Tory battle over leadership rules not over

Conservatives attending the party's convention in Ottawa defeated several proposals to give big ridings more weight in choosing the party leader, but one plan has enough support to go to a vote Saturday.

Delegates to Conservative convention back resolution on high treason

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, shares a laugh with his wife Laureen Harper, second from right, and Valerie Day, as her husband, former MP Stockwell Day, addresses the Conservative convention on Thursday. (Canadian Press)


  • Proposal to create a youth wing defeated
  • Delegates back resolution on treason
  • 1-member, 1-vote leadership vote rule set to move on
  • Mandatory leadership review defeated
  • Flat tax resolution defeated

Federal Conservatives attending the party's first post-election convention in Ottawa this weekend defeated proposals to give big ridings more clout in choosing party leaders, but one plan has enough support to go to a full debate and vote on Saturday.

Delegates also backed a resolution to deny citizenship to anyone found guilty of treason and voted against creating a separate youth wing of the party, as they discuss ideas the party should push now that Conservatives hold a majority in both houses of Parliament.

The resolutions being considered by more than 2,000 delegates are to guide the creation of to party's platform, but are not binding on the government.

At a policy workshop Friday morning, delegates voted 115-72 to send a resolution on treason to Saturday's plenary session, though only the top 10 resolutions make it from the workshops to the floor for a full debate and vote. 

At the convention

The Conservative Party convention is being held at Ottawa's impressive new convention centre — which contains probably the city's longest escalator (pictured). Kady O'Malley has more tweets and photos in our live blog here or below.

The resolution states that any Canadian citizen, "whether by birth or by naturalized grant of Canadian citizenship or by claim of landed immigrant or refugee status" who "takes up arms against the Canadian Forces or the Forces of Canada’s Allies automatically invalidates his or her Canadian citizenship or claim" and "should be tried for high treason under the Canadian Criminal Code" if they return to Canada.

Other proposals relate to the party's constitution. By early afternoon Friday, delegates had voted in favour of denying party membership to anyone who holds a membership in another party, instructing the National Council to keep the riding associations better informed and for vacancies on National Council to be filled by someone from the same province, territory or region of the province as the previous member.

They also voted to allow directors of the board of the Conservative Fund Canada to vote as delegates at conventions, and to put the National Council president on the board of the fund in a non-voting capacity.

Delegates will get a briefing Saturday by Sen. Irving Gerstein, chair of the fund, on the party's finances. The NDP called attention to that appearance Friday, noting Gerstein has been charged with violating the Elections Canada Act by willfully exceeding campaign spending limits in what has been called the "in-and-out" affair."

"While the Conservatives attack the meagre per-vote-subsidy, it appears the secret to their fundraising success relies on doing partisan work with public money — and potentially electoral fraud," NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said in a statement.

"That’s not what cleaning up Ottawa is supposed to look like."

Youth wing proposal defeated

The youth wing proposal, put forward by the B.C. ridings of Vancouver South, Burnaby-New Westminster, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Quadra, would have co-ordinated campus organizations and encouraged participation of people under 30.

It was opposed by several high-profile Conservatives, including MPs in their early 30s such as Pierre Poilievre and Chris Warkentin, and staffers like 34-year-old Jenni Byrne, who ran the party's national election campaign this year. They argued it would marginalize younger Conservatives. The proposal was overwhelmingly defeated Friday morning, CBC News was told.

A proposal to hold a mandatory leadership review within 30 days of an election defeat also went down to defeat Friday.

1-member, 1-vote battle

The proposals that have drawn perhaps the most attention and debate are for revised leadership rules that would give greater weight to larger Conservative riding associations in leadership contests.

The policy breakout sessions were looking at four proposals to that would give bigger ridings more weight, including a popular one pushed by MP Scott Reid that would move closer to a one-member, one-vote system.

Right now, every association is allocated 100 points, no matter how many members it has, which get divided depending on how the association's members vote. Reid's proposal, framed as the compromise motion, calls for a 100-point base plus one point assigned for each member over 100, but with a 400-point cap.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who's been fighting the change, seemed to score an early victory when all four lost their votes in the policy sessions.

But Reid's proposal obtained enough signatures Friday to move directly to the plenary session on Saturday for a full vote between 10:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. ET.


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The proposals pit Reid and other high-profile Conservatives such as Jason Kenney against MacKay, who negotiated the current rule of equality of ridings when he helped create the Conservative Party.

MacKay says this is technically the fourth time the party's had this discussion and says the members have soundly defeated the idea.

"We had the discussion in the original discussion to bring the Conservative Party together, so it was rigourously debated at that time," he said Friday, adding the party also debated it at the last two conventions in Montreal and Winnipeg.

"Now the membership have again pronounced themselves against changes to a formula that promotes equality, a formula that wins and a formula that is inclusive and doesn't marginalize any region of the country, like Quebec, Atlantic Canada, the territories or rural ridings that sometimes have difficulty between elections keeping their membership high."

"So it's really an issue of basic fairness for me," MacKay said. "It's one that I believe very strongly has contributed to our success and so why change a formula that works?"

Tax system seen as complicated

Taxes are another hot topic.

Three Conservative riding associations have put forward resolutions that would seem to say the government is heading in the wrong direction with its tax policy.

The associations from Guelph, ON, Brome-Missisquoi, QC, and Calgary-Nose Hill, AB have put forward resolutions calling on their own party to simplify the tax system.

One of those resolutions, to support the creation of a flat tax, was defeated at a policy workshop Friday morning, the CBC's Kady O'Malley reports, and won't be voted on at Saturday's plenary session.

Since first forming government in 2006, the Conservatives have introduced at least eight tax credits for things such as transit passes, caregivers, and arts lessons for children. That's far too many for fiscal conservatives such as Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"We've seen this government make our tax code look even more like a piece of Swiss cheese," he said. "It was complicated when they got there — now it's even worse."

Fiscal conservatives argue the government should keep overall taxes to a minimum — and let people decide for themselves how to spend their money.

"It's not in the national interest that we all play the piano. There's nothing wrong with the piano, but we should do it on our own merits not because the government told us to," Fildebrandt said.

Allan Maslove of Carleton University agrees that the tax policy of this government seems to go against conservative philosophy.

"Using the tax system to promote transit ridership or promote sports health club memberships, or music lessons for your kids, seems to be going counter to what you'd expect from a fiscal conservative," he said.

Beyond corrupting conservative ideals, Maslove also said there are big problems with having many small tax measures: "If you get enough of these things, and the dollar value gets large enough, you then have to have higher taxes across the board to generate the amount of income, or the amount of tax revenues, that you need."

Even Flaherty admits filling out your taxes isn't as easy as it used to be.

"There's no question the tax code is getting more and more complicated — there's no question about that," Flaherty said.

"Certain incentives are there because we consider it to be good public policy," Flaherty said, "we did not bring in anything new here that wasn't in either the last budget or the platform. So Canadians can rest assured that these are items people knew about and could vote for them or vote against them."

Flaherty insists his government's goal is to make more people pay taxes — but at a lower rate.

As the convention delegates consider those issues, they are also relishing in last month's electoral victory.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day opened the convention Thursday by congratulating his party on its majority. But he also warned against the dangers of socialist ideas, by raising the spectre of the economic recession in Europe.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will deliver the keynote address to the convention about 7 p.m. Friday night — early enough to finish in time for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Protest expected

Anti-Conservative activists have a protest march planned, ending at the convention centre in time for Harper's speech. The protest will feature as a speaker Brigette DePape, the former Senate page who lost her job last week after holding up a "Stop Harper" sign during the speech from the throne.

LIVE BLOG: Conservative convention, Day 2

With files from James Fitz-Morris