Liberals dismiss complaint about Rothesay candidate nomination

The New Brunswick Liberal Association has dismissed a complaint about how its election candidate in Rothesay was nominated.

Party's appeals committee upholds Stephanie Tomilson's defeat of John Wilcox on May 10

The New Brunswick Liberal Association's appeals committee has confirmed Stephanie Tomilson as the party's candidate in Rothesay. (Facebook)

The New Brunswick Liberal Association has dismissed a complaint about how its election candidate in Rothesay was nominated.

The party's nominating convention rules and appeals committee has upheld the choice of Stephanie Tomilson as the candidate for the September provincial election.

The defeated candidate, John Wilcox, had alleged Tomilson, the principal of Rothesay High School, "unethically recruited students" to attend the May 10 nomination convention.

Wilcox had also complained that no youths were asked for identification and requested that the nominating convention be voided and recalled on the basis of Tomilson's alleged "ethical lapse." 

But in a nine-page decision, released on Tuesday, the appeals committee said Wilcox failed to prove Tomilson did anything wrong.

Party rules allow people as young as 14 to vote in a candidate nomination meeting and members are not required to show identification at the convention. The NBLA relies on the certification of the member on the membership form.

The presence of high school students did not sway the outcome, the committee ruled.

Only 15 people who voted at the convention were under the age of 18, while Tomilson won by 88 votes, it found.

In addition, some of the teenagers weren't students at Tomilson's school and therefore could not be influenced by her in her job as principal, the committee said.

"The onus is on Mr. Wilcox, the appellant, to prove his allegations," the decision states. "Although the standard is not of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, this standard is high and requires convincing evidence," it said.

"Mr. Wilcox has not provided any credible, independent evidence to support his allegations regarding recruitment practices undertaken by Ms. Tomilson's campaign, which are categorically denied by Ms. Tomilson. There is also no such evidence about Ms. Tomilson's behaviour, including that it was unethical in any respect."

The committee based its decision on submissions from Wilcox, Tomilson and the deputy provincial returning officer for the Rothesay convention, Dan Murphy.

It noted that Wilcox's appeal was not submitted within the required 48 hours, but was still considered "out of fairness to Mr. Wilcox instead of disallowing it on a technicality."

Tomilson will be running against Progressive Conservative Ted Flemming, who is the health minister.

Wilcox, a retired police officer, was the Liberal candidate the last time voters in Rothesay went to the polls in a byelection almost two years ago.

He finished in second place behind Flemming and just ahead of NDP Leader Dominic Cardy.