Some long-time Ontario Progressive Conservatives are urging the party to reopen contentious nominations across the province — including the riding of Ottawa West-Nepean — and clean up what they see as corruption before the June election.
“We still have time. My goodness, we’re going to run a leadership, we still have time to run a properly constituted riding nomination meeting,” said retired Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton.
‘Fraud’ in Ottawa West-Nepean
LeBreton was witness to a nomination meeting she said was rife with irregularities in Ottawa West-Nepean on May 6, 2017.
Several Progressive Conservative party volunteers told CBC they saw evidence that evening of ballot stuffing and ineligible members being permitted to vote — and that party executives allowed it all to happen.
“It was clearly very fraudulent activity,” said LeBreton. “At the time I called for the party to take a look at it and declare the meeting void.”
Instead, then-leader Patrick Brown shut down any discussion of an appeal and appointed the candidates who’d been nominated in all the controversial nomination meetings across Ontario.
In Ottawa West-Nepean, the party executive resigned en masse.
The winning candidate, Karma MacGregor, is now readying her campaign for the June election. At the time of the nomination, her daughter, Tamara MacGregor, was Patrick Brown’s deputy chief of staff.
Several CBC requests to speak to Karma MacGregor went unanswered.
Now that both Brown and former party president Rick Dykstra are gone, LeBreton and other long-time party members are urging those now in charge to take action.
Take back our PC Party
LeBreton and many others in Ottawa West-Nepean have hope in the party’s interim leader, Vic Fedeli, who said last week he’d work to “root out any rot” in the party.
“I know people are saying, ‘Why is Vic Fedeli doing this? It’s going to give Liberals ammunition,'” said LeBreton. “No. It’ll prove we’re open, honest, prepared to look at ourselves [and] honestly fix these problems.”
There have been contentious nominations in a number of Ontario ridings, including Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas and Scarborough Centre.
Jim Karahalios, a long-time PC party supporter and lawyer in Cambridge, Ont., was so disillusioned with the nomination process in Ontario last summer that he started a protest group called Take Back our PC Party.
He went up against both Brown and Dykstra, calling for an airing of party issues at a formal convention.
But the party executive didn’t take kindly to Karahalios’ outspoken views and slapped a lawsuit on him. It was later dismissed.
“The PC Party should not be going into an election with candidates where their legitimacy and how they were chosen is called into question,” said Karahalios on Wednesday. “Because it will hamper our ability to put forward a strong showing in those ridings.”
‘Root out the rot’
While Karahalios notes Fedeli is doing a “heroic job”, he really wants to know if the three party’s three declared leadership candidates — Caroline Mulroney, Doug Ford and Christine Elliott — plan on reopening nominations in the ridings that were “most probably decided through illegitimate means.”
“Root out the rot and drain the swamp,” said Karahalios.
But a long-time Progressive Conservative insider said reopening nominations will not be easy.
“It’s a very messy process to overturn anything,” said the party activist, who would only discuss internal party matters freely on condition of anonymity. “They would be looking at opening something that is long gone.”
The party insider said only the executive would have the authority to call for a new nomination vote.
CBC requested to speak to executives with the Ontario PC party, but no one consented to an interview.
Could campaign against PC candidates
If nominations are not reopened, some card-carrying party members say they’ll actually campaign against Progressive Conservative candidates.
Carlos Naldinho, who has volunteered for the candidate in Ottawa West-Nepean riding for the past several elections, was so disillusioned by the nomination process he started a campaign called “I’m Out”
“The reason I’m a conservative is because, whatever we are, we’re not corrupt. But when you start rigging nominations, and you start rigging leadership races, then you can’t support a party like that any more,” said Naldinho.
He’s adding his voice to those urging the party’s brass to hold new nomination contests.
“If they don’t reverse those candidates, I’ll have to work against those candidates in the election, even if I want the party to win,” said Naldinho.
“If Karma [MacGregor] is the candidate, I will be campaigning against her. Same with some of the other candidates who got the nomination by cheating.”
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