2004 Conservative Leadership Convention
March 20, 2004 – Metro Toronto Convention Centre
|Stephen Harper||16148.88 (55.5%)|
|Belinda Stronach||10196.16 (35.0%)|
|Tony Clement||2754.96 (9.5%)|
The Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties had merged in late 2003, leading to the new Conservative Party of Canada’s first leadership convention.
Three candidates entered the race in mid-January 2004.
Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper, who helped negotiate the merger with Tory Leader Peter MacKay, was favoured to take over the new party.
Belinda Stronach campaigned without any experience in elected politics — but had notoriety as a Magna auto parts executive and key player in the merger negotiations. Stronach was criticized for avoiding several leadership debates, participating only in two party-organized forums.
Tony Clement, another Ontario candidate, had served as a provincial cabinet minister under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves before being defeated in 2003.
Several major names from Canada’s conservative movement stayed out of the race, including MacKay and a number of current and former premiers: Harris, Ralph Klein, and Bernard Lord.
Speeches were delivered in front of 1,500 Conservative delegates at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Stronach pointed to 11 straight by-election losses for the Canadian Alliance with Harper as leader. In her speech she claimed: “I threw away my formal text and I am speaking to you from the heart… They tell me that I’m Paul Martin in a cocktail dress, but let me ask you, who can bake a better economic pie?”
Said Harper: “I stand before you on my record. It is a record of uniting people and uniting organizations. It is a record of tearing down walls and of building bridges. It is a record of representing conservative ideals, of putting forward conservative policies, of fighting for conservative values.”
Conservative members used a preferential ballot. One hundred points were assigned to each federal riding, regardless of membership size.
Only one round was necessary as Harper won more than 55 per cent of the points across Canada. Harper did better than expected in Quebec and southern Ontario, according to campaign co-chairs Michael Fortier and John Reynolds.
Voter turnout was about 37 per cent. About 253,000 members were eligible to vote, according to reports.
Afterwards, Clement blamed media attention on Stronach, who pledged to run in the next election in Newmarket—Aurora. Yet he also said Harper ran a “picture-perfect” campaign.
Stronach promised party unity behind Harper.
- Opposition Senate Leader John Lynch-Staunton served as interim party leader until the convention. An “Areas of Agreement” document had been published in January 2004.
- Harper named Peter MacKay as deputy leader.
- Stronach spent nearly $2.5 million (the expense limit), Harper spent nearly $2.1 million, while Clement’s campaign expenses reached $827,000. Stronach actually raised $5.3 million — including nearly $4 million of her own money.