1927 Conservative Leadership Convention
October 12, 1927 – Winnipeg Ampitheatre
Chairs: Charles-Philippe Beaubien (Quebec Senator) and Edgar Nelson Rhodes (Premier of Nova Scotia)
|R.B Bennett||594 (38.0%)||780 (50.2%)|
|Hugh Guthrie||345 (22.1%)||320 (20.6%)|
|Charles Cahan||310 (19.8%)||266 (17.1%)|
|Robert Manion||170 (10.9%)||148 (9.5%)|
|Robert Rogers||114 (7.3%)||37 (2.4%)|
|Henry Drayton||31 (2.0%)||3 (0.2%)|
Meighen resigned the leadership after the Liberals won a majority government in 1926 following the “King-Byng” affair. Meighen also lost his seat in Portage la Prairie, Man.
Thirteen men were nominated at the convention. Seven declined to run: Quebec MP Sir George Perley, Vancouver Centre MP Henry Stevens, Col. John Currie, an Ontario MPP and former MP, New Brunswick Premier John Baxter, Ontario Premier Howard Ferguson, Nova Scotia Premier Ernest Rhodes — and Meighen.
Of the remainder, Richard Bedford Bennett, finance minister under Meighen the previous year, was viewed as a favorite.
Hugh Guthrie, a Liberal turned Unionist turned Conservative MP for Wellington South, Ont., had sat in cabinet under Borden and Meighen. Most observers guessed a Bennett-Guthrie first ballot, or vice versa.
Montreal MP Charles Cahan, Ontario MP and former minister Robert Manion, defeated Winnipeg MP Robert Rogers, a Borden-era minister, and former finance minister and Ontario MP Henry Lumley Drayton were the other candidates on the ballot.
According to the official party record: “The spacious Ampitheatre Rink had been skillfully decorated with flags, bunting and various decorative effects, and transformed into a great expanse of light and beauty. With the
twenty-five hundred enthusiastic and expectant delegates, boxes filled with interested guests and immense galleries crowded with visitors.”
Candidates were allowed to speak the previous evening. The order was drawn from a lady’s hat, and the speeches lasted more than three hours, beyond midnight. Bennett didn’t speak until 11:30pm.
Guthrie memorably blundered when he told the audience of Tories: “Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome this, the greatest Liberal convention in all history.” Another convention attendee, John Diefenbaker, marked the quote in his memoirs.
There were a total of 1,601 eligible voting delegates.
Voting began at 3p.m, with more than 6,000 people in the room. Ontario Senator Gideon Robertson was the returning officer.
Bennett won 90 minutes later on the second ballot with two votes above the number needed. There was “wild applause” according to The Canadian Press. Delegates “cheered themselves hoarse,” reported the Regina Leader. A long line formed to shake hands with the new leader, despite another resolution remaining on the agenda.
“I thank you for your more than generous support, which was wholly unmerited,” Bennett said.
“There must be no sacrifice of convictions; there must be no compromise of principles. Promise that you will be missionaries for your own party and your own efforts will be crowned with success.”
The crowd serenaded Bennett with “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”
- Delegates sang “The Maple Leaf Forever,” “How Dry I Am” and wartime songs while waiting for ballot results.
- There was no replacement if a delegate lost their ballot book.
- Sir Robert Borden and Meighen spoke on the convention’s opening day. Meighen and Ontario Premier Howard Ferguson argued on the floor about whether a general election should be held before any future overseas troop deployments.
- This was the first Canadian convention with full voting rights for women, and the first with radio coverage.
- Decorations, printing, and renting the auditorium cost about $20,000.