Nova Scotia PC party doesn't expect Ontario's voting issues in leadership race

Candidates and organizers of next October's PC leadership vote in Nova Scotia don't anticipate the problems faced by party members in Ontario last weekend, despite using the same point system to choose a new leader.

'We made the right call' going with paper ballots, says leadership co-chair Tara Erskine

The five people who have entered the PC leadership race are MLA John Lohr, MLA Tim Houston, Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market executive director Julie Chaisson, MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin and Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke. ( Scotia Progressive Conservative Party/Submitted by Julie Chaisson/CBC/CBC)

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said she watched the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership convention on Saturday with keen interest — and plenty of empathy for the candidates and their teams.

"Felt bad for them, that was my gut reaction," said the woman who would like to lead the PC Party in Nova Scotia come fall.

"It certainly didn't seem to go smoothly, and I'm sure there was some frustration by everyone involved."

Doug Ford won the Ontario race by a tiny margin over three competitors. His win was announced after a seven-hour delay confirming the results of a point system where he won neither the popular vote nor the most constituencies. 

"It's pretty scary to have those types of things happen," said Tim Houston, another candidate in the Nova Scotia race. "I mean, sometimes that's the way the math works."

Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservatives will pick a new leader on Oct. 27 using the same point system, but a different voting method.

In Ontario, party members voted once online using a ranked ballot. In Nova Scotia, those who choose to use a mail-in ballot will rank their preferences, while those who attend the convention will cast paper ballots, likely during multiple rounds of voting.

Doug Ford leaves a news conference after being named as the newly elected leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives on Saturday night. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

But similar to Ontario, it's the total points — not the popular vote — that will determine a winner.

Each of Nova Scotia's 51 constituencies is worth 100 points. Candidates will be apportioned points based on the percentage of votes won in every individual constituency. 

To become leader, a candidate will have to win a total of 2,551 points or more.

Smith-McCrossin is happy the party has picked the point system rather than simply relying on the vote total.

"I really like it 'cause it really focuses on making sure there's strong representation from all areas of the province," she said.

'Smooth' convention expected in October

It's Tara Erskine's job to make sure the numbers add up and the points are properly apportioned. The co-chair of Nova Scotia's PC leadership convention also said she felt bad for her Ontario counterparts.

"I felt sympathy for them and I felt very glad that I wasn't standing up on that stage," she said.

Erskine said organizers here will not face the biggest problem faced by those in Ontario: a sudden resignation by their leader and a 44-day campaign to find a replacement ahead of an election call.

"I'm very much hoping that with all our hard work and lead time that we have that we'll do our best to make sure that we have a smooth convention in October," she said.

Smith-McCrossin has put her faith in a paper ballot.

"I don't think we'll have any problems like they did because they did online voting and I think, my understanding is, a lot of the problems were more to do with the technology."

Tim Houston thought the math would work differently here.

"I think it's a fair process that our committee has put forward and I don't see that happening here where somebody wins most of the constituencies and most of the popular vote but doesn't win."

Candidate Julie Chaisson has placed her trust in the party learning from Ontario's example.

"I have confidence in the PC Party of Nova Scotia and our organizers. We have the advantage of learning from what took place in Ontario and have the opportunity to prepare accordingly so we don't run into the same issues," she wrote in an email to CBC News.

Candidate Cecil Clarke said the party has enough time to ensure voting goes smoothly.

"No system is perfect but [we can] definitely learn from the fast process Ontario had to put together," he said.

About the Author

Jean Laroche


Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.


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