The sole declared independent candidate for the upcoming Brandon-Souris byelection is considering a run for the federal Liberal Party nomination, as perhaps his best chance to ensure that the Conservative Party does not win the riding.
"I have had some calls from some Liberals asking whether I would consider throwing my hat in their nomination ring. At this point all I’m prepared to say is that I will do anything to ensure that we do not elect a Conservative MP in this area," Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls told the Sun yesterday.
"It’s the worst political move that I feel we could do for Brandon-Souris."
Pauls, a card-carrying Conservative who recently said that it was "disgust" with the party that led to his decision to run in the byelection, made his comments just hours after the Sun received a letter to the editor from two former candidates for the Conservative Party of Canada nomination in Brandon-Souris who have thrown their support behind the party’s chosen nominee, Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire.
After reading a copy of the letter yesterday, provided by the Sun, Pauls expressed disbelief that Kennedy would ever have signed his name to a letter supporting Larry Maguire.
"That is definitely not the original conversations that I had with Mr. Chris Kennedy," Pauls said. "When you read what was in the press, versus what this is, I don’t know what they have over these people, what they bought them off with, but this is ridiculous.
"This is the kind of bullying politics that goes on in Canada that actually makes me disgusted with the political process."
Pauls said he wasn’t surprised that the Conservative Party was attempting to put a political spin on the recent nomination controversy, "because of the negativity that went on with it."
"Of course they’re going to put some kind of positive spin on it because they’re going to try to lighten it up a little and say, ooh look, we all love each other."
Pauls said that on Tuesday, the day before the Brandon Sun reported that Pauls would run as an independent in Brandon-Souris in the upcoming federal byelection, he received a phone call from Maguire asking for his support, instead.
"He called me the day before and asked to meet with me because he’d heard that I was going to be running as an independent," Pauls said. "He wanted to know what it would take to support him."
In the letter, which is published on our editorial page today, former Merv Tweed staffer Chris Kennedy and Brandon Coun. Len Isleifson say they are "100 per cent" behind Maguire as he carries the Tory torch into the Brandon-Souris byelection.
"His experience as an MLA as well as his strong track record in the agricultural industry makes him well placed to influence our region’s future economic growth. Larry also served on Brandon’s Chamber of Commerce for eight years," the letter reads. "We are absolutely certain that he is the best choice to be our next Member of Parliament and will do a great job representing the interests of South-western Manitoba.
"We ask all Conservative Party members and supporters to work together and get behind Larry Maguire."
D’Arcy Barker, a Conservative nomination committee member, previously told the Sun that after reviewing Isleifson’s and Kennedy’s application, following the nomination deadline, "we determined that not all the criteria were met."
Isleifson made headlines after he announced that he was withdrawing his name from the nomination process to focus on his role as Brandon’s deputy mayor. Meanwhile, Kennedy has been the subject of anonymous accusations that he failed to meet the application deadline, and also that he was missing the required $1,000 cheque to complete the nomination process.
When reached by the Sun yesterday, both Kennedy and Isleifson maintained they followed the nomination process perfectly, but had decided they wanted to move forward and put lingering questions over the Tory nomination process behind them.
"You can see by the letter that we are Conservatives and we are supporting the Conservative Party, and we just need to make sure everything is done the way it should be done," Isleifson said yesterday. "I helped pen the letter with Chris because I believe it’s the right thing to do.
"I’m a Conservative, I’m voting Conservative and I’m going to ask everybody I sold a membership to, to get behind Larry and support him as well."
When reached yesterday, however, Kennedy admitted he had signed the letter, but not necessarily because it was helping the Conservative cause.
"A nomination race is supposed to end with all the candidates coming together," Kennedy said. "This is no ordinary nomination race. With the effect that it’s had I can’t continue to drag everyone through the mud. And my family included. For that reason it’s time that I end this and the letter will explain itself.
"I think that I'm doing the right thing. Not for myself maybe, but for everyone involved."
After reading the letter of support by Kennedy and Isleifson, Pauls said he was more determined than ever to see the Conservatives lose the byelection race.
"I can tell you right now if that letter hits the paper, I will for sure, under no circumstances, ever cast another vote for the Conservative Party of Canada. Ever."
For his part, Larry Maguire agreed he spoke with Pauls on Tuesday, knowing that Pauls was considering running as an independent.
"I said I understand you’re running. Well no, he said it’s my intention to run. I guess that’s where he left it. Well, I said if it’s only your intention, and you change your mind down the road, I’d welcome your support."
Maguire also said he never asked for Isleifson or Kennedy to put on a public show of support. Nevertheless, he was pleased with the content of the letter, in that it would allow everyone to move forward into the still-uncalled byelection.
"I had breakfast with Len and met with Chris. They ended up putting the letter together and they wanted to move forward with this," Maguire said. "I think people will realize that the three of us are together and moving forward and wanting to unite the Conservative Party to beat the NDP and the Liberals in this coming by-election."
A spokesman with the Conservative Party of Canada told the Sun on Thursday it would not comment on internal party matters.
A Liberal nomination date has not been announced. Media executive Rolf Dinsdale, whose father represented Brandon-Souris as MP for more than 30 years, is currently the sole individual seeking the Liberal nomination for the riding.