Robert Benzie - May 12, 2017
Progressive Conservative candidate nominations have become so messy that riding association presidents are appealing the outcome of at least two contests, the Star has learned.
In an unusual move, PC activists in the ridings of Newmarket-Aurora and Ottawa West Nepean have complained in writing to their own party about irregularities at their recent nomination meetings.
The turmoil has forced Conservative Leader Patrick Brown to retain the services of private-sector auditors PwC to ensure the integrity of nominations going forward.
“I’m only going to allow nominations that are certified by PwC to proceed,” Brown told CFRA’s Rob Snow in Ottawa on Thursday.
Auditors from the company — which is also known as PricewaterhouseCoopers — will be at each of the more than 60 ridings where PC candidates have yet to be nominated.
With polls suggesting Brown could win the June 7, 2018 election, would-be Tory candidates have been coming out of the woodwork with more contested nominations than ever before.
But that has led to serious growing pains.
Ottawa West Nepean riding association president Emma McLennan wrote to Brown to express concerns about ballot-box stuffing that allegedly occurred there last Saturday. There were 28 more ballots in the boxes than had registered to vote that day.The eventual victor, Karma Macgregor, topped runner-up Jeremy Roberts by 15 votes. Party executive director Bob Stanley declared Macgregor the winner fair and square.Citing the PC constitution, Roberts has launched a formal appeal of the results.“My campaign contends that there were numerous instances of both nomination rules being broken and outright fraudulent behaviour,” he wrote Thursday in a separate letter to the party also obtained by the Star.Roberts said the 28 questionable “ballots were in a box in which we know that fraud was committed” because 17 others in it were rejected due to irregularities.“I will not be pursing this matter in any public forum and wish for this matter to be dealt with internally through the approved upon process,” the defeated candidate wrote.“Our collective goal should be to ensure that the Ontario PC Party is strengthened and remains a party of high ethical standards in contrast to the appalling current Ontario government.”Newmarket-Aurora PC riding association officials are challenging the April 8 nomination of candidate Charity McGrath Di Paolo.“The nomination process and election has been tainted by a blatant breach of the nomination rules,” according to an April 27 letter to Brown and other party brass from riding association president Derek Murray and six others.In their five-page request for an appeal, the Newmarket-Aurora riding association executive alleged that supporters of rival candidates Tom Vegh and Bill Hogg “were physically blocked from approaching or speaking with” Tories being bussed in for the nomination meeting.Ironically, the internal PC tumult is coming to light the same week as the party is promising to “enhance fairness in politics and government” by introducing new accountability measures if elected next year.Brown, for his part, insisted the snafus are happening because there is so much excitement surrounding his party, which leads Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals by double digits in the polls.“I don’t get involved in nominations,” he said, adding “I want to make sure the nominations are transparent, fair, and democratic.”