Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

It has been in power for nearly a decade – raising more money than its opponents, running slick on-the-ground operations, and building a coalition of support that until recently was holding strong.

Yet the Ontario Liberal Party is also an empty shell in much of the province. And that makes the selection of Dalton McGuinty's successor a free-for-all rather than the sober process it is sometimes portrayed as.

As of now, there are only about 13,000 registered provincial Liberals – meaning there are far fewer people eligible to choose the province's next Premier than those who could vote in the third-party NDP's last leadership contest. And that number doesn't even begin to reflect how easily a few new recruits in the right places, heading into the Liberals' membership cut-off this weekend, could affect the contest's outcome.

Story continues below advertisement

Of the current party members, sources say, well over 2,000 are in the ridings of Kitchener-Waterloo and Vaughan, which recently went through contested nomination campaigns before by-elections. So in the rest of the province, the average riding association has only about 100 members. And many are much, much smaller than that.

It's not just the mostly rural ridings held by other parties where the associations are sparsely populated. According to those who have seen the lists, some Liberal-held constituencies in Toronto until recently had as few as 20 members.

What's important to understand here – and the candidates' organizers understand it well – is that regardless of its size, each riding association is eligible to send 16 delegates to the party's late-January convention.

Those delegates, chosen at meetings a couple of weeks before the convention, will be awarded proportionate to the share of the vote each leadership candidate receives from each riding's members. So even a few new memberships in the emptier associations could be worth delegate spots; selling a couple hundred could mean walking away with the majority in many places.

Organizers suggest that an enterprising campaign might hope to register 5,000 new members at this weekend's deadline. If so, sign-ups could easily overwhelm the Liberals' existing base, even when the hundreds of party elites automatically granted delegate status are factored in.

Of course, getting thousands of people to both register and commit to coming out to delegate selection meetings is easier said than done, and there's much speculation about which candidates are doing the best job of it after they were all caught off guard by Mr. McGuinty's sudden resignation announcement.

Kathleen Wynne appears to have been quickest to develop an on-the-ground machine, with the widest reach. Glen Murray, who needs to sign up new members to make up for limited support among existing ones, seems to have come hard out of the gate as well. Charles Sousa is said to be drawing strong support from Portuguese-Canadian communities, and perhaps from other immigrant groups after spending the past year as the provincial government's answer to Jason Kenney.

Story continues below advertisement

Conversely, Sandra Pupatello – perceived to be a frontrunner alongside Ms. Wynne – is rumoured to be doing a better job winning over existing Liberals than new ones. Eric Hoskins's pitch as a fresh face, background as co-founder of War Child Canada and celebrity endorsement from K'Naan may not be enough to make up for a slow start. And Gerard Kennedy is a wild card who in the past has shown ability to reach beyond his party's core, but seems to be flying by the seat of his pants.

But until the forms are handed in, it's anyone's guess. The campaigns don't even know how many of the forms they've given to organizers will come back with names on them, let alone how many memberships their opponents are selling.

If nothing else, the unpredictability adds some intrigue. But the Liberals also seem to be getting the worst of all worlds – neither an open vote, of the sort their federal cousins are holding, nor a decision made by party loyalists.

Instead, the ability to enlist small chunks of an unengaged electorate during a compressed time period may determine the next Premier. And many people who think they should have a strong say in that decision – MPPs, notably – may find they don't have much control at all.

For them, and their party, it's a lesson of what can come from a little too much complacency during the good times.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies