“Now that Merv Tweed has taken a plush job with Hudson Bay Rail, what will happen to the vacancy in Brandon Souris? Will Stephen Harper appoint his replacement as he has done in Dauphin-Swan River after I retired from Ottawa in 2010? Will the CPC members in Brandon-Souris demand that an open democratic nomination process be followed? Hopefully the new MP won’t be just another rubber stamp for Harper.”
— Inky Mark, former MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette
It would appear that Mark’s words were prophetic, because by all appearances, somebody in Toryland has played king maker instead of allowing a contested nomination to run its course in Brandon-Souris.
Based on the events of the last six days, we can make no other conclusion.
For until Friday afternoon, there were three men vying for the Conservative nomination in this yellow dog Tory riding: Former Brandon-Souris MP Merv Tweed staffer Chris Kennedy, Brandon city councillor Len Isleifson and current Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire. While there had been rumours in the community that Isleifson was experiencing some difficulty with his nomination, nothing was ever confirmed.
But as the Sun reported throughout the weekend, the whole nomination process seemed to come unravelled within 24 short little hours.
First, Isleifson put out a press release late Friday announcing that he was withdrawing from the race to concentrate on his role as deputy mayor, a post he took over less than two weeks earlier.
And then early Saturday afternoon, rumours began swirling that a second candidate, Kennedy, was out — a fact that was all but confirmed later that evening by nomination committee member D’Arcy Barker.
“As of five o’clock Ottawa time on Wednesday, there was only one set of documents,” Barker said. “Once we reviewed the documents of (Isleifson and Kennedy), we determined that not all the criteria were met.”
Barker did not elaborate on exactly what the problems were with their nomination papers.
On Monday, after two days of failed attempts to reach Kennedy — he was on vacation — he told the Sun that he was “shocked and disappointed and a lot of other things” over the failed nomination bid. Kennedy said he was told by the party that his nomination application didn’t include his $1,000 deposit cheque, a requirement for all candidates.
Maguire was then the only application accepted by the Conservative party, and therefore the acclaimed Tory candidate. And that’s good on Larry, but the situation isn’t so cut and dry.
In spite of the party line Kennedy received, he claims he submitted an intact application in time for the Sept. 11 deadline, including the cheque. Unfortunately for him, there’s apparently nothing that he can do to change the situation — the party has ruled.
And though Isleifson voluntarily pulled out of the nomination race, we have to say the party brass showed little class by throwing the Brandon councillor under the bus a day after the fact, and saying that his nomination had been rejected.
Though Isleifson did not reveal what issues the party had with his paperwork, he insisted that he and his campaign team followed all the rules, and he has “taken exception” to Barker’s comments.
“I’m going to be totally honest with you. As far as I’m concerned, there was no issues with my application,” he said on Sunday morning. “My campaign team followed everything D’Arcy said to the tee, and I’m dealing with this internally right now.”
We have no wish to take away anything from Maguire’s nomination, but it must be said that the way this process has played out smells rather foul. If Brandon-Souris Tories aren’t angry, they should be, for it has an all-too familiar taint of party interference — much like the boondoggle that left current Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette Conservative MP Robert Sopuck as the sole acclaimed candidate for his riding.
While the race may be over for Isleifson, who says he will concentrate on the next municipal election, Kennedy still has a few options and some choices ahead. He could bow out and bide his time for another kick at the can sometime in the future. He could also still make a run for the MP job as an independent or try for the Liberal nomination — party lines and ideals are pretty blurry these days anyway as everyone rushes for the mushy middle of the political spectrum.
Whatever Kennedy decides is his business. But if he did run outside the Tory banner, it would certainly give Brandon-Souris residents a chance to voice their opinion on this farce of a political process.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 18, 2013