Ontario PCs 'set aside' nomination for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas

The Ontario PC party 'set aside' the result of the nomination contest for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas.

The controversial nomination process is the subject of a police investigation

Ontario PC Party president Jag Badwal said Thursday night that the nomination contest will be set aside for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

The Ontario PC party "set aside" its nomination for the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas riding, and at least one of the candidates who alleged the original contest was fixed plans to run again.

The original meeting was "flawed," according to a statement released late Thursday night by party president Jag Badwal.

"Doug Ford has been clear, the membership of our Party must be respected, and heard," Badwal said in the statement. "The PNC has set aside the nomination in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas as a result of the flawed process."

It's unclear how or when the party will proceed with establishing its candidate for the west Hamilton riding. Reached Friday afternoon, a spokesman for Doug Ford could not clarify the preliminary decision made by the party's nomination committee on Thursday.

Police are investigating potential criminal wrongdoing at a May 4 nomination meeting for the west Hamilton riding. Ontario's Ministry of Attorney General has also referred the case to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to avoid any appearance of political interference.

One previous candidate, Vikram Singh, told CBC Hamilton on Friday he plans to run if the nomination contest reopens.

Singh spent months on an expensive legal battle alleging the party fixed the nomination vote so he wouldn't win, before abruptly dropping his claim in January.

"I value the democratic process and the rule of law," he said. "And the PC party leadership is making the right decision for the community of Hamilton."

Earlier this week, Hamilton police Const. Lorraine Edwards told CBC Hamilton that investigators don't know if they will wrap up their probe by June. 

At that meeting, would-be candidates Ben Levitt, Singh, Jeff Peller and Jobson Easow vied for the nomination. Singh and Peller both alleged the party stuffed the ballot boxes so Levitt would win.

Both requested the party review the nomination, but then-leader Patrick Brown certified all candidates nominated so far, including Levitt.

Ben Levitt, 25, won the nomination for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas in May, but asked the party to hold a new contest after allegations of ballot-box-stuffing. (Adam Lawson)

Levitt, who won the contest at a May 2017 meeting in Ancaster, said last month he wanted a new nomination contest. 

"As a person of integrity, I applaud the efforts to do the right thing in view of questions raised about the conduct of party officials at those meetings," Levitt said in a statement. 

"I would similarly like to clear the air in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas."

Levitt did not return calls for comment on Friday.

Jeff Peller called the new nomination for the west Hamilton riding "a very long time coming and a good move." (Jeff Peller campaign)

Peller called the announcement "a very long time coming and a good move."

He hasn't decided whether he'll run in the new contest, he told CBC News on Friday.

Peller and Singh asked for judicial reviews after the nomination meeting. 

Singh's legal challenge

After fighting the party in court for months, Singh dropped his lawsuit in January, releasing a joint statement with the party that said he accepts that then-party leader Patrick Brown could choose whatever candidate he wants.

In an affidavit, then-party president Rick Dykstra said Singh "inspired mistrust" and didn't fit the right demographic to win the election.

Patrick Brown cuts a cake alongside Vikram Singh at a fundraising dinner held by Singh's family on Dec. 28. (Patrick Brown/Twitter)

The party also worried about public perception if the Singh family's decades-old link to the militant Sikh group Babbar Khalsa resurfaced.

Peller, grandson of wine entrepreneur Andrew Peller, withdrew his court challenge last fall. 

Singh's case, meanwhile, included a secretly-recorded phone conversation between himself and party brass.

A panel of appeal court judges ruled against the conversation being used as evidence in January. Singh dropped his lawsuit the next week.

On Friday, Singh said the decision to set aside Levitt's nomination was evidence that the party under Doug Ford "is making decisions that respect the membership and the grassroots of the party."

Peller supported Doug Ford

Peller said he supported Ford in the party leadership race, in part because he was the only leader candidate to return Peller's calls when he had questions about whether the Hamilton riding nomination would be reopened.

"He returned my call every time," Peller said. "That says a lot about anybody. I was very impressed."

The party will be reopening nominations in three other Ontario ridings: Brampton North, Mississauga Centre and Newmarket-Aurora. The party previously announced it would hold new contests in Ottawa West-Nepean and Scarborough Centre.

The party did not release a timeline for the new contests.

About the Author

Kelly Bennett is a freelance reporter based in Hamilton. Her writing has appeared in CBC News, the Toronto Star, Voice of San Diego and elsewhere. She can be reached at kelly@kellyrbennett.com.

With files from Samantha Craggs