David Reevely - July 25, 2017
The Progressive Conservative candidate in the new Carleton riding will lose and would be a bad MPP even if she won the next election, Ottawa’s most prominent provincial Tory said in a private email Tuesday.
Lisa MacLeod has represented Nepean-Carleton in the Ontario legislature since 2006 but the riding is being split at the next election. MacLeod is running in the northern suburban section, called Nepean. After one of their now-routine ugly nomination squabbles, the Tories nominated young trade lawyer Goldie Ghamari in the rural Carleton section last November.
Ghamari is a dangerous pick, the email says.
“For 22 years John Baird and I have kept Carleton deep Tory Blue and now that is at risk,” says the email. “I chose a tougher, urban seat and I do not regret the choice, but I am gutted by what comes next in Carleton as I not only believe the current candidate will not win but worse, if she does win, she will not be a suitable representative for my constituents who I remain loyal to.”
The email went to prominent Nepean conservatives, including former senator Marjory LeBreton and fundraiser Thom Bennett, and was forwarded several times before I saw it. At first, MacLeod said she didn’t know anything about the email. Later in the day, she acknowledged it was genuine.
“I have remained silent on the choice of the new PC Candidate in Carleton,” MacLeod’s email said. “I know it is clear to many that she does not enjoy my support- .my sign crew in Carleton has all quit the party- not one remains as a result of the shady founding meeting and subsequent nomination (you may recall my speech at the founding meeting where I warned against splitting the party but clear as day, it is split now). Tories are looking for new parties in parts of the riding to support and I have dealt with many constituents who call me in tears asking me to come back. So evident is the poor choice of candidate that Kathleen Wynne actually went to Carleton last Friday as a target seat for the Liberals (I do not need to remind anyone that Pierre Poilievre only narrowly maintained his seat in the last election!).”
Indeed, on an Ottawa swing, Wynne made campaign-type stops in Kanata-Carleton and Carleton, admiring self-driving cars, picking strawberries and visiting Saunders Farm. The Liberals don’t have a candidate in Carleton yet but if they found a strong one with deep local roots, he or she could give the Tories a fight.
MacLeod concluded that “strong Tory voices” in Carleton have to “figure out next steps, otherwise a 22 year old legacy will all be for not (sic).”
What those “next steps” might be isn’t clear. A party leader can dismiss a candidate. But Brown has approved candidates chosen in plainly tainted nomination meetings, endured mass resignations of riding-association leaders and gone to court to defend his choices. Ditching a candidate he’s already approved, welcomed and campaigned for, without some new obvious outrage, would be astounding.
The email refers to a dossier on Ghamari that made the rounds on the sly during the party nomination campaign, which includes some allegations that are legitimate (Ghamari toyed with other political parties when she was a student, not all that long ago) and some less so (basically piling in stuff from all over the internet connected to the handle “Persian Cat” or its variations, which the Iranian-born Ghamari sometimes used but obviously she’s not the only one in the world ever to call herself that).
On Monday, much of the material was turned into a video on the alt-right website The Rebel, attacking both Ghamari and party leader Patrick Brown for allowing her to be a candidate.
The dossier suggests Ghamari’s not a real conservative, and maybe even a closet Islamist who’s used aliases to attack Christianity.
“I am horrified at the idea that anyone could believe I would write something so vile,” Ghamari said. “It is not even in a language that I speak, read or write.”
More generally, she said, “While it is true that in the past, when I was much younger, I criticised some policies of the previous federal Conservative government, that does not negate the fact that I am a proud Progressive Conservative.”
Although MacLeod’s criticisms of Ghamari were wide-ranging, she said in a written statement that the video prompted her Tuesday email.
“Yesterday evening, a number of people forwarded me a video by the Rebel about the PC candidate in Carleton, Goldie Ghamari and I was alarmed,” MacLeod wrote. “I have since read her denial that she made the statements about Christianity attributed to her in the video, which initially caused me concern. I was pleased to see her denial that those comments were hers. I believe Ontario PCs have put forward a strong and diverse team of candidates in Eastern Ontario, and the rest of the province, and I look forward to serving with all of them under PC Leader Patrick Brown’s leadership.”
MacLeod’s antipathy to Ghamari isn’t a secret. There are too many layers to disentangle completely, but it’s wrapped up in Brown’s attempts to assert himself in the party’s Eastern Ontario operation as a newcomer to provincial politics.
MacLeod was a top lieutenant to former Tory leader Tim Hudak and ran against Brown for the leadership after Hudak lost the last election and resigned; after Brown won, he favoured Kanata MPP Jack MacLaren, who was one of his earliest caucus supporters, and demoted MacLeod.
Then MacLaren’s career in the Progressive Conservative party blew up like a multistage firework, ending up in Brown’s tossing MacLaren from the Tory caucus seconds before he quit. That left Brown without a reliable Eastern Ontario ally.
The upshot is that Ghamari is Brown’s candidate in Carleton and MacLeod would have preferred someone closer to her, like Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt or former Osgoode councillor Doug Thompson. Moffatt declined to run; Thompson did declare he’d seek the nomination, then bowed out, saying he’d discovered party politics was dirtier than he’d expected. A candidate from the populist Ontario Landowners Association also left the race and right-wing party activist Jay Tysick was disqualified by the Tories’ nominating authorities at the last minute.
Although she doesn’t live in Carleton, Ghamari put in a lot of campaign work and drew endorsements from people such as longtime Rideau politician Glenn Brooks. The nomination vote came down to her and Parliament Hill political staffer Brandon Purcell and Ghamari won.
“I am incredibly grateful and humbled that the people of Carleton voted for me to become their Ontario PC Candidate. Since then, I have been working tirelessly to bring their issues and concerns to light. I look forward to running a clean, positive and inspiring campaign, earning the votes of everyone in Carleton, and working with the PC caucus, including Lisa MacLeod,” Ghamari said.
So everything’s back to normal in the Progressive Conservative party.