Home Editor Picks Another would-be Conservative nominee alleges ‘irregularities’ in race to carry party banner | CBC News

Another would-be Conservative nominee alleges ‘irregularities’ in race to carry party banner | CBC News

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Another would-be Conservative nominee alleges ‘irregularities’ in race to carry party banner | CBC News

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A town councillor running for the Conservative nomination in an Ontario riding that was already the source of controversy earlier this month says she was unfairly blocked from carrying the party banner because the top Tory brass wanted another candidate instead.

Rachel Gilliland, who sits as a member of Aurora, Ont.’s town council, told CBC News Wednesday she was denied the chance to run for the nomination in the Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill riding and was “given no reason for the denial.”

“I did ask for clarity and I didn’t get any. It seemed to me like there’s a candidate that has a little bit more favouritism from the party, let’s just say that,” she said in an interview. “There were quite a few things that didn’t seem kosher.”

“I’ve worked my butt off for almost a year and I made a lot of personal sacrifices. If the party was adamant about having a specific person win then by all means … but pick up the phone and tell me. They could’ve thrown me a bone,” she said.

This is the second Conservative candidate in as many weeks from Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill to have their nomination campaign abruptly come to end.

Former National Post journalist Sabrina Maddeaux suspended her nomination campaign saying the process had been “corrupted.”

Both have claimed irregularities in the nomination process and alleged the party’s membership list was somehow leaked to another candidate to give them a leg-up.

They claimed the party favoured another candidate in the contest, denying local party members a say in who will represent them.

Both candidates have declined to say who they think the party favours in this race for a suburban swing seat, which looks winnable for the Conservatives in a general election given the party’s huge lead in national polls.

Journalist-turn-Conservative nomination candidate Sabrina Maddeaux has dropped out of the race to represent the party in a Toronto-area riding.
Conservative nomination candidate Sabrina Maddeaux dropped out of the race to represent the party in a Toronto-area riding saying the process had been ‘corrupted.’ (Sabrina Maddeaux/X)

The two women were in a tough fight for the nomination against former MP Costas Menegakis, who held the riding from 2011 until the party’s defeat in the 2015 election.

Now that Gilliland has been blocked from running for the party and Maddeaux is out, the nomination election will be held on May 28 with only two candidates on the ballot: Menegakis and Carmine Perrelli, a former regional councillor and deputy mayor of Richmond Hill, Ont. Whoever wins will run for the Conservatives in the next federal election.

A spokesperson for the Conservatives said Gilliland was “in clear violation of the rules” as outlined in the party’s “rules and procedures for candidate nominations.”

The spokesperson, Sarah Fischer, did not specify what rule Gilliland is said to have broken.

“The local Candidate Nomination Committee (CNC) recommended disqualification and the National Candidate Selection Committee upheld the local CNC decision. After review, the National Council did not accept Ms. Gilliland’s appeal of this decision,” Fischer said.

Gilliland maintains she was never told why exactly she was disqualified from the race.

‘A number of irregularities’ 

Gilliland said she’s troubled by what she calls a “number of irregularities” and incidents of “suspected contravention of party nomination rules” during her race.

She reported these concerns to the party but hasn’t had a meaningful response, she said.

Gilliland said she has reason to believe the party’s membership list — the master directory of Conservatives in a particular riding — was unfairly given to another candidate for the nomination in contravention of the rules.

The list is what candidates use to focus their campaigns on members who are actually expected to vote, which saves the campaign time and resources.

She said she signed up a new Conservative supporter who, before this race, was never politically active and could not have been on any of the party’s old membership lists.

Shortly after signing up this member to support her candidacy, a volunteer for another campaign came to the supporter’s door trying to solicit their vote, she said.

Gilliland said she received emails from five other supporters who said they experienced a similar thing — and they were curious about how their personal details ended up in the hands of another campaign.

Gilliland also said an unflattering email about her was sent to some members who only recently signed up — an attempt to undermine her campaign and torpedo her chances.

Aurora, Ont. town councillor Rachel Gilliland, left, is pictured.
Gilliland, left, has claimed irregularities in the Conservative nomination process and alleged the party’s membership list was somehow leaked early to another candidate to give them a leg-up. (Supplied by Rachel Gilliland)

Gilliland said these incidents happened well before the updated membership list was to be distributed to all of the candidates.

Under the Conservative Party’s rules, the membership list can only be given to nomination candidates after the “closing notice” is issued, when nominations are closed to other prospective party nominees.

Allegations of questionable activity around the membership list is also one of the reasons why Maddeaux quit the Conservative nomination battle in the same riding.

Maddeaux told CBC News earlier this month that she suspected another campaign had early access to the membership list — a development that would give that particular competitor a big benefit over the other prospective nomination candidates.

Maddeaux said the list was used to send out a disparaging email that maligned her past experience as a writer and columnist.

She said the emails were sent to some new members whose contact details were only recorded on an updated membership list, which should have not been released to other candidates yet.

Maddeaux would not say who she suspected had the list and who might have been behind an email that was designed to ruin her campaign.

WATCH | Former journalist drops out of Conservative nomination, alleges ‘corrupted process’:

Former journalist drops out of Conservative nomination, alleges ‘corrupted process’

Sabrina Maddeaux, a former candidate for the Conservative nomination in the Ontario riding of Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill, tells Power & Politics that she hopes ‘there’s an investigation and that voters can learn what was really happening.’

Fischer, the Conservative spokesperson, previously told CBC News that Maddeaux’s claims of nefarious membership list sharing were “completely false.”

“It’s common for the party to receive complaints from nomination candidates about their competitors over suspicions of wrongdoing and the use of lists,” Fischer said. She did not address Gilliland’s specific allegations.

Gilliland said she would have been a formidable candidate.

As a town councillor and established politician she said she has amassed a contingent of loyal supporters.

Gilliland said she signed up more than more 580 new members to vote for her — a significant number of new members given the relatively low turnout in nomination races like this.

It’s also more than what Maddeaux said she had signed up.

“I’m just really disappointed in the process and the fact that, at the end of the day, people in the riding didn’t have an opportunity to vote for the candidate they actually want,” Gilliland said.

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