Two members of a Liberal riding association in southwestern Ontario have quit in protest over what they say is the party's failure to respect its pledge to hold open nominations.
"This goes explicitly against what [Justin Trudeau] has said in terms of free, open, transparent nominations. We've had something that was distinctly closed and very, very opaque," said Bryan Kerman, who quit the board of the Brant riding association after 40 years as a Liberal.
Last year Trudeau promised to hold open nominations in all 338 ridings as part of his plan to renew the party. However, the commitment has proved easier said than done, with Liberals in a handful of ridings arguing the process hasn't been truly fair.
In the case of Brantford-Brant, members of the riding association allege the Liberal Party favoured the only officially registered candidate, Danielle Takacs, by abruptly called a nomination vote.
There were at least three other candidates preparing to contest Takacs, Kerman said. However they never got the opportunity, because an e-mail was sent out on Aug. 5 saying the deadline for applications was just two hours away.
Takacs won the riding by acclamation on Aug. 21.
A spokesperson for the Liberals said the regular nomination process was followed in Brantford-Brant. Nomination papers have been available since January and anyone is welcome to apply, said spokesman Olivier Duchesneau.
"This is a very open and transparent process. Nobody should be surprised in any riding across the country that nomination meetings are called," said Duchesneau.
The Liberals have also been criticized for the nomination race in the Trinity-Spadina by-election, where a candidate who was barred from running is suing Trudeau. Another prospective candidate withdrew from the race in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas in protest over the controversy.
The NDP and the Conservatives have also found themselves confronted by challenges in the open nomination process. One prospective NDP candidate in British Columbia said he was blocked from running over concerns about his position on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
The Conservatives had to restart the nomination race in Oakville North–Burlington after a bitter dispute and allegations of dirty tactics erupted between MP Eve Adams and her rival. Both wound up quitting the race.
More Liberal resignations to come?
Kerman's claims are supported by riding association president Edward Chrzanowski.
"Two people have technically now resigned. I might expect more," said Chrzanowski, who has not resigned his position, but says he is considering not voting Liberal in the next election.
He is particularly frustrated because the riding association was asked by party officials in Ontario to set up a committee to find new candidates. He said they successfully found several people who were gearing up to run, but the party's sudden decision to impose a deadline prevented them.
"In our riding it was not fair and open. Period. We had other candidates. They were not allowed to submit," he said.
Takacs wants to focus on campaigning for the next election, rather than the controversy. She wouldn't say whether she thought the process was fair and open.
"I'm not one to comment on that. I just played by the rules that were presented," she said.
Still, she questions whether any one else was really in a position to submit an application.
"It takes a lot more than two hours and I would say it takes a lot more than even a month. So it's a real big, serious decision that people have to make well in advance," she said.
Takacs points out that the Liberal application process includes a criminal background check, a financial record check, signing up supporters, fundraising and submitting all published work.
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