PC riding association board members jump ship for Trillium party

Christopher Reynolds - September 09, 2017

Most of the Progressive Conservative riding association board in Scarborough Centre has stepped down, with about half flocking to the Trillium party. Eight board members say in a joint letter that their decision was prompted by "unfair" application of the party rules and "loss of confidence in Patrick Brown."

It comes in the wake of a chaotic nomination meeting in June freighted with questions over the validity of some party memberships. Twelve of 16 board members abandoned ship last week, according to several of those who resigned and resignation letters from Aug. 29 obtained by QP Briefing. Five of the ex-Tories are already newly minted members of the Trillium Party of Ontario, according to that party. The Trillium party's freshly anointed Scarborough Centre riding association president is Chris Mellor — who stepped down from the PC association board last week. "There's a myriad of problems," said Mellor, who served as PC board president in Scarborough Centre for three years until February. He cited "general dissatisfaction with the direction the party is taking under Patrick Brown" and said the local board had been "completely ignored and overwritten." Mellor said the Trillium party, which counts former PC MPP Jack MacLaren among its ranks, appealed to him as a centre-right, "constituency-based" party that "respected democracy." Eight board members, including Mellor, signed off on a frankly-worded second resignation letter, also obtained by QP Briefing, which was sent Tuesday to PC Leader Patrick Brown, party executive director Bob Stanley and party president Rick Dykstra. The letter cites "arbitrary and unfair application of rules" to Scarborough Centre's prospective nominees and alleges "false information" from Stanley following the nomination race. It also says party leadership overrode the association's "authority to run its own nomination meeting leading to the chaos that ensued." It alleges that "chaos" includes accusations of intimidation, threats, disorder and voter fraud.

The letter goes on to assert the signatories' "loss of confidence in Patrick Brown as a leader," citing his "radical reversal" on issues including sex education, support for a carbon tax, and "the democratic process" at the nomination level. Trillium party Leader Bob Yaciuk confirmed the five new additions to its Scarborough Centre association board. "It definitely tells you there's a lot of disgruntled people in Scarborough with the PCs," Yaciuk said. "This kind of defection, I've never heard of this stuff happening in my 30-some years of being intimately and actively involved in politics. I mean, how many do we have now that have just quit, that just abandoned a party this close to an election because of disgruntled-ness?" he asked. Scarborough Centre joins at least three other ridings that saw mass resignations by PC association boards over the summer due to ideological differences or alleged irregularities at nomination votes: Newmarket - Aurora, Ottawa West - Nepean, and Kanata - Carleton. Meanwhile, there is a lawsuit and police probe into the Hamilton West - Ancaster - Dundas nomination. Despite these controversies, a recent poll found most Ontarians aren't tuned in to the nomination meeting messiness. In May, Brown hired private auditors PwC to oversee all nomination meetings going forward. Brown, Dykstra and Stanley did not respond to questions on the resignations by press time. Raphael Rosch, a former pastor, self-declared "social conservative" and now card-carrying member of the pro-life Ontario Alliance Party, was part of last week's resignation wave, penning the letter that was signed by half the board. "People like me are not welcome now," he said of the PC party. Jun Calaguio, who served on the PC board in Scarborough Centre since 2010, and his wife Trinidad Calaguio said they stepped down "because we were so disgusted with the way the party was being run." "The association didn’t have any teeth at all, any say with regard to policies," Calaguio added. "Our frustrations have been bothering us for so long … we really hate to leave the party ... It really hurts me so much." Board president Basu Mukherjee remains at the helm, according to multiple ex-board members. Marilyn Mushinski, the last Tory MPP to represent the riding, resigned in July after Thenusha Parani won the nomination in a hectic June 26 vote, where police were apparently called amidst accusations of invalid memberships, as first reported by CBC.

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