Federal Liberals face appeals in 2 New Brunswick ridings

The Liberal Party of Canada is now facing appeals of two different candidate nominations in two different New Brunswick federal ridings after a seemingly contradictory handling of a key party rule in the two contests.

Losing candidates John McKay and Rick Lafrance allege contradictory handling of party rule

The Liberal Party of Canada is now facing appeals of two different candidate nominations in two different New Brunswick federal ridings after a seemingly contradictory handling of a key party rule in the two contests.

John McKay, a former MLA and mayor of Miramichi, is asking for a new nominating convention in the riding of Miramichi-Grand Lake after losing out Nov. 29 to Pat Finnigan by 125 votes. (www.liberalmckay.com)
John McKay, a former MLA and mayor of Miramichi, is asking for a new nominating convention in the riding of Miramichi-Grand Lake after losing out Nov. 29 to Pat Finnigan by 125 votes.

He joins Rick Lafrance, who sought a new convention in Tobique-Mactaquac after losing to T.J. Harvey on Nov. 1.

But the two appeals are based on two different allegations about the same party rule.

Lafrance says the party allowed winning candidate T.J. Harvey to sign up cash-paying members in Tobique-Mactaquac without using individually numbered sign-up sheets, as required.

But in Miramichi-Grand Lake, McKay says, the party was overly strict in applying the rules when it banned 372 members from voting because they didn’t used individually numbered forms.

In TobiqueMactaquac, "there were many, many Liberals who applied using photocopied forms and were enrolled as members — the very excuse they’re using to not enrol these 372 in the Miramichi," McKay said.

"There seems to be a different of requirements, depending on which riding we’re talking about."

The Liberal Party requires people paying cash to join the party to use an individually numbered form. People who pay with credit cards or cheques can use a downloadable or copied form instead.

Rick Lafrance lost the federal Liberal nomination in Tobique-Mactaquac on Nov. 1. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)
Lafrance argued the rule should have been strictly applied in Tobique-Mactaquac, where Harvey defeated him 476 votes to 403.

On the other hand, McKay is arguing the rule was applied too strictly in Miramichi-Grand Lake, disenfranchising almost 400 Liberals who were unaware of the rule and signed up in good faith.

"This represents about 25 per cent of all the people who applied to be members," McKay said.

"To be arbitrarily rejected is a profound, profound disappointment to many old-time Liberals."

In both cases, the number of memberships in dispute more than account for the winning candidate’s margin of victory.

"It has thrown into question the legitimacy of the decision made at the convention," McKay said.

2 appeals confirmed

Olivier Duchesneau, a spokesperson for the federal Liberal party, confirmed the party has received the two appeals.

"In accordance with our procedures, no further comment will be made until a final decision has been made by the Permanent Appeal Committee," Duchesneau said.

A supporter of Rick Lafrance, Jackie Hebert, said his appeal hearing for Tobique-Mactaquac has been tentatively scheduled for Dec. 19. There’s no timeline in place for the Miramichi-Grand Lake appeal.

Lafrance made several other allegations in his appeal, including an accusation that Harvey’s cousin, newly-elected provincial Liberal MLA Andy Harvey, suggested he could get people jobs if they voted the right way.

Andy Harvey has not commented on that, and  T.J. Harvey — as of now the Liberal candidate in the riding — also won’t discuss the appeal.

"Out of respect for the Liberal party and the process, I will have no comment until it’s finished," he said Monday.

In Miramichi-Grand Lake, McKay said there’s no evidence to suggest the disqualification of 372 members was done to help a particular candidate.

He said in the days before the convention, word got around among Liberals that there were problems with some of the sign-up sheets.

But no one was told anything officially until people were turned away from voting at the convention.

He said the party should clear the air by holding a new convention where the 372 members can vote.

McKay said in the 2011 federal election, the Liberals placed third for the first time since Confederation.

"There’s a great desire to see the Liberal Party recover, and we need to have everyone who wants to participate be permitted to do so," he said.

Finnigan couldn’t be reached for comment.

The two appeals are among four the Liberals are dealing with across the country. A federal election is expected in October 2015.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.