Editorial: How should Maguire, Tories handle hubbub?

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Brandon-Souris Conservative candidate Larry Maguire and his party have a decision to make.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/09/2013 (3294 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Brandon-Souris Conservative candidate Larry Maguire and his party have a decision to make.

Do they march forward into a byelection pretending nothing went wrong in the hope that public anger over the recent nomination debacle goes away? Or do they restart the process?

As you can read in today’s Brandon Sun, former Merv Tweed staffer Chris Kennedy has refused to give in to party pressure that would have him admit fault concerning his nomination papers.

In a sit-down interview yesterday afternoon, Kennedy addressed a recent Winnipeg Free Press story that questioned his integrity.

An unnamed “source” within the Conservative party had told the Winnipeg Free Press that Kennedy’s paperwork did not arrive in time, which essentially disqualified him from running. The Free Press also acquired — we can only assume from the same unnamed source — a Purolator tracking number for a package that was sent on Wednesday, Sept. 11, from Kennedy’s address, about an hour before the 5 p.m. nomination deadline.

Kennedy, however, stuck to his story — that his nomination papers were in on time and the $1,000 cheque was attached to his application.

Kennedy said he sent five packages to Ottawa over the course of several days, with the final package containing 26 last-minute memberships he felt honour bound to send in, even though he was concerned they wouldn’t make the deadline. The package with his application, he says, was sent by courier on the Tuesday, with the required $1,000 cheque attached.

When the party contacted him to tell him the bad news — that his nomination was invalid — he was told his cheque was missing, not that his application was late.

Unless the party or Kennedy can provide a photo with a time and date stamped on it showing what was in that last package, neither side can prove their assertions. And Kennedy understood that. Sadly, he believed that offering any of the four remaining tracking numbers to the Sun would prolong the controversy, one that has begun to hurt him personally. All he said he wants to do is get on with his life, and leave this mess — and politics — behind. Can’t say we blame him.

But we are then forced to take him at his word. If he did send his application on time with the required cheque as he has always maintained, someone has messed with the nomination process. And of the cheque? All he knows is that it hasn’t been cashed.

Certainly the public, like ourselves, can criticize Kennedy for waiting until the last days to get all his paperwork in, or for not personally delivering the papers. We attribute that to his inexperience, and some shoddy advice from the local Conservative party representatives. Obviously he is kicking himself for making such a mistake.

But someone — those brave unnamed Conservative sources — is doing their level best to shut Kennedy up by leaking information to Winnipeg media. And the list of those sources can’t be very long — who but Tory insiders in Ottawa would have had access to the courier package to know the tracking number?

We also find it curious that the party decided to hold a meeting to acclaim Maguire on a Friday night, only hours after Kennedy and the other wannabe candidate, Len Isleifson — the Brandon city councillor who withdrew from the race, and was later publicly disqualified by the party — would have found out they were disqualified. What was the rush?

And still further, why, in every single one of the four ridings currently undergoing a byelection, are all the Conservative candidates acclaimed?

As well as Maguire in Brandon-Souris, Steinbach Credit Union president Ted Falk was apparently the only Tory interested to run for Vic Toews’ vacated seat in Provencher, while the Hill Times reports that Geoff Pollock and Rida Mahmoud have been acclaimed to carry the Tory banner in the ridings of Toronto Centre and Bourassa.

We simply cannot accept the suggestion that no other candidates wanted to contest an open nomination process for a government seat in Parliament.

There is a cost to this kind of sustained, top-down approach to party politics. The same discipline that has allowed Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative party to keep MPs and party membership in check — and thus attain and retain power since 2006 — has stifled grassroots voices and in the long run, only served to anger party membership.

In fact, the anger is so strong the Conservatives are facing open revolt among their membership — case in point, Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls, who this week decided to run as an independent for Brandon-Souris in protest.

Pauls is just loud enough and angry enough to siphon more than a few votes from the chosen Tory representative, Maguire. Splitting the vote offers the NDP or Liberal candidates a chance to come up the middle. And who knows? Perhaps Pauls has a shot at getting elected as an independent.

As much as Larry Maguire may be a victim of circumstance in this situation, he does hold the power to calm these politically charged waters. He needs to tell his party to reopen the nomination process so that other interested candidates have the option to run in a fair, contested race, free from party interference.

But there is still more to this whole sordid story. Yesterday evening, hours after he gave his interview to the Sun, Kennedy unexpectedly called the paper to say he may now be part of a media release which could lend support to Maguire. The release may also include Isleifson.

The Sun has some serious questions as to whether he was coerced into doing this by someone. Given that only hours earlier he had maintained his innocence, and given the many conversations Kennedy has had with the Sun’s editorial page editor and chief political reporter over the last few weeks, we are shocked that he would even consider making such a statement.

History

Updated on Thursday, September 26, 2013 2:53 PM CDT: Corrected Rida Mahmoud's name.

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