The March 22 by-election in Calgary-Greenway kicked off this week with the defending Progressive Conservatives already embroiled in scandal.
Four candidates were expected to contest the PC nomination at a meeting scheduled for Feb. 27, but the local constituency association decided on Feb, 23 to forgo the nomination process and appoint their own candidate at a meeting. Instead they chose Prab Gill.
Interim leader Ric McIver endorsed the decision in a noted posted on the PC Party Facebook page this morning.
For two of the four prospective Tory candidates, this is the second time they have been overlooked in favour of an appointed candidate. Ahead of the 2015 election, Jamie Lall was disqualified from challenging Wildrose-turned-PC MLA Bruce McAllister in Chestermere-Rockyview and Dan Sidhu stepped aside when Rick Hanson was appointed as a star candidate in Calgary-Cross.
This is not the first time the PCs have decided to appoint a candidate in this constituency rather than allow members to vote for a candidate through an open nomination contest. Before the 2012 election Calgary-Greenway was known as Calgary-Montrose, and the MLA this by-election is being held to replace, Manmeet Bhullar, was appointed by the party leader as a candidate.
Then a law student at the University of Windsor, Mr. Bhullar was appointed by Premier Ed Stelmach ahead of the 2008 election following a nasty dispute between the party and the local constituency association.
The Calgary-Montrose Tories had been involved a prolonged legal dispute with the provincial PC Party, in which the local Tories were suing the PC Party for more that $180,000 in legal fees amassed during a botched nomination contest held before to the 2004 election. Prospective candidate Gus Baron claimed he had been unfairly disqualified from that nomination contest.
Four years later, the local PC constituency association refused to hold a nomination meeting when PC MLA Hung Pham decided to not seek re-election before the 2008 election. Instead, a committee of Calgary-Montrose PC members named local pastor Ron Leech as their candidate before his nomination was quickly overturned by the central party. Mr. Leech would run as an Independent candidate in 2008 and as a Wildrose Party candidate in 2012, during which his controversial comments would become a flashpoint of the campaign.
Back to 2016, the Tories obviously felt some urgency to appoint a candidate and holding an open nomination process would have demonstrated that the PCs were a vibrant political organization and that they had learned a lesson from the rash of nomination scandals that bruised the party before the 2015 election.
Update: Ric McIver released a second statement on evening of Feb. 24, 2016, reversing his initial endorsement of the Calgary-Greenway nomination process.
“Earlier today, I released a statement indicating that the Calgary-Greenway Constituency Association Board had decided…
Posted by PC Alberta on Wednesday, 24 February 2016