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Unlike in the United States, where political conventions are held every four years to choose the party's presidential nominee, in Canada the leader of a party generally remains that party's de facto candidate for Prime Minister until such time as he or she quits or is dismissed by the party. In the New Democratic Party and its provincial branches, the position of party leader was treated as all other positions on the party's executive committee, and open for election at party conventions generally held every two years.
Traditionally, each riding association of a party would hold a special meeting to elect a fixed number of delegates to represent it at a leadership convention. These meeting would often select "alternate delegates" or "alternates", who would attend the convention, but vote only if one of the delegates from the riding association was unable to attend. In addition, delegates would often be selected by the party's youth and women's assocaitions in each riding, and party associations at university and college campuses.
In addition to the elected delgates, a large number of ex officio delegates would attend and vote at leadership conventions. These ex officio delegates were automatically entitled to attned by virute of being an elected member of parliament for that party, a member of an affiliated party in a provincial legislature, a member of the party's national or provinical executive, of of the executive of an affialiated women's or youth organization.
Due to the implementation of "one member, one vote" (OMOV) systems and proportional delegate elections by most parties, conventions have declined in importance. In recent years, the result of the vote is either known before the convention or the voting does not take place at the venue.
In a "one member, one vote" system, each party member casts a ballot to elect the leader, and all ballots have equal weight.
The Liberal Party of Canada held the first leadership convention in 1919, electing William Lyon Mackenzie King. Prior to that the leader of the party was chosen by caucus. The Conservative Party followed suit, using a leadership convention to select R.B. Bennett as party leader in 1927.
The Parti Québécois was the first political party in Canada to adopt an OMOV system. Most provincial and federal parties adopted forms of OMOV in the 1990s.
Until 2003, when it adopted an OMOV system, every biennial convention of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation and its successor, the New Democratic Party, in the twentieth century was a leadership convention. However, in practice, contested elections were only held in the NDP when there was a declared leadership race.
Both the Conservatives and the NDP have instituted "one member one vote" systems in recent years. The NDP has a modified system where the vote is calculated, so that ballots cast by labour delegates have 25% weight in the total result while votes cast by party members have 75%.
The Conservatives have adopted the Progressive Conservative Party system of OMOV, where each riding has equal weight in a point system. The Reform Party of Canada and Canadian Alliance had pure OMOV systems.
The Liberals retain the delegate system, but have adopted a system where delegates in a riding are apportioned by proportional representation.
The Bloc Québécois uses a pure OMOV system.
- Liberal leadership conventions (federal)
- NDP_leadership_conventions (federal)
- Bloc Québécois leadership elections (federal)
- Canadian Alliance leadership elections (federal)
- Progressive Conservative leadership conventions (federal)
- Conservative Party of Canada leadership election, 2004 (federal)
- British Columbia Social Credit Party Leadership Conventions
- British Columbia Liberal Party Leadership Conventions
- Ontario Liberal Leadership Conventions
- Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership conventions
- Ontario CCF/NDP Leadership Conventions
- Saskatchewan New Democratic Party leadership conventions
Most of the major parties have held conventions recently to choose new leaders:
The new Conservative Party of Canada chose former Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper as its new leader on March 20, 2004. The other candidates were former Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement and former Magna International CEO Belinda Stronach.
The Liberals chose Paul Martin as leader on November 14, 2003. As his party controlled a majority in the Canadian House of Commons he was called upon to form a government by the Governor General. Martin was sworn-in as Canada's 21st Prime Minister on December 12, 2003.
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