The political future of a Toronto-area Conservative MP hangs in the balance after Stephen Harper took the rare step of ordering a party investigation into the power struggle behind an Ontario nomination battle that has already cost the Tory Party its executive director.
This internal review will focus on the behaviour of Conservative MP Eve Adams. She was touted as a rising star when elected in 2011, but now faces accusations from within Tory ranks that she has been granted unfair advantages in the race to be the Conservative candidate for a riding in Oakville, Ont., has interfered with the district’s election planning, and has verbally abused party members.
Her fiancé, Dimitri Soudas, a long-time Harper loyalist, resigned as executive director of the Conservative Party on Sunday after extensive evidence showed he had violated a contractual pledge to recuse himself from matters concerning Ms. Adams in the nomination process. The Tories are under pressure to demonstrate that their nominations are fair, and the executive director, who is responsible for ensuring candidates are nominated, is supposed to be above reproach.
This episode is particularly embarrassing for Mr. Harper and the Tories because it exposes internal battles in Canada’s governing party, and because one of the players is Mr. Soudas, a former director of communications in the Prime Minister’s Office, whose job for many years was to protect his boss and communicate the best possible message about the Conservatives to Canadians.
The latest development was triggered by a letter written this week to the Prime Minister by Mark Fedak, president of the Oakville North-Burlington Conservative riding association. Like the vast majority of this riding’s board, Mr. Fedak supports Natalia Lishchyna for the Oakville nomination.
In his letter, dated Tuesday, Mr. Fedak alleges Ms. Adams blocked the association’s efforts to get a map showing party supporters in the riding, had unwarranted access to the Conservative Party database’s contact details on members in the constituency, and verbally abused Tory officials at a board meeting to which she was not invited.
It is rare for a riding association to complain directly to Mr. Harper, party officials say, adding that the fact that the Prime Minister referred the matter for investigation shows how seriously he takes the allegations.
It is not certain what sanctions Ms. Adams would face if the party’s national council substantiates the allegations, but she is at risk of being blocked from seeking the nomination in Oakville North-Burlington, where she and Mr. Soudas have bought a house. She currently represents a riding in Mississauga; many constituency boundaries are being redrawn for the 2015 election to reflect population changes.
In his letter, Mr. Fedak asked Mr. Harper to intervene. “Recently we have been running into obstacles beyond our control and believe only your leadership can provide the needed solution,” he wrote.
He cited the March 19 meeting of the Oakville riding association that Ms. Adams attended without an invitation.
“I requested nine times for her to leave,” Mr. Fedak wrote. “Her continuous response was to continue to filibuster the meeting, without ever being recognized with a right to speak, but rather she continued to hijack the meeting ... during the first 20 minutes of her appearance she went from arguing her right to be there due to her MP and member status but then started to verbally abuse at least four members of the board directly.”
Ms. Adams declined to comment on the allegations on Wednesday.
The Oakville nomination is not the first time the Prime Minister’s Office has fielded a complaint over Ms. Adam’s conduct.
An Ottawa service station owner, John Newcombe, said he complained to the PMO about the MP’s behaviour last December, alleging she obstructed traffic for some time through his gas bar awaiting redress after she was unsatisfied with the quality of a car wash.
The PMO followed up on the complaint, and sources say it was recommended that Ms. Adams offer an apology, which she did via a phone call. Mr. Newcombe said in an interview he was not satisfied with her apology and requested a further written apology – which he said he never received.
Ms. Adams said the matter has been addressed. “When this gentleman first asked for an apology, I apologized months ago,” she said. “I had simply asked for a second car wash, or to have the unused car washes that I had just bought five minutes prior refunded.”
The nomination ordeal has divided Conservatives in the area. On the day as Mr. Fedak wrote the Prime Minister, board member Chris Finnerty wrote to Mr. Fedak, lamenting the board’s “childish behaviour” and pledging his support for Ms. Adams. He said Mr. Fedak had no right to ask Ms. Adams to leave the meeting. “It is apparent the current ONB board is manipulating the media to gain advantage for their candidate of choice Natalia Lishchyna,” Mr. Finnerty wrote.
The Oakville board says it approached a firm, Politrain Consulting, to produce coloured maps with recent election results in the area making up Oakville North-Burlington, a new riding for the 2015 election. The maps would also be based on demographic data. But Politrain declined the request, saying Ms. Adams – with whom it was already under contract – would consider it a conflict of interest.