18 months after former Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he was stepping down, the race to become the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), and the Official Opposition, is into its final days.

Rona Ambrose gave her final major speech as interim leader this week, and CPC members from across the country will be gathering in Toronto next weekend, with the leader to be determined on Saturday, May 27.

How the Conservatives’ new leader will be determined (and why it’s difficult to predict the outcome):

With the ranked ballot system, the magic number will be 16,901. That’s the number of points needed to win. Each riding across the country is assigned 100 points, with points allocated to each candidate based on their percentage of the votes within a riding. Those points are then added up nationally.

If a majority isn’t reached after counting first preferences, the candidate with the lowest national point total will be dropped. The second preferences of those ballots will be reallocated to the remaining candidates. This will continue until one candidate reaches the majority total of 16,901.

From an agriculture perspective, much of the discussion during the race has revolved around the future of supply management, with front-runner Maxime Bernier promising to dismantle the marketing system for dairy and poultry. The other 12 candidates are all in favour of maintaining supply management, which is in line with the policy the CPC has on the books.

Bernier, Saskatchewan MP Andrew Scheer and Ontario MP Erin O’Toole are viewed as the three main contenders, with Bernier leading the polls, while Scheer and O’Toole have stronger support from within the Conservative caucus. Others, including Lisa Raitt and Michael Chong, could also garner strong support in the preferential ballot system, with voters ranking their top 10 choices.

Jeff English

The winner likely won’t be decided on the first ballot, suggests Jeff English, who served as the communications director for the previous agriculture minister under the former Conservative government, and now works in agriculture marketing in Winnipeg.

“I would say it’s a three-horse race, but just because of the nature of the ranked ballot and the fact it will go deep, the smart money would be to hold on to that money,” he notes.

So what are the chances of a surprise when the ballots are counted? We’ve seen some candidates recommend second choices — will we see some grouping where voters will have common first/second preferences and vice versa? What would Bernier’s next steps be on supply management if he wins? And the big question for CPC members, considering the relatively low household name recognition of most of the candidates, do any of them stand a chance against Justin Trudeau in the next federal election?

English made his RealAg Radio debut on Tuesday to discuss the CPC leadership contest:

Related: Bernier Promises to Tear Down Supply Management if Elected Prime Minister

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