Conservatives in my home riding of Mississauga South must really miss the days when they could just throw a Kennedy on the ballot and have the rest of the election be a formality.
In the past few years, not a single election cycle has passed in Mississauga South without some fairly serious drama and infighting popping up, and both the federal and provincial sides. 2004-2006 candidate Phil Green was denied the chance to run a third time in the fall of 2006 (despite party insider Bob Dechert getting the go for a three-peat next door) which ruffled a few feathers. Green had this to say:
I was told by a Party official that the party would not allow me to be a candidate for nomination. No reasons were provided...I believe that in this matter the Conservative Party has shown a cavalier attitude towards our political freedoms and its pledge of fair, transparent and democratic nominations
And of course, following this, came the appointment of floor-crosser Tim Peterson as automatic PC candidate for the 2007 election, which backfired spectacularly and alienated the grassroots as 3 candidates had been actively going for the nod against Peterson. Former PC MPP Margaret Marland called the process "despicable" and Peterson was not allowed the speak at his own nomination meeting. Unsurprisingly, many Mississauga South PC activists were amongst the spearhead of the dump John Tory movement after the election.
And then came the actual federal nomination for the 08 election. After dragging the race out for months in hopes of a star candidate, the party finally allowed the nomination, which had some nastyiness of its own.
Party establishment backed parachute candidate Ted Opitz was using cybersquatting and registering variants of other candidates names on url's to re-direct to his own website, which got him some flack, and his parachute status caused other candidates to label him the Tim Peterson of the race.
This also came out when Phil Green endorsed Hugh Arrison:
"Green says Arrison has enjoyed a "tremendous" financial and business career and understands the concerns of the riding, because he lives in it."Just as important for me, Hugh knows that there can be a big difference between what is legal and what is the right thing to do," says Green, an obvious reference to candidate Major Ted Optiz's recent ploy to buy up web site domains that his opponents could potentially use and redirect people from those sites to his own
We also saw an anti-Opitz website, poking fun at this registration of domain names of other candidates: http://theliberalscarf.blogspot.com/2008/06/conservative-website-fun.html
Arrison ultimately won the nomination and lost to Paul Szabo. Arrison wanted to run again, and here is where the fun starts from today's article:
In nearby Mississauga South, currently held by Liberal Paul Szabo, long-time Conservative Hugh Arrison and his supporters allege he was kept out of running for the nomination to make way for Ms. Ambler last summer...Supporters of Ms. Ambler, meanwhile, say Mr. Arrison is an embittered failed candidate who had trouble co-operating with party officials...Several party sources say there had been bad feelings between Ms. Ambler and some Conservative members in Bramalea-Gore-Malton before she moved to Mississauga South...That same summer of 2009, Mr. Arrison in Mississauga South was starting to get bad vibes about the nomination in his riding.
Mr. Arrison had lost the 2008 federal election to Liberal incumbent Paul Szabo, but wanted to run for the nomination again. Mr. Arrison says he was called to a meeting in the summer of 2009 by Ms. Macgregor, the Greater Toronto Area Tory organizer.
Mr. Arrison says Ms. Macgregor asked him not to run for the nomination. Ms. Macgregor, now an aide to Tory Senator Con Di Nino, said she would have to check her notes about whether she met with Mr. Arrison, but did not return messages...Mr. Delorey said he could not comment on the details of a nomination. But a party source says Mr. Arrison was regarded inside the last campaign as unco-operative and a poor candidate.
Mr. Arrison refutes that view, saying he had lots of support within the party and even got a call from Flaherty in the days after the 2008 election congratulating him on his showing and encouraging him to run again. He came within 2,100 votes of defeating Mr. Szabo...Mr. Arrison refused to step aside after the meeting with Ms. Macgregor, and soon afterward began hearing that Ms. Ambler wanted to run in the riding...Ms. Ambler was acclaimed as the party's candidate in Mississauga South in June 2010. Mr. Arrison maintains a website, still in Conservative colours, that describes his disappointment with the party.
“There's certainly an awful lot of people that feel really disenfranchised, who feel very, very upset,” Mr. Arrison said in an interview.
“I guess I've had three or four hundred emails, lots of people who are even going to change their votes. It's definitely an issue because people really don't like it when you're told what you're going to do and your vote is completely ignored. That's the big issue. Do the people really count? Do members even matter, and apparently they don't.”"
And bringing it back to Phil Green, here is what he had to say when Ambler got appointed/acclaimed in a letter in the Mississauga News:
The Conservative Party has parachuted Stella Ambler into Mississauga South by calling a nomination for June 28, without opponents. Ambler, who works for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, moved to Mississauga South last August from Bramalea-Gore-Malton, where she ran unsuccessfully in 2008...
Interfering in nominations corrodes our democracy. “A prime minister demeans local democracy when he parachutes a candidate into a riding over the objections of local members,” said Prime Minister Harper in 2005 — something he clearly no longer believes, or cares about...
The Conservative Party used to say that candidates should be nominated in a fair, transparent and democratic manner. I remain loyal to that principle. I refuse to vote for a candidate, even from my own party, that was not. Such a vote is a vote for the subversion of our democratic rights. If that offends my party today, too bad.
The PC's look like they are having a contested nomination for the provincial nod, and it will be interesting to see if they follow what is now a proud Mississauga South Conservative tradition.