Seven weeks out from the federal election, the Liberals are without a candidate in Brandon-Souris after would-be candidate Michelle Budiwski’s application to run in the riding was denied, according to a letter from the federal party.
The letter, which is signed by the national Liberal campaign co-chair Nikki Hipkin, says the party’s green-light committee is not recommending Budiwski’s approval to run in Brandon-Souris after reviewing her eligibility.
When reached on Tuesday afternoon, Budiwski said she wasn’t given a reason for why her candidacy was denied, but said she is disappointed.
"It took a lot for me to decide to run because even though my past is not a secret, I still knew that I was opening myself up to scrutiny," she said.
"Politics can be ugly, so I knew that that’s what I was opening myself and my family up to, but I was willing to do it."
Budiwski has been vocal about her past, including the fact she is a recovering drug addict who has been clean for the past 18 years. She used her experience to become a motivational speaker and published a book about her struggles earlier this year, titled "Butterfly Dreams." She also runs the Facebook page Real Westman and is active on social media.
"I really believe that we need a strong local candidate," Budiwski said. "We need change in our area and there are issues that aren’t being addressed but are actually being ignored by those that are already in office and without a choice, it’s going to continue — I wanted to be that choice."
She said she believes her past could be the reason the party’s green-light committee rejected her.
The committee has spent the last seven weeks vetting Budiwski and conducted a phone interview with her two weeks ago. She said she was only told on Tuesday morning in writing that her application was denied.
Bob Brigden, the Liberal party’s riding association chair for Brandon-Souris, said the local association has no idea why Budiwski’s nomination was denied and likely never will. He said the green-light committee is responsible for reviewing prospective candidates’ criminal records, financial histories and online presence.
"There is no one who will ever be given the reason, it is up to that committee," he said. "They get together to make that decision and it doesn’t leave that committee and it’s that simple."
In emailed correspondence on Tuesday, a representative from the Liberal Party of Canada said that they do not discuss nomination process details "for reasons of confidentiality."
The news puts local Liberals in a tight spot. Brigden said he would have liked to have someone nominated "three months ago," and the local association had stopped looking for candidates while Budiwski’s application was being processed. He said the process to find someone to run in Brandon-Souris will have to start up again.
At this point, it is too late for Budiwski to run provincially. She also ruled out running for another federal party in the election, saying no other party represents her personal beliefs to the same extent.
The federal election is scheduled for Oct. 21, shortly after the Sept. 10 provincial election. Currently, in Brandon-Souris, Bill Tiessen has been nominated for the Green Party, incumbent Larry Maguire is the Conservative candidate and Rob Lussier is running for the People’s Party of Canada.
Budiwski said she hopes the Liberals and NDP can both nominate candidates shortly to give Westman voters more centrist and progressive choices.
"Anyone coming in now has to do a lot of work in a very short amount of time," she said. "I really hope they get on it because people deserve an option and right now I don’t see that they have one."
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