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The final four Conservative Party leadership candidates: Peter MacKay, Leslyn Lewis, Erin O’Toole and Derek Sloan.
OTTAWA — With the entry deadline passed in the Conservative leadership race, four candidates are on the ballot, two appear to have been eliminated, one has withdrawn his candidacy, and another is taking the party to court over being disqualified.
Candidates needed to submit $300,000 and 3,000 party member signatures by 5 p.m. on Wednesday to make the final ballot and participate in official leadership debates.
Those confirmed to have done so are Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan. Two of them, O’Toole and Sloan, have called for the race to be postponed due to the COVID-10 pandemic. MacKay has asked for an earlier vote.
Marilyn Gladu and Rudy Husny, meanwhile, have been removed from the party’s website as candidates because they failed to meet the entry requirements. Rick Peterson was removed a few days ago after he withdrew his candidacy.
The Gladu campaign declined to comment, waiting to hear whether the leadership election organizing committee (LEOC) might yet grant a deadline extension due to the pandemic, but there appears to be little chance of that. LEOC has so far rejected calls for delaying the race, preferring to keep it on track for a vote on June 27.
“By refusing to make any changes to the March 25 requirements, the Conservative Party disqualified me for refusing to campaign during a national crisis,” Husny said in a statement Wednesday evening. “As such, LEOC remains virtually the only organization in the world that has refused to recognize that the COVID-19 crisis has fundamentally upended our way of life.”
LEOC’s decision to stick to the deadlines has been controversial in some quarters, including on the party’s own national council . The council — a high-level governing body for the party — has asked LEOC to investigate the feasibility of delaying the race and report back, but party sources have told the National Post that any major changes to the timeline are unlikely.
However, LEOC has also said it is constantly monitoring the pandemic situation and assessing whether more changes are needed. It has already decided to hold its two debates in April without a live audience.
The rules for the race, released in January, included two deadlines for entry. Eight candidates met the first one on Feb. 27, which required a $25,000 fee instalment and 1,000 endorsements from party members.
Five appointed and unelected individuals have attempted to hijack democracy by removing my name from the ballot
With the second entry deadline now passed, the next important date is April 17, when membership sales are cut off for voting purposes. April 17 is also the English-language debate, with a French-language one to follow a week later.
In the meantime, the party is preparing for a court date with Jim Karahalios, who was disqualified as a candidate last Friday.
The party has not said exactly why Karahalios was disqualified, but the party had received complaints about his behaviour — particularly over a letter he circulated that accused O’Toole’s campaign of advocating Sharia law. The letter targeted O’Toole’s campaign chair Walied Soliman, a Toronto lawyer who is Muslim.
Karahalios is challenging his disqualification in Ontario Superior Court, and is also seeking a court order to have the party return his entry fees.
On Tuesday the court granted him an urgent hearing, despite the fact the court is largely shut due to the pandemic.
“In my view, this is a matter that is necessary and appropriate to hear,” said the decision from Justice Fred Meyers. “Although the application does not raise a strictly financial issue, it is time sensitive and the consequences have implications on the national political process in the country.”
The case will be heard by Justice Edward Belobaba, though a date has not yet been set.
Because of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, the hearing may be held by teleconference or over a video service such as Skype. Materials from each side will be filed by email as PDF attachments.
The decision to disqualify Karahalios was made by a subcommittee of LEOC called the dispute resolution appeals committee.
Karahalios alleges the disqualification was done in bad faith, that there is no evidence he broke any of the leadership rules, and that the disqualification “offended the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.”
“Five appointed and unelected individuals have attempted to hijack democracy by removing my name from the ballot in the Conservative Leadership Race,” he said in a statement. “Their decision was politically motivated as my candidacy was increasingly becoming a threat to Stop the Red Tory Coronation of Erin O’Toole or Peter MacKay”
Karahalios also says the party is holding onto his more than $300,000 entry fee, and he is asking the court to order the party to “immediately transfer all contributions to Karahalios’s campaign account so he can proceed with paying off his expenses.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020