Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay greets supporters after his nomination meeting Monday, which had to change location at the last minute to Red's Corner hotel in Poole's Corner after the original meeting at a Roman Catholic church hall was suddenly denied by the parish.
©THE GUARDIAN/Nigel Armstrong
No one is going on the record as to exactly why the Cardigan Liberal nomination meeting on Monday suddenly had to move from a church hall to Pooles Corner.
It was to have been in St. Joachim’s church hall in Vernon River but after the church contacted party organizers Saturday, the meeting shifted about 20 kilometres further east to Red’s Corner restaurant.
"I wasn't involved but the president was called and told that the hall was not available," said MacAulay after the nomination meeting. "That's all I can tell you."
"You can think what you like but what I can tell you is that we had to get a new place and within an hour or so we had a new place and as you can see it worked out pretty well."
The meeting room at Red's Corner was packed with just over 100 supporters along with politicians past and present.
The change of meeting location and the abortion issue was never mentioned once in the official proceedings of the nomination meeting.
MacAulay is pro-life and said in The Guardian last week he believed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's recent pronouncement on abortion still allowed sitting MPs to vote their conscience.
The day that story was published, word came down from the Liberal leadership that no, all Liberal MPs are expected to vote the party policy of pro-choice.
"I am pro life myself and I understand the feeling well but you saw my statement, and that's it," said MacAulay.
His statement sent by email to the Guardian last week said "I am personally pro-life, and have long held these beliefs; however, I accept and understand the party position regarding a woman’s right to choose.”
In an email sent to The Guardian Monday, Barb Wood, who is the contact person for the St. Joachim’s church, said the hall committee held a meeting during which it decided to deny the hall for the nomination meeting.
The committee thought it was necessary to respect parishioners’ concerns, said Wood.
What those concerns are is unclear and a request to interview someone from the committee was denied.
Trudeau said in May that new Liberal MPs have to be pro-choice, but issued a grandfather clause saying that already- sitting MPs can continue to seek nomination, regardless of their abortion views.
MacAulay has represented residents of his riding for more than 25 years and is the longest-serving federal politician in P.E.I.’s history, the second longest in the House of Commons.
John MacKinnon, the Cardigan riding president, said he wasn’t very excited when he got the news at about 4:35 p.m. Saturday that the meeting location had to change.
“I guess if they didn’t want us there they didn’t want us there,” he said.
It wouldn’t have been the first nomination meeting the Liberals held at the parish hall. Last week the provincial Liberal party held the nomination for Education Minister Alan McIsaac at St. Joachim’s.
For the Cardigan meeting, MacKinnon said the party planned to have people wait at the church to notify anyone who arrived there that the meeting was moved, in case they didn’t hear about the new venue on such short notice.
As it turned out, a sign was all that greeted party faithful heading to the church hall.
"We couldn't miss this, even if it meant a scenic drive through the country looking for a crowd of cars," said the always jocular former P.E.I. Liberal cabinet minister Robert Morrissey.
The Liberals had the church hall booked for more than a week and MacKinnon said he thought the change would impact the turnout.
“It will to a certain extent, I guess.”