Friday, March 18, 2005

Weighty Matters

CPAC is gleefully reporting the latest deep, stark division within the Conservative Party, pitting hard-line radical Alliance populists against moderate, mainstream Progressive Conservatives.

C-11 has just passed in the constitutional workshop, which would slightly change the way in which convention delegates are selected.

As part of the original merger deal back in '03, the old PC model of giving each riding the same number of delegates was adopted.

This way, a big Alberta riding with 3,000+ members would get 10 delegates, as would a Quebec riding whose entire membership could meet in my living room.

C-11 would grant ridings with fewer than 100 members one delegate per member (if 40 members, 4 delegates), while all others get 10.

Now this would seem to be a rather recondite point upon which to paint a portrait of a party falling into the same internecine bloodbaths that marked the predecessor parties. It doesn't even remotely approach the emotional power that social issues generates.

But here comes Peter MacKay, venting his outrage that Scott Reid has betrayed the merger agreement by promoting what amounts to a minor modification on the original PC model. And CPAC is pumping up the rhetoric: "family feud", "open wound", "fracturing party", etc. etc.

But really, this is much ado about nothing, and I'd advise Peter to keep his mouth shut.

If a few moribund EDA's lose a few delegates, so be it. Almost all EDA's, even many in Quebec, have more than 100 members anyway. Those that don't, can always find a way to sell enough memberships to assure a full slate of delegates. (Especially in Quebec, where thousands rose from the cemeteries of the Gaspe to back Tom Long's failed CA leadership bid.)

This actually provides an incentive for the weak sisters among the EDA's to get off their butts and actually work on building EDA's that can fight an election.

But the media will shoot at any target it can find. If the party didn't have a vigorous debate on contentious issues, they'd play up the "Mr. Muzzle" and "hidden agenda" themes. And if it did, they'd go on about "extremism" and "deep divisions between so-cons and moderates."

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