With just over a month to go before an Oct. 25 deadline to call a byelection in Whitby–Oshawa, a Conservative effort to fast-track the candidate-selection process could end up leaving some local Tories off the voter list.
David Glover, the former riding association president and long-time friend of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, is one of the two Conservatives vying to carry the party banner in the upcoming race. Flaherty held the seat until his death this spring.
Last week, Glover sent out an email to let his supporters know that the "folks in Ottawa" had not only set a date for the nomination vote, but had imposed what was, effectively, a retroactive membership cut-off date of Sept. 1.
"Although our (electoral district association) president valiantly attempted to convince the folks in Ottawa that this decision would not be well received, in the end he was unsuccessful," Glover wrote.
"If your membership in our party was not processed on or before Aug. 31, 2014, you will not be permitted to vote at our upcoming nomination meeting."
In his letter, Glover acknowledged that the decision "is certainly a confusing one for me to understand."
"I have been assured that the exact timing of our nomination meeting is absolutely critical and the unfortunate repercussions are absolutely necessary," he added.
He suggested that anyone unhappy with the party's move should get in touch with the person who made the decision — Conservative political operations director Fred DeLorey, whose email address and phone number he included in the note.
Although neither Glover nor the party were willing to provide any details on the reason for bumping up the nomination date, it appears that the decision came around the same time as a second candidate was angling to join the race.
On Aug. 27, Whitby mayor Pat Perkins announced she would be ending her re-election campaign to run for the Conservative nomination, bringing the total number of candidates to two.
In an interview with the local paper Whitby This Week, Glover told reporter Parvaneh Pessian he thought it was "wonderful" that Perkins "had joined the party so she could be involved in the process."
Some members of the executive apparently weren't pleased with Glover's comment, which seemed to suggest that Perkins was new to the party.
In response, Glover sent a dispatch to supporters over the weekend to "clear the air."
"The reason I know that Pat Perkins recently joined the party around the end of June or early in July is because I helped to show her how to join the party over the internet using the [Conservative Party] website," he wrote.
"It doesn’t matter to me and I don’t understand why it should matter to anyone else that the mayor has just recently joined our party," he stressed.
Perkins, however, maintains that she had simply renewed a membership that had expired.
"Contrary to what is being alluded to by others, my membership had lapsed," she told CBC News by email. "I remedied the situation by signing up."
She also doesn't have a problem with the abbreviated schedule, or the retroactive membership cut-off date.
"Each candidate is working with the same timeline," she noted.
"We have two weeks to prepare, and the membership will have their opportunity to select their candidate for the by-election."
In response to a query from CBC News, Conservative spokesman Cory Hann pointed to the party constitution, which sets the parameters for nomination votes.
"The nomination meeting has been scheduled for Sept. 22, 2014," he noted.
"As per the rules of our party, you have to be a member 21 days before the meeting to be eligible to vote."
The Conservatives aren't the only party facing nomination complaints. Two members of Liberal riding association in Brantford–Brant recently quit to protest the nomination process in that riding, while former Liberal candidate Christine Innes is suing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau over comments he made in denying her bid to run for the party again in Trinity–Spadina.
Glover seems fairly certain that, when it comes to fair nomination races, his party leader would likely take his side.
"Based on my years of experience with the party and my first hand discussions with Jim when he was alive, both he and Stephen Harper were strong proponents and passionate supporters of the nomination process that has been developed by our party," he told CBC News.
"I’m absolutely convinced that Jim would never have allowed any of this to happen in his riding if he were still alive. I am equally convinced that Prime Minister Harper will be extremely disappointed and quite disheartened to hear about what has been happening."
The NDP has nominated Trish McAuliffe while Celina Caesar-Chavannes is running for the Liberals.
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