Conservatives divided with by-election underway in Flaherty’s riding

Jim Flaherty’s former riding association president says he was pressured by the Conservative Party to step aside as a candidate in the race to succeed the former finance minister.

David Glover called the party’s action a bid to clear the way for a candidate who had renewed her membership only a month earlier. Mr. Glover nonetheless says he proceeded with his campaign only to see the party call the nomination on short notice, rule out other candidates and limit how many new members could be signed up.

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The revelations in the battle for the Conservative nomination to become the next MP in Whitby-Oshawa – a seat in the coveted, vote-rich 905 region surrounding Toronto, and one of two by-elections called by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday – are the latest the Conservatives have faced despite the party’s pledge of fair and open candidate nominations leading up to next year’s scheduled election.

Mr. Glover, the former Conservative riding association president in Whitby-Oshawa, laid out concerns in an e-mail sent to supporters and obtained by The Globe and Mail. Mr. Glover was running for the nomination but wrote to supporters that he was asked by a local party official to step aside for Whitby Mayor Pat Perkins. Mr. Glover wrote that the local official was asked by Conservative Party Political Operations Director Fred DeLorey to urge Mr. Glover to “do the right thing” and give way to Ms. Perkins. The party thought the mayor’s profile gave it the best chance to win the by-election, Mr. Glover wrote. (A Conservative source familiar with the nomination process disputed that Mr. DeLorey gave such an order, while a party spokesman said it doesn’t comment on such detailed internal matters.) In his position, Mr. DeLorey plays a key role in rolling out the party’s nomination processes.

Ms. Perkins only bought a Conservative Party membership on July 16, Mr. Glover said in an interview. A source said Ms. Perkins’s membership had indeed “lapsed” but that she’d previously been a member. Candidates typically need to have been a member for six months to seek a nomination, but can get a waiver as an exemption. Ms. Perkins got one, a source confirmed.

Mr. DeLorey then opened the nomination race on Aug. 22, a day after a local tribute event for Mr. Flaherty organized by Mr. Glover as a fundraiser for the riding association. The race was announced by mail and the deadline was Aug. 29, Mr. Glover wrote – leaving little time for candidates to receive a letter, complete their applications and mail it back to Ottawa. Four people did, but two were disqualified due to problems with their application, he added in an interview. That left Mr. Glover and Ms. Perkins.

Mr. DeLorey then made another move “so unexpected and so masterful that it even caught me by surprise,” Mr. Glover wrote. By Mr. Glover’s account, Mr. DeLorey sent letters on Sept. 5 setting the vote date for Sept. 22 and the membership cutoff date, retroactively, for Sept. 1. It left candidates with no further window to sell new memberships and excluded those who’d bought a membership since Sept. 1, he said. Ms. Perkins went on to win the nomination vote.

Ms. Perkins didn’t respond to requests for comment, and the party played down the complaints. “The Conservative Party of Canada’s nominations are completely fair and open,” party spokesman Cory Hann said in a statement.

In an interview, Mr. Glover said he e-mailed his supporters because he was being asked to work on Ms. Perkins’s campaign, but believes the process was unfair. “The deck had been stacked already,” he said.

Mr. Glover is not backing Ms. Perkins’s campaign and hasn’t decided if he’ll vote in the by-election, but remains a supporter of the Conservative Party and Mr. Harper. “I do not believe he knows what’s going on [in the riding], because I do not believe that he would do this,” Mr. Glover said.

Both Mr. Harper’s Conservatives and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have faced grassroots complaints about interfering with the nomination process, despite pledges for open races.

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

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