Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont will have a bit of a cushion when delegates to the party’s next annual meeting vote on his future later this year.
Under changes to the party’s constitution, Mr. Lamont cannot be forced to step down unless at least two-thirds of delegates vote in favour of holding a leadership convention.
One political analyst said the change is out of the ordinary.
“The requirement for a two-thirds vote by delegates … to launch a leadership review is unusual,” said Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.
“Most people assume that democracy involves 50 per cent plus one votes. However, each party designs its rules on leadership selection and replacement based on their history, traditions and the composition of its membership.”
The Liberals adopted mandatory leadership reviews after every election a decade ago, based on a simple majority, but have not held one before. Jon Gerrard resigned in 2011 before he could face a review, and his successor, Rana Bokhari, also quit in 2016.
Manitoba New Democrats have a 50-per-cent threshold at leadership reviews, and leader Wab Kinew is to face one at the party’s next convention.
The provincial Progressive Conservatives have also worked with a 50-per-cent threshold. At their last leadership review in 2005, Stuart Murray survived with 55-per-cent support, but decided to step down owing to the lukewarm result.
Federally, New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair faced a 50-per-cent threshold and was forced to step down in 2016 after getting 48-per-cent support. The federal Green party has an even lower threshold – 40 per cent is enough to force a leadership race.
The Manitoba Liberals say they changed the threshold to a two-thirds majority a year ago as part of several changes to the party’s constitution. The reason, they say, is because votes on the leadership review are made by party delegates, whereas leadership elections are open to all party members.
“Delegates at a convention are limited constitutionally to a maximum number that may be nominated by constituencies, [party] associations, and those who pay a convention fee to attend,” party president David Engel wrote in an e-mail.
“Therefore, the constitution has a higher requirement to remove a leader that was duly elected by the membership.”
Mr. Lamont became leader in 2017 and won a by-election the following year, giving the party a fourth legislature seat. In last year’s election, the Liberals retained three seats – not enough for official party status.
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