Candidate selection scandal brewing for GPR Conservatives?

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith
EAP
The authority of the local Conservative riding association has been superceded.

The Electoral District Association (EDA) of Prescott-Glengarry-Russell criticized the appointment of Susan McArthur as the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) candidate for the riding. In a media release sent out August 18, it was stated that several volunteers resigned from the EDA in protest, including the secretary, two vice presidents, and a former campaign office manager.

“This is reminiscent of the Patrick Brown days in our riding where the grassroots membership has no say on who their (provincial) candidate is,” stated Joel Charbonneau, former vice president of the GPR EDA. “We have gone from a grassroots party that has respected its membership to a party of Toronto elitists who appoint friends in ridings they don’t live in.”

Charbonneau referred to the past controversies over candidate selections for Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party under former-leader Patrick Brown. Several riding associations complained they had candidate choices forced on them by the PC head office.

Pierre Lemiuex, who had held the riding for 10 years for the federal party, before losing both the 2015 and 2019 elections, was the preferred GPR candidate for six months. Party bylaws state a candidate cannot run again after two consecutive losses, so Lemieux submitted a request in January 2021 to have the bylaw waived.

Six months followed with no response from the CPC head office, despite multiple requests for status updates. Then on August 6, Lemieux received word that his request had been denied. At the same time the EDA was told that the nomination period for new candidates would close August 8. The EDA was unable to find a new candidate before that time, so McArthur’s appointment went through unchallenged.

Several board members and volunteers believe there is a connection between denial of Lemieux’s waiver request, the short deadline notice for candidate nominations for the GPR, and McArthur’s appointment as the Conservative candidate for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

“The problem isn’t that Pierre is no longer our candidate, the party had the right to decline that waiver,” said Jennifer Snell, who was a general board member at the CPC EDA and also the 2019 campaign office manager. “But if the party had given us any notice or taken any action during the nomination period, it would have given us in the riding more time to give notice that we needed someone to run rather than settle for a parachute job of one of Erin O’Toole’s friends.”

Members of the CPC EDA made it clear that they felt this was a deliberate attempt by the CPC head office to install its own candidate choice.

“The way they followed the party bylaws was pretty secretive and underhanded,” Snell said. “The party representatives refused to give us her name because she had professional obligations to tie up before it was released. The name was released on social media with no information given to the board.”

When asked why she thought this had happened, Snell said that Erin O’Toole is changing the party into what he wants to see.

“He pushed out the candidate in the Yukon because he doesn’t agree with mandatory vaccinations,” she said, “He’s purging the party of Social-Conservatives. Our Conservative values haven’t change, but the party has changed.”

EAP sent an email to GPR Conservative candidate Susan McArthur for comment on the issue and awaits a response.