Doug Ford went into the final days of the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership race saying the party’s voting system was “corrupted” in favour of “hand-picked elites.”
Then he won the leadership, and it has been his chief opponent, Christine Elliott, who has had to reconcile with a bizarre online selection system that made Mr. Ford the winner – even though she won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote and more ridings than he did.
No doubt Mr. Ford is happy with the outcome. But the truth is that the one-member, one-vote online voting system for electing party leaders, which is used by Canadian political parties at all levels, is proving to have many drawbacks.
For one thing, you need to weight the votes in some ridings differently than in others, so that every riding has something to say in the matter and it’s not just a popularity contest won or lost in densely populated urban areas. This is what happened in the PC vote and is the reason Mr. Ford won.
But then it’s not a one-member, one-vote system, is it.
There is also a problem with a system that encourages the quick and dirty sale of new memberships during leadership campaigns. It is difficult for parties to control who is selling memberships, and to verify them afterward.
It is also difficult to ensure the identities of those who vote for leaders online, and to make the outcome secure and credible. It was those kinds of challenges that Mr. Ford exploited when he made his allegation of corruption.
There are other options. The most obvious is the system in which ridings send delegates to leadership conventions, and the candidates have to work for their votes in the crucible of the balloting process.
The delegate system isn’t perfect, of course. Many parties abandoned it in favour of the one-member, one-vote system in an effort to be more democratic and open. So far, the new system hasn’t always lived up to its billing.