A fight among provincial Tories over nomination costs in a Calgary riding could end in foreclosures on the homes of party volunteers and mark the first time the Progressive Conservatives have failed to run a full slate of candidates since 1967.
Last Friday, a judge rejected a lawsuit by the PC constituency association in Calgary-Montrose, which sued its own party over $180,000 in legal fees from a botched nomination process prior to the 2004 election.
The lawyer who represented the association has placed liens on the homes of several volunteers in an attempt to recover his costs.
Unsuccessful candidate sued riding association
The saga began when Gus Barron, who fought for the northeast riding's nomination against eventual winner and MLA Hung Pham, sued the association and board of directors, arguing he was unfairly disqualified from the race.
Barron initially won his lawsuit but it was later overturned by Alberta's Court of Appeal.
The case left the riding association with a huge legal bill, which the Progressive Conservative party refused to help cover, and led to the local volunteers suing the party in the Court of Queen's Bench.
Dale Sailer, the PC riding president, said Thursday the fact volunteers are personally responsible for the $180,000 has sent a chill through other constituency associations.
"Do you really want to put forth the time and effort in an association, in a constituency, running the risk that you too may be subject to a lawsuit at some juncture in time?"
No comment from MLA or PC party
The board is now refusing to call a nomination meeting for the election expected next month, or to actively help Pham get re-elected.
Sailer passed on this message to local Conservatives: "We apologize for any inactivity that you're seeing at this point in time but understanding the principle behind the issues, we just hope that they support and back us in our cause."
'Do you really want to put forth the time and effort in an association, in a constituency, running the risk that you too may be subject to a lawsuit at some juncture in time?' —Dale Sailer, PC constituency president
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach said Friday he'll step in and appoint a candidate in Calgary-Montrose if the association does not agree to a nomination meeting within the next few days.
Pham is not commenting on the issue.
Duane Bratt, who teaches political science at Mount Royal College, said this case raises bigger questions for the PC party and its ability to deal with internal dissension.
"What this does send a message to the PCs is they'd better sharpen up their party constitution because it is very lacking on the ability of a leader to appoint people, the relationship between the constituency association and the party as a whole."
Bratt predicts the party will appoint a candidate in the riding or turf the board association.
In December, the party rejected the candidacy of Craig Chandler, who won the nomination in Calgary-Egmont, because of his controversial comments against gay people.