With all the attention being paid to the circus that the Conservative Leadership Race has become, it’s easy to get lost in watching that. A lot has been going on and given the twists and turns in the race, it’s taken a lot to pay attention to what’s happening there. But as we know that is not the only race in town. Nope the Greens will be having one of their own to replace Elizabeth May, one that’s lacked a lot of things so far; interest, viable candidates, hope.

Yeah, it hasn’t been pretty but today we did finally get one piece of important information about this other race happening in Canadian politics. Today in Charlottetown, PEI the Greens announced the rules for entry into this race and they are part what some might have expected but in one big way, something different:

For those poli-geeks out there like yours truly, you know that the rules of the game really matter. We’re seeing a prime example of that in the Conservative race to replace Andrew Scheer and the effects that those rules have had on the composition of that contest. Given that the Greens haven’t had a leadership contest since 2006, it’s been a while since they’ve done this. With that in mind, here are the highlights of the rules to replace Ms. May:

  • Entry Fee of $50,000 (Initial non-refundable Application Fee of $1,000 due at the time the application, another Non-Refundable Initial Contest entry Fee of $9,000 due within ten days of the Leadership Application being approved and a final Non-Refundable Secondary Contest Fee of $40,000, due by July 31st, 2020)
  • Campaign spending limit of $500,000
  • 100 nomination signatures from Party members, including at least twenty Young Greens at the time of application
  • Between August 1st and September 1st, 2020 another 150 signed nominations from members including at least 20 members residing in each of a minimum of five of the six regions of Canada as defined in the GPC bylaws (Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairie, British Columbia and North).

When you compare those numbers against the current Conservative leadership race, that seems very modest. But compare that to the last time the Greens did this in 2006. Back then the entry fee was $1,000 and had a spending limit of $50,000. Even in the NDP’s last leadership race the entry fee was only $30,000, although they had a spending limit of $1,500,000.

While I’m less surprised to see the Greens raise their spending limit compared to 14 years ago, I’m actually very surprised to see them put the entry fee so high. It seems very counter-intuitive to me for a party that’s having an extremely hard time finding viable candidates to take the plunge and try to win this race. Of the people who have expressed interest in the job, I could picture that entry being not much of a barrier for someone like David Merner. But I could see that as a significant barrier for other candidates, like an Alex Tyrrell out of Quebec. That might not be a coincidence and maybe the Greens are hoping to be able to chase people like Tyrrell out before this thing starts.

Regardless of the motivations for the entry fee, it does strike me as odd and not something that will help to spur more interest in taking a run at this thing. Some could point to that as a sign of professionalization on the part of the Greens but I don’t think they are there yet. In fact, in this race their very electoral future is in play because this party has been so firmly built around Elizabeth May for over a decade. So much of their success and profile has come from her and her name, so once you pull that piece out and you don’t have someone else to put into that place with the same cache, what does that look like? Conventional wisdom says that it fades into the background and goes away.

So given the lack of serious interest in this race you’d think they would lower the barriers to entry, not raise them so high. Yet here we are and those are the rules of this game. Will they have a negative affect on what the Greens hope to achieve? Time will tell but at least going forward we now know exactly what rules they face and some of the barriers they will have to overcome to become the next Green leader.

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