Support for Helena Guergis runs deep in the veins of true blue Tories in her riding, members of the Conservative riding association and the MP herself said Saturday, though ripples of dissent were beginning to show.
The embattled politician was among those gathered for the association's annual general meeting in her central Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey.
Before being whisked away in a minivan, Guergis said Conservatives in the riding still support her.
"It went very well," she said as she left the meeting, which was closed to the public and media. "I had an opportunity to see my many supporters."
Few of the approximately 50 attendees at the meeting in New Lowell, Ont., were willing to talk about the meeting or even confirm Guergis was present. Many greeted a waiting contingent of reporters with hostility.
"You don't deserve a comment," one man said.
'She is still the riding's Conservative candidate and people want it to stay that way.' — Andy Beaudoin, Simcoe-Grey Conservative electoral district association
"I don't buy your newspapers, so why would I want to talk to you?" another said gruffly.
Guergis is sitting as an independent Tory MP after she resigned her junior cabinet post and was turfed from the Conservative caucus amid scandal.
She and her husband, Rahim Jaffer, a former Conservative MP, are disputing allegations ranging from illegal lobbying to tax evasion.
Guergis did not answer questions before getting into the waiting minivan outside the legion hall in New Lowell, but she briefly explained she would not address the allegations.
"It's really not appropriate for me to be answering, I know, the many questions that you do have," she said.
"I am anxious to answer those questions, but I will not be doing that right now."
Andy Beaudoin, the association's outgoing secretary, said Guergis's status was not discussed at the meeting.
"She is still the riding's Conservative candidate and people want it to stay that way," he said.
"My sense is that all of the people who were here today, or at least most of them if not all, would be very loyal to our present MP," Beaudoin said.
"I'm confident that Helena Guergis is going to be exonerated on any kind of allegations that have been levelled at her."
Waiting for RCMP probe
It wasn't a complete love-in. At least one attendee raised the possibility Guergis would not be their candidate for the next federal election.
Kim Ellison said he's waiting to see the results of the RCMP investigation before passing judgment.
"I think Helena needs to either have her name cleared or, if she's found guilty or can be charged with something, it needs to run its course," he said. "So as far as selecting a new candidate, I think the Conservative Party [has] a very strong association here, so they could have a new candidate if it was deemed that they needed one."
Local media have reported that some in the area want another representative in Parliament and that others have thrown their names in as potential Conservative candidates.
Beaudoin said none of that comes from the solid Conservative base in the riding.
"I've been recruiting members for six years," he said.
"The people that I see or hear being quoted I've never heard of before. They've never asked for a sign on their lawn. They've never volunteered to help. They've never gone door to door.… So I don't know who these great Conservatives are."