Wayne Bennett, a political outsider who believes a conspiracy of Tories have been thwarting his plans to govern Newfoundland and Labrador, has been kicked out of the Progressive Conservative leadership race.
In a decision released Thursday, the PC Party's rules committee determined that Bennett violated the party's constitution, policies and values.
The committee agreed with a multi-pronged complaint that was laid by the party's convention committee, which on the weekend ruled Bennett had made racist and discriminatory comments on Twitter, had defamed individuals and was undermining the PC campaign in the Virginia Waters byelection by openly supporting the NDP candidate in the race.
'The voters know that the PC Party is trying to lynch Mr. Bennett' - Wayne Bennett
Bennett told CBC News that he is instructing his lawyer to go to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
"I am certainly going to court to fight this," Bennett told CBC News.
Bennett said the decision was engineered to help PC candidate Danny Breen win next week's byelection in Virginia Waters. Bennett came under fire within the party for supporting NDP candidate Sheilagh O'Leary.
As well, Bennett said the party's move will backfire, lead to a PC loss in the byelection and ensure the party's doom in the next general election.
"They want me out of the race, so I don't influence the Virginia Waters byelection. They said, 'Get Bennett off the table," he said.
"The voters know that the PC Party is trying to lynch Mr. Bennett."
'High likelihood' to offend
The rules committee also determined there is "a high likelihood" that Bennett would "continue to use the platform of the leadership campaign to express similar offensive commentary and engage in similar offensive behaviour," said a statement signed by Jessica M. Babb and Adam Sparkes
Bennett, a town councillor in Howley and a former candidate with the now-defunct Newfoundland and Labrador First Party, attracted controversy soon after he entered the Tory leadership race.
In a series of now-deleted tweets on March 28 in which he said that Tory "trolls" using fake accounts were attacking him, he likened Muslims to terrorists. "We used to trust Muslim women and children; not now," he said in one tweet.
Bennett has repeatedly said since that his comments were not racist, but the committee organizing the July convention differed.
In a complaint to the PC rules committee, members said Bennett "has used the PC leadership campaign platform to publicly express racist and discriminatory views."
The convention committee also took Bennett to task for explicity backing O'Leary in the Virginia Waters byelection.
The complaint said Bennett violated the PC constitution, which calls on the party faithful to "assist in the election of Progressive Conservatives to the House of Assembly."
Bennett said his comments about O'Leary were not an endorsement, even though he wrote that "based on all inputs Shelia [sic] is the best candidate." He also noted that Breen endorsed competitor Frank Coleman without waiting to hear what other candidates had to say.
Bennett told CBC News Thursday that not only will Breen be defeated, but voters across the province will desert the party as they learn what has happened to him.
"There's going to be a housecleaning. People are going to be affected by this. There's people who are going to lose their jobs over this," he said.
Asked if he was feeling stress over the events of the last few weeks, Bennett said no.
"I'm having a lot of fun. They make themselves look like fools," he said.
Bennett contends Twitter account hacked
Bennett has said that PC youth operatives somehow hacked his Twitter account, on the allegation that they would receive political rewards. "Such a statement has no basis in fact and is quite insulting to the youth and other members of our party," the complaint said.
Meanwhile, Bennett on Thursday filed a complaint with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary alleging criminal misconduct against him.
On Tuesday, Bennett told CBC News that he believed there was an orchestrated campaign within the party to smear him.
Asked if he had proof, he replied, "I don't." He said he was confident a police investigation would turn it up.
"They will go and they will do an investigation, and when they subpoena those records they will have the proof," he said at the time.