Leslyn Lewis acclaimed in Haldimand-Norfolk after local entrepreneur denied candidacy
Albert Marshall, a businessman born and raised in the area, called the process 'discouraging'
A local businessman says he was wrongly denied potential Conservative party candidacy in Haldimand-Norfolk and a chance to challenge the now-acclaimed and now-official candidate, Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis.
Albert Marshall, a successful entrepreneur born and raised in the area, was rejected because he didn't pay a $1,000 good conduct bond to the party via certified cheque or bank draft from a nomination campaign bank account.
He thinks the party wanted Lewis to be the candidate due to her success in the Conservative leadership race and her ability to raise money. Incumbent MP Diane Finley has endorsed Lewis, as have several members of the local Conservative electoral district association board of directors.
"I got a call from one of those members asking me not to run, virtually begging me not to run, which was kind of odd," Marshall said in a phone interview on Friday.
"I'm a little bit tired from the work of it all, so my view may be tainted by my exhaustion, but it is a little discouraging."
Cory Hann, the party's communications director, said the issue is black and white — Marshall didn't follow the rules and consequently doesn't get to be a candidate.
"We don't accept incomplete packages. Mr. Marshall submitted that package on the very last possible day. We let him know the cheque isn't here. It's a key component. It's in the rules ... and he wanted to pay this fee via personal Visa which is not acceptable by our rules," Hann said over the phone.
"Both being the last possible day to accept applications and it an incomplete package, we couldn't accept it and he could not stand as a candidate."
Local members upset by decision
But Dustin Wakeford, a Haldimand-Norfolk resident and former riding association president of the Progressive Conservative party before it merged with the Canadian Alliance, said paying from a campaign account is not a major rule. It's a technicality that isn't always enforced.
"I know in common practice they often allow an individual to pay the $1,000 deposit from personal funds ... because most people don't set up a campaign account unless they're a nominated candidate," he explained in a phone call.
"It's leaving a really bad taste in the mouths of many local members ... They're so offended people take their vote for granted and I think it's going to have repercussions for the next little while."
Marshall also said based on his legal advice, he didn't need the account to apply.
Hann said in his seven years working with the party, he's never heard of that and emphasized it is all clearly stated in the rules.
Marshall and Wakeford also question the length of the process, saying it was far too short. Hann said people can declare their intentions at any time. The deadline for voters to purchase memberships was Oct. 6 and the nomination closed at 5 p.m. on Oct. 13.
Wakeford called it all "ridiculously short, the shortest period I've ever heard of. I think it was all orchestrated to all but guarantee no one was going to challenge Leslyn Lewis for nomination."
"The party has wide discretion over who they can reject, and quite frankly, I get it," he said.
"But in the case of Albert Marshall ... and this is the irony of the whole thing, under normal circumstances, he would be the exact type of candidate the party would be begging to run."
With Finley not running for re-election, Lewis has a good chance of being the next person to fill the seat.
Lewis, a socially conservative lawyer with few previous ties to the riding, came in third in the federal Conservative leadership race. She collected 30 per cent of the available points in the second round of voting before she was knocked off the ballot. She also managed to raise more than $2 million from party members during the campaign.
Her office declined to comment.
Hann denied any accusations of unfairness or some kind of internal fix.
"The fixing would be ignoring our rules for the benefit of one candidate," he said. "The fixing would be ignoring that to [Marshall's] benefit."
Marshall, who previous ran for the party in the Hamilton Mountain riding, said he's going to reflect on the situation before making any future moves. People online, he said, have expressed interest in him running independently.
With files from Catherine Cullen