After a "misunderstanding" about a Progressive Conservative nomination meeting in Cambridge, the race to be the candidate in the next provincial election is open once again.

Party president Rick Dykstra said the current candidates can continue to sell memberships and "if there are additional candidates who wish to run, they can also now file with the party."

There was some confusion over the nomination meeting after local riding officials planned to hold the meeting sometime in November - with November 4 being the suggested date. Then on Sept. 15, the party's executive announced the meeting would instead be Oct. 4 and anyone wishing to run had to have their paperwork in by Sept. 19.

Nomination meeting cancelled

Local riding member Jim Karahalios, who set up the group Take Back Our PC Party, said the party was "flat out breaking the rules" when it comes to setting up nomination meetings.

Karahalio said that the party cannot interfere with a local riding association's plans – including setting up a nomination meeting – until after Oct. 1, 2017, according to the rules on the party's website.

On Thursday, Dykstra called it a "misunderstanding."

Rob Leone, the former MPP for Cambridge and the riding association's president, declined an interview Friday, but said in a statement there were concerns about the party's motives.

"Local members became concerned that the party was prepared to parachute a candidate in to the riding against the wishes of the local association. This was not based on fact," Leone said.

"Rather it was based on the dual perception that some candidates do not live in the riding and various media reports of irregular practices in other PC nomination races across the province."

Leone said the riding association raised concerns with the party.

"We are very pleased to report that [PC Leader] Patrick Brown and his team at party headquarters listened to the grassroots of the party," Leone wrote. 

New candidates still welcome

On Friday, Dykstra said the riding executive had indicated to the party there were more candidates who wanted to run in Cambridge.

Riding members received an email from the party that read: "At the request of the chair of the provincial nominations committee, the nomination meeting scheduled for Oct. 4, 2017 at the Paragon Banquet Hall at 5:30 p.m. has been cancelled. An e-mail notification will be sent to all current members and notification will be posted on the party website."

Leone said more than 2,000 new members joined the association during the nomination season and he's looking forward to moving on with the nomination process.

"We wish to emphasize that no irregularities or rigging has in fact occurred," Leone wrote. "We look forward to working with the party to find a new, agreeable, and fair date."

Dykstra agreed.

"I anticipate we will see a significant increase in those seeking the nomination in Cambridge," Dykstra said. "This can be nothing less than positive both locally and for our party."


Full statement from Rob Leone, president of the Cambridge PC riding association: 

Statement Regarding Cambridge PC Nomination

The October 4th nomination meeting has been canceled. The Cambridge Association preferred a date in early November, but the PC Party had scheduled the meeting a month in advance. When this happened, local members became concerned that the Party was prepared to parachute a candidate in to the riding against the wishes of the local association. This was not based on fact. Rather it was based on the dual perception that some candidates do not live in the riding and various media reports of irregular practices in other PC nomination races across the province.

The Cambridge Association formally raised these concerns with the Party this week. Our view is that the only way to avoid the negative perception was to adhere to the established rules. We are very pleased to report that Patrick Brown and his team at Party Headquarters listened to the grassroots of the party.  We wish to thank Executive Director Bob Stanley and President Rick Dykstra for their courage in making the difficult decision to call for a new nomination date.

We wish to emphasize that no irregularities or rigging has in fact occurred. We are proud to have welcomed over 2000 new members to our Association during this nomination season. We move forward with renewed confidence that the winner of the Cambridge nomination will be well positioned to win the seat back in 2018.

We look forward to working with the Party to find a new, agreeable, and fair date.