2003 Progressive Conservative Leadership Convention

2003 Progressive Conservative Leadership Convention

May 31, 2003

Metro Toronto Convention Centre

1 2 3 4
Peter MacKay 1080 (41.1%) 1018 (39.7%) 1128 (45.0%) 1538 (64.8%)
David Orchard 640 (24.3%) 619 (24.1%) 617 (24.6%)
Jim Prentice 478 (18.2%) 466 (18.2%) 761 (30.4%) 835 (25.2%)
Scott Brison 431 (16.4%) 463 (18.0%)
Craig Chandler 0
Spoiled 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 2629 2566 2506 2374


Joe Clark announced his impending resignation in August 2002: “I’ve carried the party as far as I can.” Tories also had to consider if the time had come to consider cooperating with the Canadian Alliance. The competition between Peter MacKay and Jim Prentice produced one of the most infamous convention deals in Canadian political history.



Peter MacKay, the 37-year-old Nova Scotia MP and public security critic, ran an anti-merger campaign.

David Orchard ran again on a nationalist platform, sought a review of free trade with the United States

Jim Prentice, a Calgary lawyer and former Tory candidate, supported talks with the Canadian Alliance.

Nova Scotia MP and finance critic Scott Brison and Alberta businessman Craig Chandler also organized campaigns.

Quebec MP André Bachand was also a candidate but dropped out three weeks before the convention to support MacKay. Heward Grafftey ended his campaign



The party returned to a traditional delegated convention following the weighted vote system used in 1998. Delegate selection meetings produced the following breakdown of committed first-ballot voters:

MacKay 1166 (40.3%)
Orchard 709 (24%)
Prentice 411 (14.2%)
Brison 279 (9.6%)
Chandler 7 (0.25%)


There were also several hundred uncommitted delegates such as MPs and party figures who joined the crowd of Tories in Toronto. Committed delegates were released from their obligations after the first ballot.

Following a Friday speech by former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, Brian Mulroney spoke about rebuilding the party and moving past old rivalries with the Reform/Canadian Alliance movement. Clark also received a tribute as outgoing leader.

Candidate speeches included a call from MacKay to “believe again” in the Progressive Conservative party. Brison warned of choosing a “status-quo candidate” with “no new vision.” Orchard repeated his worry of Canada being swallowed by American power. Prentice spoke of reconstructing the Tory brand rather than simply merging with the CA. And Chandler delivered a controversial speech before withdrawing to support Prentice.

Leading candidates also sought to woo Orchard for potential support on later ballots.



Since all four remaining candidates earned at least five per cent on the first ballot, all remained on the second. There were near-identical numbers as the first, with a slight drop in MacKay’s support and a rise for Brison. Nevertheless, Brison was automatically eliminated. He chose to endorse Prentice.

The boost allowed Prentice to overtake Orchard on the third ballot. MacKay, meanwhile, was 126 votes short of victory.

This left the eliminated Orchard as potential kingmaker. He wanted MacKay or Prentice to accept a review of Canada-U.S. free trade and rule out a merger or cooperation with the Canadian Alliance.

MacKay had accepted earlier in the night at Orchard’s hotel room, and won on the fourth ballot late Saturday. Media reports said many of MacKay’s supporters knew nothing of the deal until after the votes were cast.

MacKay’s victory speech left many in the hall refusing to applause or stand, amidst questions about the Orchard deal.

Orchard later posted their handwritten agreement online:

“1) No merger, joint candidates w[ith] Alliance. Maintain 301.

“2) Review of FTA/NAFTA – blue ribbon commission with D[avid] O[rchard] w[ith] choice of chair w[ith] P[eter] M[acKay’s] agreement. Rest of members to be jointly agreed upon.

“3) Clean up of head office including change of national director in consultation (timing w[ithin] reasonable period in future, pre-election) and some of DO’s people working at head office.

“4) Commitment to making environmental protection front and center incl[uding] sustainable agriculture, forestry, reducing pollution through rail.”


  • Several MPs avoided a caucus meeting the following day. MacKay told reporters he was not ashamed of his actions, and that Mulroney himself was supportive.
  • MacKay and Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper concluded a merger agreement in October 2003, made official in February 2004. Orchard accused MacKay of betraying their agreement and sought a legal injunction to block the merger.