Roger Belgrave - January 18, 2017
Former MP Bob Dechert has dropped his bid to become the provincial Progressive Conservative Party’s election candidate in Mississauga-Erin Mills - citing serious concerns about the nomination process.
“I have lost confidence in the integrity of the party’s nomination process,” he said in a letter, emailed to friends and supporters, explaining his decision.
Dechert was the Mississauga-Erindale MP from 2008 to 2015, during Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
He has been an active member of the party for decades, but said he has become “deeply concerned” the provincial candidate nomination process in Mississauga-Erin Mills and other districts is no longer open or fair.
“I have come to this decision based upon my observation of widespread abuse of the process in Mississauga-Erin Mills by multiple persons and a failure by the party to enforce its own rules,” Dechert wrote.
He listed concerns about whether some of those signed up to vote in nominations actually paid their own membership fees, live at the address indicated on membership application papers or actually signed membership documents themselves, and the infiltration of the party nomination process by “special interest” groups.
He called for an immediate open investigation and audit by the party.
Dechert also recommended changes to the candidate selection rules and party constitution to reduce abuse of the nomination process.
He concluded his letter by encouraging supporters and party members to remain active and work to elect a Conservative government.
At the time of publication, Dechert had not responded to requests for an interview and the riding nomination meeting was scheduled to proceed Sunday (Jan. 22).
“We’ve got three really, really strong candidates in the field and we anticipate a really robust and strong meeting on Sunday,” said Ontario Progressive Conservative Party President Rick Dykstra, who has spoken with Dechert about his concerns.
Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader Patrick Brown promised fair and open nominations, but also wanted competitive nominations, Dykstra said.
He added the party had selected more than 20 candidates in ridings across the province in the last two months and from the outset stated plans to review those first 20-25 nominations.
Dechert’s concerns would be considered as part of that review, according to Dykstra.
“If we can improve (the process), we’ll do our best to do that,” Dykstra said.
But the party president made it clear he was comfortable with the process underway in Mississauga-Erin Mills and across the province — calling it fair, open, transparent and strengthening for the party.
“It’ll stand the test of scrutiny we put it through and it has produced very strong candidates,” Dykstra insisted of Mississauga nomination activities.
He suggested Dechert’s withdrawal from the race might have also been precipitated by a highly competitive process, often won by the candidate who is able to sign up enough supporters to win the membership vote at the nomination meeting.
“The fact is it’s tough, when there’s that many strong candidates running, to sell memberships and I think Bob faced some of that as part of the issue,” Dykstra remarked.