OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s plans for a “down day” to take his family to a wave pool were dampened Saturday after he was pressed about an Ottawa-area candidate’s friendship with white supremacist Faith Goldy.
Scheer faced new questions about his party’s links with Goldy after an undated video surfaced showing a reality show pilot pitched by the Kanata-Carleton candidate Justina McCaffrey and the controversial far-right figure.
McCaffrey, a wedding dress designer, describes Goldy as “wonderful” in the video.
“I have obviously made it clear that I won’t have anything to do with that individual,” Scheer said about Goldy at an event to support McCaffrey’s campaign in Kanata, Ont. He called the video a distraction.
McCaffrey, who was at the event to deliver introductory remarks, left abruptly and avoided reporters’ questions.
Liberals released two clips targeting McCaffrey on Saturday. They were shared by two high-profile Liberals less than two hours before Scheer was scheduled to campaign with McCaffrey and speak with reporters just outside of Ottawa.
McCaffrey released a statement in response to the video that clipped a comment she made about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s “preoccupation with the French.”
She said she “deeply” respects both official languages and referenced her roots in Saint Boniface, Man., a French community in the province. The statement made no explicit mention of Goldy.
Asked to respond to the Liberal-leaked video of her television pilot project with Goldy, McCaffrey told HuffPost Canada: “This video is from 2013. I haven’t seen her in several years.”
McCaffrey is a high-profile candidate who has been campaigning in the riding for more than a year.
Liberals have regularly attacked Scheer for his February appearance at a “United We Roll” rally in Ottawa. Hundreds of protesters showed up to voice their frustration over the federal government’s support of Canada’s resource sector.
Rally organizers were associated with “Yellow Vest Canada” — a populist group known for its xenophobic, violent, and inflammatory online community. Scheer was criticized at the time for failing to distance himself and his party from the anti-immigration elements on display at the rally.
Goldy was not invited to speak on the main stage set up by Centre Block on Parliament Hill where Scheer spoke. She found herself a stage after hoisting herself onto a scissor lift parked on the street off of Parliament Hill grounds.
The former Rebel Media correspondent was banned from Facebook after a HuffPost report about racist content hosted on the platform. The decision came after a Facebook spokesperson initially stated that a white nationalist video posted by Goldy didn’t violate company rules.
McCaffrey wasn’t the only Conservative candidate whose past caught up with them Saturday.
La Presse reported that Hugues Laplante, the Conservative candidate in Châteauguay–Lacolle, pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge in 1992.
Laplante remains a candidate under the Conservative banner as of Saturday. Spokesperson Josée Morissette said the Quebec businessman’s criminal record wasn’t an impediment to his selection as a federal election candidate.
“It’s a requirement of the candidate application to also provide a criminal background check,” Morissette told HuffPost Canada in an email.
Asked why someone with an impaired driving conviction is the best person to carry the party’s banner in Châteauguay–Lacolle, Morissette shared a link to Laplante’s biography on the Conservative party’s website, adding, “I think you will get the answer 🙂.”
Tories dump candidate over ‘discriminatory’ messages
The revelation of Laplante’s past comes a day after Scheer was asked to explain why a person who shared white supremacy messages on social media got the boot and someone who made an LGBTQ+ slur remains a candidate.
Winnipeg North candidate Cameron Ogilvie was told to step down Thursday by the party over “discriminatory social media posts” made in the past. The posts, some with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim themes, were revealed by Press Progress.
The party said in a statement that Ogilvie kept the posts “hidden” by deactivating his social media accounts during the candidate vetting process.
Shortly before Scheer’s planned transit announcement in Mississauga, Ont., on Friday, Liberal candidate Ruby Sahota shared a screengrab of a Facebook comment with the slur that her Conservative rival made more than nine years ago. Sahota is the Liberal incumbent in Brampton North.
Arpan Khanna, the Conservatives’ candidate, issued an apology Friday in light of the Liberal revelation.
Scheer defended his party’s vetting process by throwing mud at the Liberals.
“Justin Trudeau still has not condemned the anti-Semitic messages that his candidate, his former candidate in Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel made,” Scheer said. “And [the fact] that party officials were conspiring to keep those anti-Semitic messages hidden.”
Last month, before the official start of the election campaign, the Liberals dropped Hassan Guillet as a candidate in the Montreal-area riding of Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel.
Guillet, a former imam who delivered an acclaimed sermon in the wake of the Quebec City mosque attack, had been praised as a star candidate for the party. He was turfed after his alleged comments surfaced.
Other parties have also had to drop candidates before the weekend over past social media posts.
New Democrats lost two candidates in British Columbia and Quebec this week. Kamloops–Thompson–Cariboo candidate Dock Currie resigned over a past violent threat he made against a journalist. The party also needs to replace its candidate in LaSalle–Émard–Verdun after Olivier Mathieu was shown the door over domestic abuse allegations.
The Green Party dumped Simcoe North candidate Erik Schomann over an inflammatory comment about sending pig meat to Muslims.
And the People’s Party is one candidate lighter — Brian Misera quit after he said he tried to get leader Maxime Bernier to denounce racism within party ranks. The party had a different explanation for Misera’s departure, saying he violated election rules by serving as his own financial agent.
Five candidates have so far dropped out from the federal race since the official campaign started on Wednesday.
With files from The Canadian Press