OTTAWA - Conservatives across the country are watching closely to see whether party brass live up to their promise of fair and open nominations, as the first races quietly get underway in the lead-up to the 2015 election.
While incumbents were protected from challengers during the minority government years, this is the first time nominations have been declared fair game.
Former Alberta cabinet minister Ron Liepert, who is hoping to upset MP Rob Anders for the privilege of carrying the Conservative banner in Calgary-Signal Hill, said his team had to be on the ball to find out the nomination countdown had started in that riding.
After the Toronto Star published a leaked memo last month that said the party wanted to speed up certain nominations to help incumbents — including Anders specifically — Liepert's people began making calls to Tory HQ to check the date.
Sure enough, the nominations had opened last week, starting the 14-day clock.
"I fully expect the party's going to follow through on its commitment to have open nominations across the country," said Liepert, who sent his completed papers.
In Saskatchewan, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's riding of Battlefords-Lloydminster has opened for nominations, where Ritz does not appear to be facing any competition. And the nomination race for Calgary East — MP Deepak Obhrai's riding — has also opened.
The names of both Ritz and Obhrai had also appeared in the leaked memo as nominations the party wanted to have in the bag early.
The Canadian Press asked the party to share the names of ridings that opened their nomination processes. Spokesman Cory Hann responded in an email by saying "these are internal party matters."
Conservatives, meanwhile, are watching with interest how the race will unfold in the new Ontario riding of Oakville-North Burlington, where a longtime local Conservative will be competing against MP and parliamentary secretary Eve Adams.
There's no word on when the party will fire the starting gun there.
Adams, who currently represents the Ontario riding of Mississauga-Brampton South, is also the partner of the party's executive director, Dimitri Soudas — a fact that has only fed the curiosity around the local nomination process.
Dr. Natalia Lishchyna, an Oakville, Ont., chiropractor and college professor, has worked on campaigns for MP Terence Young and has support on the new riding association board. She said she approaches the process with optimism.
"If I told you I didn't have any concerns at all, that wouldn't be forthright. But I think the Conservative party wants to make sure that there's good people representing the ridings, and the nomination meetings are an area where you can find very good candidates and I think we're doing that here, too," said Lishchyna.
A party source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Soudas has removed himself from any involvement in Oakville-North Burlington. That job will instead fall to the party president.
Larry Scott, a candidate for the provincial Tories in Oakville, said he's firmly backing Lishchyna. Scott said party members would be upset if headquarters did anything to prevent her from running.
"There's an old saying that all politics is local, and Oakville and North Oakville, this is a really local area," Scott said of the dynamic.
"Everybody knows everybody, and those people who've been supporters, you've just seen them for years and you know who they are."
Adams says she is perfectly capable of "standing on my own two feet," having successfully fought off a wide roster of Ontario municipal candidates at Mississauga city hall in the past and handily beating Liberal MP Navdeep Bains in 2011.
Adams adds that she's been investing time meeting with local groups and residents, and emphasizes that she lives within the riding boundaries while Lishchyna does not.
"I have a proven track record — I run and I win, because of hard work and because of a great team of volunteers," said Adams.
The party recently decided that ridings that have held byelection nomination races since the 2011 election won't have to do so again, thereby protecting a handful of incumbents.
Also on HuffPost:
Rob Anders, Calgary West
First elected: 1997
Jason Kenney, Calgary Southeast
First elected: 1997
Deepak Obhrai, Calgary East
First elected: 1997
Diane Ablonczy, Calgary-Nose Hill
First elected: 1997
Dick Harris, Prince George-Bulkley Valley
First elected: 1993
Garry Breitkreuz, Yorkton-Melville
First elected: 1993
Gerry Ritz, Battlefords-Lloydminster
First elected: 1997
Peter Goldring, Edmonton East
First elected: 1997
John Duncan, Vancouver Island North
First elected: 1993
Leon Benoit, Vegreville-Wainwright
First elected: 1993
Maurice Vellacott, Saskatoon-Wanuskewin
First elected: 1997
UP NEXT: Canadian Politicians Who Tried Pot
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he has had his <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/28/rob-ford-marijuana-wynne_n_3831389.html" target="_blank">fair share of marijuana</a>. "Oh, yeah. I've smoked a lot of it."
The federal Liberal leader opened up to HuffPost about his experience with marijuana in August. "Sometimes, I guess, I have gotten a buzz, but other times no. I’m not really crazy about it.”
The Opposition leader's office told HuffPost this summer that Mulcair <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/22/justin-trudeau-marijuana-peter-mackay_n_3797481.html" target="_blank">has smoked in the past</a> but not since he was elected to office. Mulcair was elected to the National Assembly of Quebec in 1994.
Said the <a href="http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n506/a09.html" target="_blank">Tory finance minister</a>: "Yeah, in my teenage years... a couple of times, I have to admit: I didn’t like it."
The Liberal MP and Canada's first astronaut said he tried marijuana as a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Politics/Power+%26+Politics/ID/2402495133/" target="_blank">student in the 1970s in England. </a> "It's not my thing. I stopped because it wasn't doing anything for me."
The premier of Ontario said she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/28/kathleen-wynne-marijuana-pot_n_3830736.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_blank">smoked pot decades ago</a>. "I have smoked marijuana but not for the last 35 years."
Said the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/08/29/darrell-dexter-marijuana-pot_n_3837009.html?utm_hp_ref=canada-politics" target="_blank">former premier of Nova Scotia</a>: "Like every other person I knew back in the '70s when I went to university, some of whom are actually in this room, I would have tried it, the same as other people at that time."
Said the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/05/01/christy-clark-marijuana-use-pot_n_1469321.html" target="_blank">premier of British Columbia</a>: "I graduated from Burnaby South Senior Secondary in 1983 and there was a lot of that going on when I was in high school and I didn't avoid it all together."
The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario admitted he's <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2011/08/18/hudak_admits_to_smoking_pot.html" target="_blank">puffed in the past.</a> "I was a normal kid, I had a normal upbringing, a normal life in university. I experimented from time to time with marijuana. It’s a long time ago in the past and in the grand scheme of things."
The former prime minister of Canada <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/" target="_blank">told CTV News</a>: "The answer is: I never smoked. I never smoked anything, but there was an earlier time, years ago, when (my wife) made some brownies and they did have a strange taste."
The former prime minister admitted while running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives that <a href="http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/08/22/chris-selley-trudeau-pot-revelation-underscores-one-of-his-few-actual-policy-positions/" target="_blank">she tried weed.</a> "And I inhaled the smoke."
Said the former NDP leader: "Yes, and some might say I never exhaled."
The former premier of Ontario said he <a href="http://www.cfdp.ca/cita99.htm" target="_blank">experimented in his teens</a>, but only twice.
The premier of Saskatchewan said he was an <a href="http://www.canada.com/topics/news/politics/story.html?id=f23471e8-be96-46cf-9c1f-b43d5c497cdd" target="_blank">"infrequent" user back in university.</a> "It didn't really do anything for me, luckily, because for some, it does lead to other things."
UP NEXT: Celebs Smoking Pot
The rapper's 18-year-old son, Corde Calvin Broadus, caused a stir when he <a href="http://www.digitalspy.com/celebrity/i435058-16/twitterinstagram-pics-of-2012-snoop-dogg-and-son-corde-calvin-broadus.html">shared this photo of him</a> smoking with his famous weed-loving dad.
Soulja Boy, Wiz Khalifa
Is that smoke, or a new Instagram filter? Soulja Boy<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/soulja-boy-wiz-khalifa-smoke-up-photo_n_2402221.html"> tweeted a photo </a>of what appears to be him and pal Wiz Khalifa smoking out a giant bong on Jan. 3.
"Oh don't worry," Brown wrote on this <a href="http://instagram.com/p/SzQdSKPpVR/">Instagram photo </a>he shared in December, from Amsterdam. "It's medicinal!! Lol."
<a href="http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2012/06/kristen-stewart-responds-critics-shit-eaters-vanity-fair">In a 2012 Vanity Fair article</a>, Stewart addressed the photos taken of her smoking out of a pipe in 2008. "You can Google my name and one of the first things that comes up is images of me sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe with my ex-boyfriend and my dog," she said. "I was a kid. I had just turned 18. In [the tabloids] the next day it was like I was a delinquent slimy idiot, whereas I’m kind of a weirdo, creative Valley Girl who smokes pot. Big deal.”
Dressing up as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/02/rihanna-topless-singer-post-halloween-lok_n_2066153.html">"The Bride of Mary Jane"</a> (get it?) for Halloween wasn't enough. Rihanna shared this controversial picture at the start of the New Year, with the caption: "This nug look like a skull or am I just....?"
A video of <a href="http://www.tmz.com/2010/12/10/miley-cyrus-video-bong-hit-smoking-salvia-herb-pyschedelic-birthday-party-hannah-montana/">Miley Cyrus partying with a bong </a>just after her 18th birthday became instant tabloid fodder when it hit the internet in 2010. Her reps say that she was actually smoking the herb salvia.
Yup. That's Olympic Gold medalist <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/swimming/news/story?id=3876804">Michael Phelps smoking out of a bong</a>, published in the now-defunct British rag News of the World in 2009.
Lady Gaga smoked a spliff onstage at a concert in -- duh -- Amsterdam. About marijuana, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/lady-gaga-weed-singer-wondrous-marijuana_n_1897486.html">she told the audience</a>: "I want you to know it has totally changed my life and I've really cut down on drinking. It has been a totally spiritual experience for me with my music."
Last week, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/05/justin-bieber-smoking-pot-photos-emerge-teen-star-partying_n_2415401.html">photos emerged </a>of what appears to be Bieber smoking marijuana inside a Newport Beach hotel room on Jan. 2. "Everyday growing and learning. trying to be better. u get knocked down, u get up," Bieber tweeted not long after the reports trickled through. "Back on tour tomorrow. ready to see u all smile. time to do what im supposed to be doing. performing. #BELIEVEtour."
UP NEXT: Successful People Who Have Smoked Pot
President Barack Obama has admitted to smoking marijuana and using cocaine <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/09/us/politics/09obama.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0">during his high school and college days</a>. "When I was a kid, I inhaled often," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/24/world/americas/24iht-dems.3272493.html">he once told magazine editors, according to The New York Times</a>. "That was the point."
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' use of LSD in his younger days is well-documented. He once called the experience <a href="http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/10/24/Steve-Jobs-10-Revealing-Quotes-from-His-Biography.aspx#zqEbfO6jmqxtvYKB.99">"one of the most important things in my life."</a> His use of the drug was even noted in an <a href="http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-02/10/steve-jobs-fbi">FBI background check</a>, according to Wired.
President Bill Clinton famously admitted to trying marijuana while completing his Rhodes scholarship at Oxford. "When I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1992/03/30/us/the-1992-campaign-new-york-clinton-admits-experiment-with-marijuana-in-1960-s.html?gwh=B1648339901F9BBAADA0D9EC8C030343">The New York Times reported in 1992</a>. "I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.”
Virgin Group chairman and founder <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/branson-end-war-on-drugs">Richard Branson is an outspoken advocate of marijuana legilization</a>, once writing an op-ed for CNN that called for an end to the war on drugs. He reportedly asked <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0312/74111.html">President Obama during a White House visit if he could "have a spliff"</a> in 2012. "They didn't have any," he added.
New York City Mayor and Bloomberg L.P. founder Michael Bloomberg found himself in hot water when he admitted to smoking marijuana back in 2002, The New York Times reports. When asked by a reporter if he had ever tried pot, he responded: <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/10/nyregion/bloomberg-says-he-regrets-marijuana-remarks.html">"You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."</a>
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner credits his use of marijuana later in life with changing his perspective on sex. "I didn't know what making love was all about for all those years," Hefner <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2010/11/23/hugh-hefner-talks-monogomy-miley-cyrus-marijuana/">who supports legalization</a> is quoted as saying in <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/High-In-America-Politics-Marijuana/dp/0670119903">High In America: The True Story Behind NORML</a></em>. <a href="http://www.druglibrary.org/special/anderson/highinamerica8.htm">"Smoking helped put me in touch with the realm of the senses."</a>
Billionaire investor George Soros is a known supporter of marijuana legalization and even wrote a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed rather straight-forwardly entitled <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303467004575574450703567656.html">"Why I Support Legal Marijuana."</a> His <a href="http://www.aim.org/special-report/the-hidden-soros-agenda-drugs-money-the-media-and-political-power/">use of the drug may be far less proflific</a>, however. He told Reuters in 1997 that while he had "enjoyed" trying marijuana, <a href="http://www.mpp.org/outreach/top-50-marijuana-users-list.html">"it did not become a habit and I have not tasted it in many years."</a>
Jimmy Cayne, former CEO of Bear Stearns, kept an<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/wall-street-cocaine-stories-2012-7?op=1"> antacid bottle full of cocaine</a> in his desk, according to the book <a href="http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Sellout.html?id=Jq030Cp_SjQC">The Sellout</a>.
The former vice presidential candidate and reality TV star told Anchorage Daily News back in 2006 that she couldn't <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/08/29/politics/politico/thecrypt/main4397109.shtml">"claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled,”</a> CBS News reports.
Bill Gates, chairman and co-founder of Microsoft, hinted at once using LSD and marijuana in a <a href="http://ei.cs.vt.edu/~history/Bill.Gates.html">1994 interview with Playboy</a>. Likewise, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gates-Microsofts-Reinvented-Industry-Himself/dp/0671880748">biographer Stephen Manes</a> wrote that "<a href="http://www.mpp.org/outreach/top-50-marijuana-users-list.html">Gates was certainly not unusual there</a> [around drugs]. Marijuana was the pharmaceutical of choice…”
Former Ronald Reagan economic adviser and current CNBC host Larry Kudlow is reported to have both smoked marijuana and <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2000/nov/29/workandcareers.madeleinebunting">used cocaine frequently</a> at periods in his life. After being fired from Bear Sterns in the mid-1990s, <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=bOQCAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA38&dq=kudlow+cocaine&ei=VCR0S9XdEpG2NJDq0bsE&cd=1#v=twopage&q&f=true">Kudlow entered a rehabilitation program to deal with his cocaine addiction</a>, according to New York Magazine.
Super model Naomi Campbell <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7018893/site/todayshow/ns/today-entertainment/t/naomi-campbell-say-she-nearly-self-destructed-because-cocaine/#.USU_XVo6VOg">admitted in 2005 to abusing cocaine during her career</a>. "I have admitted using illegal drugs and some years ago I recognised that I had a problem" <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-99840/Naomi-confesses-drug-abuse.html#ixzz2LTfhOeI6">she was quoted as saying in The Daily Mail.</a> "I knew that it was wrong and had damaged me and I decided to try and sort myself out."
Peter Lewis, former CEO of Progressive Insurance, has both <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2012/04/20/high-roller-how-billionaire-peter-lewis-is-bankrolling-marijuana-legalization/">smoked marijuana and lobbied heavily for its legalization</a>. After smoking weed recreationally in his youth, he started using it medicinally after his leg was amputated. “<a href="http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2012/07/16/medical-marijuana-question-thank-78-year-billionaire-insurance-executive/">I was very glad I had marijuana,"</a> he told Boston Magazine. "It didn’t exactly eliminate the pain, but it made the pain tolerable — and it let me avoid those heavy-duty narcotic pain relievers that leave you incapacitated.”
Former California Governor and all around legend Arnold Schwarzenegger can be seen smoking marijuana in the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron." He later said that he <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-207_162-529462.html">"did smoke a joint and I did inhale,"</a> CBS News reports.