Outcome of B.C. Liberal leadership race up in the air as members prepare to vote

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      Tens of thousands of B.C. Liberal members will vote this weekend to determine the next party leader and premier of the province.

      The voting system they will use to choose that leader, according to public policy expert Doug McArthur, is one of the most unusual he’s seen a political party use, and means that the outcome is still anybody’s guess.

      Party members will cast their votes online or by phone between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday (February 26). Results will be tallied electronically by the private company administrating the online vote.

      While poll results released over recent days indicate former deputy premier Christy Clark is in the lead, McArthur said the winning candidate will need to have not only the broadest support, but a lot of votes in smaller B.C. constituencies.

      “The candidate that has the broadest-based support and it includes a large number of small constituencies, that’s the one who has the best chance,” he predicted.

      The preferential ballot system being used for the vote requires all party members to rank at least their first and second choice for leader.

      Due to a new system adopted by B.C. Liberal party members earlier this month, votes will be weighted according to the size of the constituency, with 100 points allocated to each of the province’s 85 ridings.

      A candidate must win just over 50 percent of points from across the province to become the new leader.

      If no candidate receives a majority on the first count, the last-place candidate is dropped from the ballot and the second choices of their supporters are included in the tally. This process continues until a leader is determined.

      The weighted system means that candidates with broad support in larger constituencies won’t necessarily win on the first ballot, said McArthur, but they’ll need to also have support in smaller ridings.

      “What happens with the weighted system is in the constituencies where there are large numbers of members, each of their votes will count depending on how big the number of members are,” McArthur explained. “Each of their votes will count as only 1/10th or 1/20th or 1/30th of a vote.”

      Due to the unpredictability of the system, McArthur said he’s not placing any bets on the winner.

      “Anyone who says they know how it’s going to end up is on pretty thin ice because there’s just not enough information when you get this complicated system in place,” he said.

      Allan Warnke, a former B.C. MLA and political science professor at Vancouver Island University, agreed the vote is still difficult to predict.

      “No one has a clear read on this,” he said. “Everybody’s been trying to do the math, including the campaigns, and this is one of those campaigns it’s too close to call.”

      Warnke said there’s the potential for frontrunners Clark and Kevin Falcon to be polarizers within the party, and for George Abbott to come up the middle on the second ballot and win the most support.

      Almost 90,000 party members were signed up as of last month, according to the B.C. Liberal party, including around 50,000 new members since the leadership campaign began.

      However, about 6,000 of the new memberships have reportedly been removed from the party's list.

      The leadership campaigns said today (February 25) some of their supporters still hadn’t received their personal identification numbers required to vote. Falcon’s campaign indicated Thursday that thousands of people in rural and northern B.C. hadn’t yet received their PINs.

      According to B.C. Liberal Party executive director Chad Pederson, many members in the Peace Region and the northern part of Vancouver Island hadn't received their voter credentials by mail.

      "We've been making some proactive calls directly to individuals in the Peace Region and the northern Vancouver Island to issue their pins to them by phone," said Pederson.

      Vote results are expected to be released by 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

      You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.



      "Read My Lips" ...

      Feb 25, 2011 at 11:29pm

      4 way tie ...


      Feb 26, 2011 at 7:57am

      Don't vote for people who lie to you. The BC Liberal party is rotten. News is breaking that the cost of the new roof on BC place will fall on tax payers shoulders if a new casino isnt approved.

      That means yet again without public knowledge the Liberal government made a behind closed doors deal to line pockets, and call it something else.

      Anyone remember hearing when the new roof was being built that it was for a casino, or a casino was in the works? So why are we now being threatened that tax payers will have to flip the bill if we fight the casino and squash it?

      Sound like HST? Lie about something, force it down our throats, and if we dont like it threaten us with a huge bill. In HST's case its the payback of 1.6 billion.

      In both cases tax payers dont want either, and in both cases decisions were made without public consultation because the Liberals knew it was something the people of BC didn't want.

      You tell me...are they acting in the best interest of us? or are they lining their pockets?

      BTW Gordon Campbell just this week overturned a rule to not let oil tankers up BCs coast. You tell me...on his way out, was that in the best interest of BC, or is it possible oil companies bought him out.....again?

      Roger Flowers

      Feb 26, 2011 at 9:02am

      If I am not mistaken there may be a connection between the polls putting Christy at over 40% and Warren Kinsella long time federal Liberal supporter under Jean Chretien?


      Feb 26, 2011 at 9:52am

      Interesting read. So, the Liberals are using a preferential ballot system not unlike Single Transferable Vote or STV. The Liberals were given a clear direction from the voters in BC from the vote for a new electoral system but used an unfair system to determine the final outcome. Over 50% across BC is the threshold for the new leader of the Liberal party but over 60% was the requirement to change the way we vote. Ironic isn't it?

      glen p robbins

      Feb 26, 2011 at 11:52am

      @ High Noon vote day - 1st ballot spec: Clark- High -37% - low-31% (average 34%--public opinion RSR 35%); Abbott- High 33% - low -28% (average 30%); Falcon-High - 28% - low - 25% (average 26.5%)

      Things never change

      Feb 26, 2011 at 1:28pm

      Liberal candidates still have some of the BASI BOYS working for them???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Whats up with that?

      glen p robbins

      Feb 26, 2011 at 7:13pm

      It has got to piss a few folks off Robbins says Clark 37% - her polling (overstated) 42-45% - she gets 37.8% // Robbins off on high < 1%. Robbins says Falcon high - 28% he gets 28.4% Abbott off a little.

      No wonder they keep sneakin a peak at the country's boys polling. Most accurate pollster in the World.

      Christy won't wait for general election - Campbell will call by-election for her in the midst of the NDP leadership campaign.

      BC politics is soooooo predictable.