continue selling memberships until Sept. 30.
The party will disclose the final tally of memberships sold after that deadline, Stewart said.
With files from Ian Froese