Brandon-Souris Liberal nomination candidate Rolf Dinsdale performs solo at Brandon’s Double Decker Tavern on Thursday night. The evening was filled with some classic tunes and political banter. A story was peddled from a Conservative source last week to The Canadian Press and Winnipeg Free Press about an inaccuracy in Dinsdale’s online biography and the fact he has played in a punk band with a controversial name that had some equally controversial songs.
It was a week of threats, name calling, anger, tears and incredible revelations in the federal riding of Brandon-Souris.
Not to mention lies, misinformation and planted stories in the media. And it all surrounds the bare-knuckled bully politics that by many accounts — both confidential sources and published comments — is being waged by some inside the Conservative Party of Canada.
This is the nastiest bit of politics to happen in Westman in recent memory. And something completely out of the ordinary for what normally would have been an under-the-radar event.
So who are some of the victims in this real-life political drama?
• Chris Kennedy: Once the perceived front-runner for the Conservatives, he was completely focused on selling memberships and raising his profile by putting hundreds of kilometres on his vehicle almost every day.
He was a proud Tory and could have been a superb representative for Brandon-Souris and could have put us on the map for having the youngest MP in what was supposed to be a Harper government looking for younger MPs to counter the bounty of younger NDP MPs and also the irresistibly appealing Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Now Kennedy is a broken man. He is disillusioned and downright angry that his application was rejected from the party for being incomplete. Or late. One of the CPC’s henchmen peddled a story to the Winnipeg Free Press last week with the courier tracking number of a package Kennedy sent to Ottawa the day of the deadline. It arrived the morning after. But that wasn’t his application, it was the last few memberships he’d sold, Kennedy told us several times.
So all that leaked story proved is that a package can make it from Brandon to Ottawa overnight. Such as the one Kennedy claims contained his application and cheque sent the day before the deadline. It’s impossible to prove as Tory brass refuse to discuss "internal party matters."
Kennedy has steadfastly held that his application and $1,000 cheque were sent by overnight courier on the day before the deadline. But what he really wants to do now is forget about politics and try to rebuild his life after being former Brandon-Souris MP Merv Tweed’s executive assistant for years.
He needs a job. He has bills to pay. And he’s scared — afraid for his personal and professional future.
And when he was asked last Wednesday — I’ll say asked as there is no physical evidence I know of that would prove he was coerced — he agreed to let his name stand on a contrived and cloying statement of support for Larry Maguire, the riding’s acclaimed Conservative candidate. That statement, sent to the Sun in the form of a letter to the editor and published yesterday, also has the name of Brandon Coun. Len Isleifson, who withdrew from the nomination race just before the CPC declared his application was also being tossed.
Said Kennedy this week: "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."
After reading a copy of the letter, Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls — a disgruntled Tory who tore up his party card to first run as an independent, now a Liberal — expressed disbelief to the Sun’s editorial page editor Matt Goerzen that Kennedy would ever have signed his name to a letter supporting 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."
Kennedy has spoken with a lawyer. And he has been given advice by several people to contact police as a precaution.
• Larry Maguire: After last week’s column in this space exposing many previously unknown facts about the backroom shenanigans and dirty deeds by some operatives for Maguire associated with the CPC, I received several comments that I had given Maguire a free ride. I was too soft on him. That if his handlers were being heavy-handed, then Maguire must be aware of what’s going on.
He told me during an interview prior to last week’s column that: "All I can say is what I heard from my people."
I’m now viewing that statement in an entirely different light, given what I’ve learned this week about the Arthur-Virden MLA who I previously thought was a rather humble, unassuming chap. I was wrong.
He’s a player. And he played the nomination process to win.
Once anyone’s ego gets a hold of them, they are open to suggestions by persuasive party operatives and will take actions they perhaps would never have done just a short while ago.
For example, Pauls said that on the day before the Brandon Sun reported Pauls would run as an independent in Brandon-Souris, 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 recalled. "He wanted to know what it would take to support him." What it would take to support him. Read that over carefully and decide for yourself what that would mean. Especially if Maguire was elected MP.
Of course, Maguire admits talking to Pauls, but says he only asked for support.
I’ve heard some other details about some of Maguire’s actions of late, but I can’t print them as I don’t have any direct evidence or first-hand knowledge. But as they came from reliable sources — a number of different ones — I know that eventually, the story will emerge.
So Maguire’s a victim in all of this. Or his reputation is at least. And in any debates he takes part in leading up to the as-yet unannounced election date, this whole scandal will be the chief line of questioning.
• D’Arcy Barker: This financial planner and registered employee benefits consultant — who also provides brokerage services for the largest financial service companies in Canada — is with the Conservative nomination committee and acted as local media spokesperson.
He indicated to a Sun reporter that the nomination committee can waive certain candidate requirements if it wants to — especially when there is a tight timeline, as the byelection could be called at any time.
This gave the impression that the party was being flexible, even if someone hadn’t been a member for the mandated length of time, or to take that a bit further, if there was some minor issues with an application. This is pretty standard stuff in many elections.
However, it appears the CPC changed its tune at some point as the candidate deadline approached and every requirement was followed to the letter.
This was the reason, the party said, that two of the three candidates were out. Although both maintained they followed all the rules.
In any event, Barker has now taken to tweeting out slurs against the media for doing its job.
Here’s a gem from Thursday night:
@barkermoney: That’s like saying @MattGoerzen has 4-5 inside sources into something! The truth is whatever #bdnmb Sun manufactures these days.
Well, Mr. Barker, you’re going to be reading a lot more about this issue in the coming days and weeks — all the truth, nothing manufactured — as we have an editor, our political reporter and myself working daily on this national story that has emerged out of the Brandon-Souris byelection.
So Barker’s a victim, due to his original information supplied to the candidate apparently changing. And his professional reputation is further at stake if he continues to mount outrageous media attacks.
The more layers of this rotten onion we peel away, the more it smells. People are talking to us. Largely off the record for now as they are worried, since some claim they have received threats. But we are building a wealth of information that we will soon be able to share with our readers. The best defence is to have your story out in the open.
And if a police report is filed — and we expose it — it will be a game changer in this election. You can’t go around threatening people and not expect lawyers and police to become involved.
As for the current race, I predict it’s going to be far closer than any election this riding has seen for quite some time.
Pauls, 42, has been the mayor of Killarney-Turtle Mountain since 2007. He’s well-liked and respected, speaks excellently to the media and is honest and forthright. Even if he’s a Liberal in opposition, he would be a good representative for the region.
That’s if he beats the other Liberal candidate, media executive and musician Rolf Dinsdale, in a nomination (I endorsed Dinsdale last week in this column before Pauls declared. Now this angry Tory will support the winning Liberal).
As for the 64-year-old Maguire, he will simply fade into the Tory backbenches if elected.
And what about the NDP? Cory Szczepanski, president of the Brandon Labour Council, won the nomination meeting in front of 60 people in a small hall Thursday night. But really, who cares?
If the Tories had run an ethical and above-board nomination, they would have had a meeting that likely would have attracted 1,000 people or more.
What a missed opportunity for the Tories.
What a glorious opportunity now for the Liberals.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2013