Campaign organizers in the Conservative Party leadership race say the battle is far from over, but has entered a short lull ahead of the final “persuasion phase” that will launch this summer once they obtain the party’s final membership lists.
Sections of candidates’ websites that were once full of scheduled meet-and-greet events across Canada to recruit supporters are now largely empty. Some of the candidates are spending time in their ridings, with relatively short trips to events.
“The best way to describe this right now is the lull between the membership cutoff, which was June 3, and when we get the membership lists, which is projected to be in early July,” said Chris Rougier, the national manager for the campaign of former Quebec premier Jean Charest.
The six candidates spent weeks roaming Canada to sign up members they hope will support them in the race to replace Erin O’Toole, voted out as leader by caucus members in February. The party has said more than 600,000 people, including current and new members, could be eligible to vote.
The plan is to verify and process membership applications in coming weeks, provide a preliminary voter list for leadership campaigns, allow a challenge period, and produce a final list no later than July 29, according to a recent statement from party president Robert Batherson.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rougier said in an interview, Mr. Charest is going to events he is invited to, and attending to fundraising matters.
“But instead of having an aggressive, proactive, `We need to go here; we need to go here’ [approach], I would think all the campaigns are fairly reactive at this point,” he said. “If there’s events they want to attend, they feel will be of value to them, they attend. Otherwise, they focus on planning and online campaigning.”
All of this comes ahead of what he and other campaign officials call the persuasion phase, using membership data to make a final, targeted pitch for support, urging the voters to make their candidate their first or second choice.
“There’s a large chunk of new members who signed up during this race that we’re really eager to introduce Jean to, and to communicate with,” Mr. Rougier said.
“This is about communication and trying to get messages that resonate with members and then going where they are.”
The Conservatives elect leaders based on a ranked ballot and proportional representation. The party assigns up to 100 points to candidates for each federal riding based on their popular vote. The system means that in addition to geographic spread, it’s important to increase sales in low-membership ridings.
If at least 100 members vote in a riding, the party assigns the riding equal weight with others in leadership elections.
The party is to mail out ballot packages in July and August. The leadership election results are to be announced on Sept. 10 in Ottawa.
“We’re going to want to use Jean’s time and the campaign’s resources as efficiently as possible,” Mr. Rougier. “So we’re going to be focusing on a strategy that gets us the most amount of points as quickly as possible,” he said. “It really is about where the members are distributed and opportunities for growth and persuasion are.”
The leadership candidates are Ontario MPs Scott Aitchison, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre, Roman Baber, a former member of the Ontario legislature, as well as Mr. Charest and Patrick Brown, the mayor of Brampton.
Mr. Poilievre’s campaign officials say they signed up about 311,000 supporters, and Mr. Brown has said he signed up more than 150,000. The other campaigns have declined to provide specific numbers.
Conservative strategist Kate Harrison, the vice-chair of the Summa Strategies public affairs firm, said that in Ontario in particular, the candidates are likely averse to talking politics so soon after the provincial election.
But Ms. Harrison, who is neutral in the race, said they are also working on tweaks and strategies to help hold current support and secure second-place support.
“This is now the opportunity for those teams to regroup, figure out whether or not they are happy with how their messages are landing, and what they may need to do, and where might they travel over the course of the summer to shore up support and get down-ballot support.”
She also said, at this point, the challenge for Mr. Poilievre’s rivals is keeping a motivated base, “and not having this idea take hold that this race is over and there is no need to show up.”
For subscribers: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.