The Ontario Progressive Conservatives will hold new nomination races in two ridings where complaints of broken rules and ballot-stuffing have been made.
The party announced Friday night that the provincial nominations committee was unanimous in deciding to hold new races in Ottawa West-Nepean and Scarborough Centre.
Of the 56 competitive nominations the PC Party has held to date in the run-up to the June 7 provincial election – excluding the 14 ridings where candidates were acclaimed – nearly one in four have ended in controversy, a Globe and Mail tally has found.
Interim leader Vic Fedeli ordered a review of half a dozen of the most egregious cases, including Ottawa West-Nepean and Scarborough Centre, a senior party official told The Globe on Friday.
A majority of the board of directors of the Ottawa West-Nepean association quit last June over allegations of ballot-stuffing. The then-PC riding president, Emma McLennan, flagged concerns with the party executive last year about a May vote, questioning the legitimacy of 73 members listed as living at 25 Woodridge Cres., an apartment building, although the names did not appear on the building’s tenant directory.
In the riding of Scarborough Centre, former cabinet minister Marilyn Mushinski, who chaired the nominating committee, said she did not learn until the day before the vote last June that Thenusha Parani was a candidate. Along with other party members, Ms. Mushinski said she called on the executive to strip Ms. Parani of her nomination because of alleged irregularities. But they were ignored, she said on Friday.
“It was just a travesty of democracy,” she said, adding that she was “shunned” by Rick Dykstra, president of the party at the time.
The party’s nominations committee also reviewed the vote in Newmarket-Aurora. A survey of just under 300 people who cast ballots to elect the Progressive Conservative candidate in Newmarket-Aurora found that half of the participants were not members of the party.
Derek Murray, former president of the Newmarket-Aurora Provincial Progressive Conservative Association, said earlier on Friday that he welcomed the review. The association’s board of directors quit en masse last June, citing the “blatant disregard for the democratic rights of the people of this riding, to choose their local candidate in a fair, open and transparent process.”
Mr. Murray told The Globe that a review of the membership list revealed roughly one third came from a few apartment buildings in the community. The board hired a company to conduct a phone survey. Of the 287 people who responded, 90 per cent had been contacted by a candidate to attend the nomination meeting last April, the survey found. But half of the respondents said they had not signed an application to be a member of the party or paid the $10 fee.
The riding association’s board formally appealed the nomination of Charity McGrath on two occasions, but the party executive ignored them, Mr. Murray said.
Ms. McGrath declined to comment when reached by The Globe, saying, “enough is enough.” She also said she did not authorize the release of a joint statement, which includes her name. The statement, released Friday afternoon, said the review launched by Mr. Fedeli is based on “rumours and innuendo” and should be halted.
The other two candidates whose names are also on the statement – Ms. Parani and Karma Macgregor – represent, respectively, Scarborough Centre and Ottawa West-Nepean.
Mr. Fedeli, appointed interim leader on Jan. 26, has ordered the review before the party chooses a successor to Mr. Brown in 29 days. Mr. Brown resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct involving two young women that he has denied.
Jim Karahalios, a Cambridge corporate lawyer and activist, said the Tories under Mr. Brown’s leadership violated the party’s constitution on multiple occasions. “The most grand one was the PC Party constitution obligates them to hear appeals of nominations,” he said in an interview.