Liberals resign after McNeil hand-picks candidate
Several members of the Liberal riding association in Cape Breton North have resigned after Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil decided to hand-pick a candidate to run in the byelection next month.
The seat became vacant when Progressive Conservative MLA Cecil Clarke resigned in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Liberal MP Mark Eyking in last month's federal election.
On Saturday, Premier Darrell Dexter set the byelection date of June 21.
The same day, McNeil announced Sydney Mines Credit Union manager Brian McGean was appointed to run, even though two North Sydney men — denturist Bill MacDonald and accountant Murray Ryan — had announced months ago they would seek the nomination.
The Liberal leader said the candidates and the local executive weren't doing enough to reach out beyond the traditional Liberal fold.
"I have made the decision that I think is in the best interest of this community and the best interest of the party," said McNeil.
"I've made it very clear to every executive across this province they have a responsibility to reach out beyond their own membership to community leaders, community people who they think would be good representatives, and I didn't see that happening here."
The appointment is not sitting well with some Liberals, including nine members of the local riding association who have resigned since Saturday.
They declined an interview with CBC News, but said they feel the party is ignoring their hard work and input.
Hector DiPersio, the Liberal riding association president, said he knows the appointment has upset some party members but he doesn't think it will affect Liberal chances in the byelection.
"He wants to win this riding and he owes it to the people of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton North to make sure that the best candidate is put forward," DiPersio told CBC News.
"In his opinion and the opinion of a lot of people, that's what happened."
DiPersio said he called about 150 party members to ask for their opinions on the appointment.
"The comments that I got from them is that this type of thing happens in other ridings and that the leader has the authority to do it. They are very happy that Brian was chosen and a lot of people like Brian, that's the big thing."
Russell MacDonald, a retired school teacher, is running for the NDP. Eddie Orrell, a physiotherapist, is the Progressive Conservative candidate.
Cape Breton North encompasses North Sydney, Sydney Mines and extends along the northeastern coast of the island to Point Aconi.