03/14/2014 01:18 EDT | Updated 05/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Christine Innes Liberal Candidacy Rebuffed Over Deal, Letter says

Christine Innes, a former contender for the Liberal nomination in a just-vacated Toronto riding, was told by the Liberal Party she had turned down a "solution" that "most of those seeking Liberal nominations would have jumped at."

A letter obtained by CBC News, written to Innes by David MacNaughton of the party's national election readiness committee, says her candidacy for the nomination in a byelection in the downtown riding of Trinity-Spadina cannot be accepted.

In the letter MacNaughton, goes on to tell Innes she won't be eligible for a Liberal nomination in any riding for the 2015 election.

Innes, according to the letter, had been asked to sign an agreement with the party that she would seek the nomination in the newly created riding of Spadina Fort York in 2015. In return, the Liberal Party would support her desire to seek the nomination in the Trinity-Spadina byelection.

A byelection has yet to be called for Trinity-Spadina which became open when former Liberal MP Olivia Chow announced her candidacy for the Toronto mayoralty election.

A byelection would take place in the current boundaries of the riding. Trinity-Spadina and the riding of Toronto Centre will be split into three new ridings, due to electoral redistribution, for the 2015 federal election.

In the letter, MacNaughton says: "A similar request was made to the Liberal candidates in the other byelection ridings taking place this spring, that is, that they agree in advance where they will win in the general election [in 2015]."

Innes, says MacNaughton, rejected this solution "out of hand," whereas the other candidates accepted.  

Open nominations

The other two byelections MacNaughton is likely referring to have also yet not been called, but they will take place in the Alberta ridings of Macleod and Fort McMurray-Athabasca. Both the Conservative MPs for those ridings have resigned.

The fact that candidates are being asked to sign agreements about where to run seems to belie the declaration by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau that all contests for ridings will be open nominations.

In his letter, MacNaughton accuses Innes's campaign team of using "bullying and intimidation" on young volunteers if they happened to be on the "wrong side" in a nomination battle.

On Thursday, MacNaughton told The Canadian Press he was referring to tactics employed by Innes's husband, Tony Ianno, who was the former Liberal MP for the riding until he was defeated in 2006 by Chow. He said the accusations were the reason Innes was being rejected by the party.

Sources say Innes was interested in running in the new riding of University Rosedale, where she and Ianno live and where Liberals are thought to stand a better chance of winning in 2015. Spadina Fort York, the new riding the party had earmarked for Innes, is considered by some to be a much better bet for the NDP.

Chrystia Freeland

Other Liberals say Spadina Fort York should be friendly to a Liberal candidate because the new riding will contain many of the new condo developments in downtown Toronto.

Liberal sources say that the new riding of University Rosedale has been set aside for newly elected MP Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland currently represents Toronto Centre, but that riding, which will also have new boundaries in 2015, is said to be sought by Bill Morneau, former chair of the C.D. Howe Institute and a keynote speaker at the Liberals' Montreal policy convention last month.

Thursday, in a statement, Innes said the allegations about bullying tactics are "totally baseless and without merit" and were never brought to her attention.

She added that she could not sign a document agreeing to a "riding assignment," because it "seems to be at variance with the leader’s commitment to open and fair nominations."

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