Conservative leader Patrick Brown chose Ben Levitt over Vikram Singh to represent the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas riding because Brown considered Singh "unreliable" and didn't fit the desired demographic, new court documents show.
But the timing of when Brown reached that conclusion — and whether that led to ballot box stuffing at the nomination meeting so Singh wouldn't win — is still an issue being fought over in court.
Brown officially named 25-year-old Levitt — a staffer in Flamborough-Glanbrook MP David Sweet's office — as the HWAD provincial candidate on June 3, about a month after the nomination meeting.
He did this without investigating Singh's claim that party brass fixed the vote at the May 7 nomination meeting in Levitt's favour. Levitt was declared the winner at that meeting.
Now, a new response from Rick Dykstra, Ontario PC Party president, filed after Singh asked for a judicial review of the outcome, says Brown wanted Levitt over Singh anyway — and has the right to chose him regardless of any issues with the process.
His affidavit lays out the party philosophy about nomination meetings, calling them little more than a concept, or guide, to the party leader about who gets to be a candidate. They have no legal force and Brown can pick whichever candidate he wants, Dykstra explains.
In the case of this riding, Levitt inspired an "instinctive level of trust and confidence," and Singh didn't, Dykstra said.
Besides, "political and demographic analysis" suggested Levitt was a better pick, Dykstra said in an affidavit filed in court in late June. Levitt's youth provided a "specific element of diversity."
There was "a sense that Vikram might not be a reliable team player," Dykstra said.
"Ben Levitt is essentially, based on current knowledge, a largely risk-free candidate whose candidacy is unlikely to detract from the provincial campaign."
This is just the latest in a deepening war of words between the party and the Hamilton lawyer — one with allegations of cheating and voter fraud on both sides, and includes the party raising concerns about family history Singh says he'd already been open about when Brown attended a family fundraiser with his parents last year.
It's also the latest in a series of disputes happening over Conservative nominations across the province — enough that Brown has appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers to oversee future nomination meetings.
In Ottawa West-Nepean and Newmarket-Aurora, for example, candidates made allegations similar to Singh's. Brown's June 3 decision to certify all 64 nominated candidates wiped away those requests for review too.
And in June, Durham regional councillor Joe Neal filed a court challenge, saying the party wouldn't let him run. Neal dropped the challenge when he learned Brown wouldn't sign his nomination papers anyway, the Toronto Star reported. The party said it was because Neal ran for the Liberals in 1985, and also donated money to them.
As for Singh, his battle continues. He's asked the court to conduct a judicial review and overturn Levitt's nomination. He'll appear in Hamilton court on Aug. 8.
When Brown actually decided he preferred Levitt is a key issue between the two. Singh alleges in his motion it was "predetermined" before the nomination meeting on May 7.
Dykstra's affidavit doesn't address that allegation specifically. It deals with Brown's decision-making about who the candidate would be only after complaints arose about the outcome. He says Brown can pick who he wants regardless of the meeting outcome.
"The nomination meeting is not determinative of who will ultimately be listed on the ballot as a PC party candidate in the general election," Dykstra said.
"There is no requirement in the Election Act, the Constitution or the rules that the party leader must endorse, or can only endorse, the nomination contestant who is successful at the nomination meeting."
That response, said Singh, shows the party's "cavalier approach" when it comes to potential vote tampering.
"My campaign is of the view that ballot tampering is an extremely serious criminal offence," Singh said. "It should be taken extremely seriously by party leader Patrick Brown."
Dykstra also said Brown saw Singh as a liability because of "certain allegations that were anonymously delivered" about his family.
That reference appears to date back to 1986. Singh's father, Tejinder Singh Kaloe, was charged in Hamilton with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence in India in connection with the Sikh separatist group Babbar Khalsa, the same group involved in the Air India bombing.
The Crown dropped the charges against Kaloe due to lack of evidence, and Kaloe has maintained that he's innocent.
Neither Dykstra nor Singh name this issue. But Dykstra references "family ties and history" that "regardless of their level of accuracy, could become a political liability."
In his reply, Singh says the party knew about this history last November.
Brown even attended a fundraising dinner at his parents' home a month later — on Dec. 28 — which raised $20,000. At the party, Singh said, Brown said he would make "a wonderful candidate."
"The PC party expressed no concerns regarding my candidacy and nor did it reject the $20,000 in funds that I raised for the party," he said.
Dykstra's court filing also said Singh's campaign cheated "in relation to the distribution of fake identification," an allegation Singh denies.
"Our campaign asserts that this entire process has been infected by bad faith and an abuse of process," Singh's rebuttal says. "Our democratic rules, institutions and traditions cry out for a review of this matter."
Singh wasn't the only HWAD candidate to ask for a review.
Jeff Peller also requested one, calling the nomination "the biggest undemocratic sh-t show I've ever witnessed."