Just over 269,000 members will be eligible to vote in the Conservative leadership race — more than were eligible to cast a ballot in the 2017 contest won by outgoing leader Andrew Scheer.
Despite the difficulties involved in signing up new members during a pandemic, 269,469 Canadians had their Conservative memberships signed prior to the eligibility cut-off of May 15, according to figures released by the party today. That beats the previous record set by the Conservatives in 2017, when 259,010 members could cast a ballot.
The field of candidates is significantly smaller than it was three years ago, when members had to choose between 14 contestants. There are only four this time: former cabinet minister Peter MacKay, Ontario MPs Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan and Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis.
Members have until Aug. 21 to submit their ballots by mail. Those ballots are in the process of being mailed out to members and some already are being returned to the party for processing.
When Jagmeet Singh won the NDP leadership in 2017, about 124,000 members were eligible to vote. In the 2013 Liberal leadership race won by Justin Trudeau, about 294,000 Canadians were eligible to vote. Unlike the Conservatives and New Democrats, however, the Liberals did not require Canadians to pay any fee to be eligible to vote.
Growth in east, but most ridings with biggest memberships in Alberta
The Conservatives said they’ve seen their largest percentage growth in membership in Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Alberta. With the exception of Alberta, those are provinces that traditionally have had fewer Conservative members.
The riding that reported the highest growth in Conservative membership was Surrey–Newton in British Columbia. Others that saw significant growth include a few in the Greater Toronto Area and around Montreal — including Trudeau’s own riding of Papineau.
The party says that over 100 ridings have more than 1,000 party members now. The rules of the leadership contest will award every riding equal weight, regardless of the number of members who cast a ballot.
Nine of the 12 ridings the party says have the most members are in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Conservative Party won 47 of 48 ridings in these two provinces in the October federal election. The other three ridings with the most members include two in Ontario and one in B.C.
Turnout in the 2017 leadership race was about 54 per cent, with 141,000 of the 259,000 eligible members casting a ballot. Scheer won on the 13th and final ballot, beating second-place finisher Maxime Bernier, now leader of the People’s Party of Canada.