Just one day after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was hit with a defamation lawsuit by thwarted Trinity–Spadina byelection candidate Christine Innes, the Liberals are getting ready to acclaim Toronto Centre MP Chrystia Freeland as their 2015 candidate in the newly-created riding of University-Rosedale.
Innes is suing Trudeau over comments he made in explaining his decision to block her from the Trinity-Spadina nomination race.
The Liberals maintain she was barred due to allegations that her team, including her husband, former MP Tony Ianno, had been bullying local Liberals. Innes has repeatedly said the Liberal move was actually to prevent her from eventually challenging Freeland in University–Rosedale.
Under federal redistribution, Trinity–Spadina will be divvied up between the new ridings of University–Rosedale and Spadina–Fort York, which is viewed as likely to be a far tougher fight against the New Democrats than University–Rosedale, which also includes a good-sized chunk of Toronto Centre.
Currently, two Liberal candidates have officially joined the race for the Trinity–Spadina byelection nomination: Christine Tabbert, who finished a lacklustre fourth in Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke in 2011, and Ryan Davey, an investment banker who has also served on the riding association executive.
Innes supporters point out the notice for the University–Rosedale nomination meeting, which will be held on May 2, was sent out an hour after the April 11 deadline to file nomination papers for a race that hadn't even been officially declared.
As a result, Freeland's name will be the only one on the ballot.
Liberal Party spokeswoman Andrée-Lyne Hall told CBC News that nomination papers for University–Rosedale, like all ridings, has been available since Jan. 10.
"Anybody could have taken out paperwork and returned a completed package since then," she explained.
"Ms. Freeland is the only candidate who has done so, and will consequently be acclaimed on May 2."
University-Rosedale riding president Hugh Scher, who headed up the now defunct candidate search committee, says Innes submitted her papers "weeks ago."
"I'm not aware of others."
Still, he's not happy that Freeland is heading for acclamation.
"Recent efforts to circumvent the usual nomination process and to bypass the duly elected community board representatives of University-Rosedale are contrary to basic Liberal and democratic values and to efforts of party renewal that put grass roots community interests ahead of political expediency and backroom dictates," he told CBC News.
Other races uncontested
As for the lack of notice, she said, "the party been clear since nominations opened in January that interested contestants should not delay in submitting their papers, since nominations could be called for any time after the party’s convention in February."
Freeland isn't the only federal Liberal hopeful who won't have to put a nomination candidacy to a vote.
According to the list of nomination meetings posted on the Liberal website, the following candidates have been or will be acclaimed:
- Kristy Duncan (Etobicoke North)
- Judy Sgro (York West)
- David McGuinty (Ottawa South)
- Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's)
- Navdeep Bains (Mississauga–Malton)
- John McKay (Scarborough–Guildwood)
- John McCallum (Markham–Thornhill)
- Mauril Belanger (Ottawa–Vanier)
- Jane Philpott (Markham–Stouffville)
The following ridings are slated to choose their candidates in the next few weeks: Mississauga Centre (April 27), Northumberland–Pine Ridge (April 27), Calgary Confederation (April 29), Saint Leonard–Saint Michel (April 29), Lemoyne (May 1), Bourassa (May 4), Lévis–Lotbinière (May 6), Lac Saint–Louis (May 8), Beausejour (May 10).
In most of those ridings, the nomination deadline hasn't passed, which means it's not yet known which races, if any, will be contested.
It seems safe to say that few nomination contests will spark the sort of sustained bitterness that continues to swirl around the party — and the process — in downtown Toronto.