Conservative Party executive director Dimitri Soudas is under fire from party faithful after he dismissed an organizer who, a day earlier, had complained about a nomination battle involving Mr. Soudas’s spouse.
Wally Butts, a Conservative official in Ontario, was dismissed by Mr. Soudas on Friday, sources say. That was a day after Mr. Butts wrote an e-mail pleading for help with a heated Conservative nomination battle between a sitting MP – Eve Adams, Mr. Soudas’s partner – and another candidate, chiropractor Natalia Lishchyna, who has the backing of much of the local Conservative Electoral District Association.
In an interview, a Conservative source said the nomination race and dismissal were unrelated. It has nonetheless stoked unrest.
On March 19, Ms. Adams attended an EDA meeting in the riding of Oakville North-Burlington, where she moved last year and is seeking the nomination. “I was there to offer that we do a fundraiser so we can start raising some money as our EDA needs it,” Ms. Adams said.
But, according to an e-mail sent by Mr. Butts and obtained by The Globe, Ms. Adams was asked to leave and a “standoff” ensued, leading some members of the board to leave instead.
“I am in a totally untenable position in this matter as Dimitri is my ultimate boss. Can you please take action in this matter to straighten out this worsening mess?” Mr. Butts wrote to Conservative political operations director Fred DeLorey. Sources say Mr. Butts was dismissed the next day.
As executive director, Mr. Soudas has agreed to recuse himself from anything to do with Ms. Adams’s nomination battle, sources say. He had unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Oakville North- Burlington EDA before taking his current role with the party. One Conservative source said the dismissal was made as part of a larger overhaul because Mr. Soudas “came in with a clear mandate to, quite frankly, change the way things were going on with the party.” The source added Mr. Butts’s dismissal “has absolutely nothing to do with” the Oakville North-Burlington race.
Other e-mails provided to The Globe show local Conservatives have since complained about the move, first revealed by TVO.
“I was shocked that the party would handle a termination in such a non professional manner, as well as it’s exposing the party to bad press and, if it were me, an unlawful dismissal suit against the party,” says one e-mail, signed by a Conservative district association president, Robert McClelland. A copy of the e-mail was obtained by The Globe, but he declined further comment when contacted. “… I do not agree with Mr Butt’s [sic] dismissal and unequivocally state that his leadership and support for our EDA has been outstanding, and not deserving the treatment he has received,” he wrote.
Another Conservative wrote to several party supporters urging them to complain. “I’m asking each of you as Riding Presidents to email the following leaders of our party to share your disappointment in how the Party’s Executive Director has let the bedroom get in the way of the boardroom,” wrote Ken Audziss, an official with the Hamilton East-Stoney Creek riding association. He didn’t respond to a reporter’s request for comment.
The Conservative Party issued only a brief statement, saying the party was “running fair and open nominations.” Asked about Mr. Butts, party spokesman Cory Hann said: “We don’t comment on staffing matters.”
Reached Wednesday morning, Mr. Butts declined to comment, saying “this is now in the hands of the lawyers, so I’m not allowed to talk about it.” His lawyer didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Adams currently represents the riding of Mississauga-Brampton South. She says she moved last year to Oakville, which is a community just to the west, and now splits her time among Ottawa, Mississauga-Brampton South and Oakville North-Burlington. The latter is a new riding that is considered a safer Conservative seat than her current one.
It’s uncommon for a sitting MP to switch ridings, but Ms. Adams says she has always run where she lives.
“I work hard before and after elections. With the support of great volunteers, I have won every race I have entered. There have always been easier races to enter but I feel strongly that I should run where I live in order to be a strong voice for my neighbours in Ottawa,” she said. The local riding needs a candidate “with experience and strong name recognition” to fend off the Liberals, she added. “The bottom line here is that our opponents are red, not blue,” Ms. Adams said.
Asked about Mr. Butts’s dismissal, she referred questions to the party. Her opponent, Ms. Lishchyna, declined comment on the matter.
The new riding is being created largely out of an area currently represented by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who declined to comment on Mr. Butts’s departure. “I know both Eve and Natalia – and whoever wins I look forward to working with to ensure we keep the riding a Conservative one,” Ms. Raitt said. Oakville Conservative MP Terence Young declined comment.