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Ontario Liberal party leadership candidates (left to right) Glen Murray, Charles Sousa, Harinder Takhar, Eric Hoskins, Kathleen Wynne, Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy take part in a debate in Thunder Bay, Ont., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (Brent Linton/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ontario Liberal party leadership candidates (left to right) Glen Murray, Charles Sousa, Harinder Takhar, Eric Hoskins, Kathleen Wynne, Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy take part in a debate in Thunder Bay, Ont., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. (Brent Linton/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Politics

This weekend determines pecking order in Ontario Liberal leadership race Add to ...

With Liberals across Ontario voting this weekend to select delegates for their late-January convention, Adam Radwanski looks at some of the key things to watch

GETTING OUT THE VOTE

Nearly 45,000 Liberals are eligible to cast ballots this weekend to determine how many committed delegates each of the six leadership candidates will carry into the convention. About two-thirds were enlisted during a brief recruitment window, and nobody is sure how many will vote.

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Whatever the total turnout, expect huge regional disparities. Sources say that some ridings have more than 2,000 members, while others have fewer than 100 – and many smaller ones are in sprawling northern constituencies that will have only a single polling station this weekend. But every riding is entitled to send 16 delegates to the convention.

THE FIGHT FOR FIRST

Seen to have the strongest on-the-ground organization, Kathleen Wynne is likely to lead fellow contender Sandra Pupatello after the weekend. But it matters by how much.

If Ms. Wynne has only a narrow lead, Ms. Pupatello’s advantage among party elites who are automatically granted delegate status could counterbalance it. If Ms. Wynne looks strong enough, those elites could move to her.

There is also the matter of perception. After a week in which she scored an endorsement from former candidate Glen Murray, Ms. Wynne has raised expectations. To keep momentum going, she needs to meet them.

BEST OF THE REST

Third or even a strong fourth place heading into the convention offers a decent chance of gathering momentum there and making it to the final ballot or crowning the winner. But while Gerard Kennedy and Charles Sousa seem to be in better shape than Eric Hoskins and Harinder Takhar, the campaigns are having trouble gauging where they stand.

A big factor will be vote efficiency. Because of the discrepancy in the size of riding associations, it matters almost as much where the candidates get votes as how many.

THE INCUMBENCY FACTOR

It’s often assumed that MPPs deliver most of their ridings’ delegates to the candidates they support. That may be true of those who maintain active riding associations, but many don’t, which makes how much control they have an open question.

This is a matter of particular importance to Ms. Pupatello, who has the most caucus support. It should also probably concern the MPPs, who could lose respect within their party if other Liberals out-organize them on their own turf.

LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARES?

With the entire leadership campaign a bit of a rush job because of Dalton McGuinty’s surprise resignation, there’s potential for all sorts of confusion in attempts to enforce the rules properly this weekend. It doesn’t help that Mr. Murray dropped out just two days before voting; his name is on the ballots and supporters had registered to seek delegate spots on his behalf.

With half of the ridings voting on Saturday and the other half on Sunday, party officials are already predicting that results won’t be available until after midnight each night. Let’s hope that’s not too optimistic.

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