An insider’s guide into Tory race

Okay, class, hands up everyone who knows Premier Mike Harris has resigned and the Ontario Progressive Conservatives are in the midst of a leadership race to replace him?
Not bad.
All right, hands up everyone who can name the five candidates vying to succeed Mr. Harris—and become Ontario’s next premier in the process (kind of by default, or at least through the back door)?
Hands up everyone who cares?
I thought so.
It’s safe to say the race to replace Premier Harris isn’t generating a whole lot of interest up here—except, maybe, among party members. And even then, as riding association president Gordon Griffiths of Ignace told the Times this week, there’s no clear favourite locally among the five candidates at this point.
Maybe that will change with tomorrow night’s leadership debate in Toronto, but don’t bet on it. Nor might it change as the five candidates tour the riding in the weeks leading up to the vote in March.
Health and Long-Term Care minister Tony Clement already has been through, and Labour minister Chris Stockwell (not to be confused with that other Stockwell—Day—who’s trying to get his old job back as head of the Canadian Alliance) will be here Monday morning.
It remains to be seen if former Finance minister Ernie Eves, current Finance minister and deputy premier Jim Flaherty, and Environment minister Elizabeth Witmer make it up this way.
But it’s safe to say they will, though, because the party is trying a unique system to elect its new leader (and our next premier) in which every riding—from the most populous one in Toronto to our little neck of the woods as far removed as possible from the centre of the universe—carries the same weight.
Each of the 103 ridings is being allocated 100 votes. Those 100 then will be divvied up among the candidates according to the percentage of the popular vote they garner in each riding.
In other words, if Mr. Eves wins 60 percent support in, say, Mississauga, he will be awarded 60 of that riding’s votes. Same holds true if he does that here in Kenora-Rainy River (60 percent support translates to 60 votes, etc.)
You can’t get more equal than that.
Two other things. Most people who gain the job of prime minister or premier by the so-called “back door” (think John Turner and Kim Campbell nationally, and Ujjal Dosanjh out in British Columbia) call an election fairly quickly to seek a fresh mandate of their own.
A provincial election doesn’t have to be called until sometime in 2004 (the last one was in 1999), but don’t be surprised if there’s one later this year.
Don’t be surprised, either, to see a local “high-profile” candidate seeking the Tory nomination to run against NDP leader Howard Hampton (if he’s still interested in the job) and the Liberal candidate (Frank Miclash again?)
The person was overheard just last week saying they’re seriously considering it, but I won’t steal his/her thunder by revealing their identity before they formally announce their intentions down the road (perhaps sooner than later if the first point proves true).
Just remember, you read it here first.

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