Canada

PC membership doubles but still low

The federal PCs have more than doubled their membership before their leadership convention in May.

The federal Progressive Conservatives have more than doubled their membership before their leadership convention in May, but their ranks are still small compared to other national parties.

The total number of registered Tories is 45,000, less than half the membership that existed when Joe Clark was elected leader five years ago.

"We'd fallen quite sharply. This is a doubling of our numbers, so I'm encouraged by that," said Clark.

"A number of our riding associations that had been relatively dormant are showing new signs of life," he said.

Other political parties have attracted far more recruits in recent leadership races.

The New Democrats had about twice as many members and the Canadian Alliance had almost four times as many.

Alliance Leader Stephen Harper smiled when he heard about the PCs' low turnout.

"We know their leadership race hasn't got much attention," he said.

"There is a huge difference between choosing the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the fifth party when their prospects aren't that good," said Harper.

The Conservative leadership campaign has been dwarfed in the media by coverage of the war in Iraq.

The party will chose its new leader from among seven male contenders at the end of May.

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