Process for election of new Liberal leader needs work: Rae

The Globe and Mail

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae talk with The Globe and Mail editorial board April 12, 2013. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

Bob Rae says he is broadly happy with the process being used to select his replacement as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, but thinks it should be adjusted in future so that each riding is not given equal say regardless of voter turnout.

“I think it’s a well-meaning attempt to make sure that all parts of the country are effectively represented,” Mr. Rae said Friday at a meeting with The Globe and Mail’s editorial board. “But it does create the problem potentially that somebody could win far more votes than somebody else and still not become the leader. So ideally I think we have to deal with that as time goes on.”

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Rather than a delegated convention, as in the past, the Liberals are choosing their next leader through a system in which all party members or registered “supporters” are eligible to vote on a preferential ballot from home. Each riding has been allocated 100 points, to be awarded to candidates proportionate to their votes there, with the first candidate to win a majority of the cumulative points declared leader.

Mr. Rae acknowledged that the process has caused some confusion among Liberals, and suggested that some of its components – including the weighting system – can be chalked up to an overly ambitious party constitution.

“I’m hoping we can simplify the constitution as time goes on,” he said. “I’ve made that recommendation to the party executive, to try to deconstitutionalize everything – that’s part of the challenge of trying to create a more modern process.”

Still, Mr. Rae said that he thinks the leadership campaign has marked a significant step toward opening up his party, predicting that more than 90,000 Liberals will have voted by the time results are announced on Sunday.

“There were some people anticipating much, much bigger numbers,” he conceded, “but this is a new process.

“Yeah, of course, people are saying ‘I’m not quite sure how it works.’ If you try something new, you’re always going to get some skeptics, but I think it’s been pretty successful.”