Leadership Change in a Dominant Party: The Alberta Progressive Conservatives, 2006

David K Stewart, Anthony Sayers


The 2006 Alberta Progressive Conservative Party leadership race was notable for the surprising victory of Ed Stelmach and the fact that nearly 150,000 Albertans participated in the process. We argue that the use of an open, plebiscitary vote to select the leader of this governing party was essential to Stelmach’s success, and acted as a mechanism for sustaining Tory dominance. The contest mimicked a general election: By offering three leading candidates with distinctive ideological views, it enlarged and engaged the party membership and reinvigorated the party’s links to civil society. Stelmach’s victory had much to do with his perceived role as the moderate, middle, candidate able to unite the party. To explain this outcome, we explore patterns of support by constituency and the impact of endorsements on the outcome. To paraphrase Duverger, leadership contests in Alberta impress on voters, even non-supporters, that the Tories are a dominant party.


Alberta, elections

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125