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Alberta PCs may change voting rules that elected Redford leader

Alberta Progressive Conservative Alison Redford celebrates becoming leader of the party and the new premier following the second ballot in the party's leadership race in Edmonton, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011.

Jeff McIntosh/Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The much-maligned preferential voting system, which elected Alberta Premier Alison Redford leader of the Progressive Conservatives a year ago, may be dumped by party faithful in a vote this fall.

The future of the controversial voting system is among 13 constitutional amendments released Friday that party members will examine during a convention in Calgary in November.

Last October, Ms. Redford won the three-way party leadership race, which was was cut to two when no one had a majority after the ballots were counted. The third-place candidate, Doug Horner, now finance minister, was dropped from the ballot and his supporters' second choices went toward the remaining candidates. Those votes overwhelmingly went to Ms. Redford, who beat out frontrunner Gary Mar – who actually had more first-choice votes.

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The same voting system worked to select Ed Stelmach as Ralph Klein's successor in the 2006 leadership contest. It was a surprising defeat of the perceived frontrunner, Jim Dinning, when the support of third-place finisher Ted Morton went to Mr. Stelmach.

After last fall's leadership campaign, many Tories became disenchanted with the system and suggested it was time for a change.

The constitutional rule committee, as well as several constituency associations, are now formally calling on the party to kill the preferential system and have submitted several proposals for a replacement system. Proposals include favouring the candidate who receives the majority of votes or the highest number of votes. Or, if nobody has more than 50 per cent of the first-ballot vote, then the top two candidates move onto a final ballot, with the winner determined by the highest number of votes.

The constitutional rule committee is also suggesting that when a leader leaves, a leadership race should be held between four to six months later. One constituency association wants the time frame to depend on when members are available to participate. During last year's contest, failed leadership contender Doug Griffiths, an MLA from rural Alberta who is now municipal affairs minister, complained the election was compromised by harvest season, which kept some potential voters busy in the fields.

There are also proposals to change when membership sales should cease during a leadership contest. Tories will meet in Calgary Nov. 9-10 to vote on the proposals.

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About the Author
Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000. Before leaving Toronto to head West, she won a National Newspaper Award and was twice nominated for the Michener Award for her work with the Report on Business. More

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