Tories appoint candidate in embattled Calgary riding

Ed Stelmach has appointed a law student to carry the Progressive Conservative banner in the riding of Calgary-Montrose.

Party infighting leads to late start for northeast PC candidate

Ed Stelmach has appointed a law student to carry the Progressive Conservative banner in the riding of Calgary-Montrose following a nasty dispute between the party and the local constituency association.

Manmeet Bhullar, 27, who said the party asked him to run Monday night, is finishing a law degree at the University of Windsor in Ontario, but defends his experience in the northeast riding.

"I don't feel like I'm being parachuted in at all because I was born in the riding," Bhullar told CBC News Tuesday.

"I know the issues of the riding. I've been working in east Calgary for 10 years now, working with young people at risk, working on issues that affect people's lives there."

Bhullar founded the Inspire Youth Development Society, which works with at-risk youth, worked on several political campaigns and is active in the Sikh community.

Bad blood between party, local organization

Local PC organizers refused to hold a nomination meeting after a prolonged legal dispute with its own party.

It began before the 2004 election when a disqualified candidate for the riding's Tory nomination sued the local association, which was left with a legal bill of almost $180,000.

They in turn sued the PC party, which refused to help local volunteers cover the legal costs. That case was rejected in the Court of Queen's Bench last month.

Hung Pham, the previous Conservative MLA in the northeast riding, recently announced he was quitting politics.

Party rejects local committee's choice

A committee from the Calgary-Montrose PC Association named a local pastor as its candidate this week. But the party quashed that choice, saying the nomination process was not followed and the candidate was not approved by the party.

Stelmach said, as Tory leader, he had to take matters into his own hands by appointing someone to run in the riding.

"Manmeet Bhullar … is just unbelievable in what he's already accomplished in his very young life," said Stelmach, who said he met Bhullar a few years ago through his family, who he called active Conservative supporters.