The Conservative Party has fired the starting pistol in MP Eve Adams' contested nomination race – one day after a meeting where the party's National Council expressed "grave concerns" about her campaign there that has already cost the party its executive director.
The suburban Toronto riding of Oakville North-Burlington was among 11 where the Conservative Party formally opened nomination races on Thursday, leading up to the 2015 election, sources said. It means would-be candidates have 14 days to formally file their paperwork and deposit; if the applications are accepted, they'll be formally approved as candidates. A nomination vote will be scheduled if more than one candidate is accepted.
Ms. Adams is seeking a nomination in the riding since moving to Oakville last year. She currently represents the riding of Mississauga-Brampton South, a short drive to the east. She's running against chiropractor Natalia Lishchyna in the Oakville North-Burlington riding.
The riding has become a flashpoint. Dimitri Soudas, who is Ms. Adams' fiancé, resigned his post as executive director on March 30 after he was found to have become involved in Ms. Adams' nomination race, despite a contractual provision to stay out of it, sources say. The executive director of the party is meant to be seen as neutral in such races.
The party then struck up an investigation into Ms. Adams' own actions in the riding, following a letter of complaint from the president of the Oakville North-Burlington Conservative Electoral District Association, Mark Fedak. Mr. Fedak, like the majority of the board, supports Ms. Lishchyna.
Ms. Lishchyna welcomed the beginning of the race, saying it will give the nominee more time to plan to win the riding itself come 2015.
"I am so grateful that the party has backed up the concerns raised by the EDA as to the conduct of my opponent and they are continuing to investigate and, most of all, closely monitor this race to try to restore the race to a level playing field as much as is possible," she said Thursday.
Ms. Adams didn't immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
After a National Council meeting Wednesday evening, the party warned Ms. Adams it has "grave concerns" about how she's conducted her campaign and is still invsstigating whether she's exceeded the spending limit. The party did not, however, disqualify her from seeking the nomination in the riding. A letter to Ms. Adams, obtained by The Globe, asks her to provide further financial details by April 18.
"The investigation undertaken has also raised concerns that your nomination campaign, if accounting properly for all non-monetary contributions, may have exceeded your nomination campaign spending limit of $17,721.66," the April 9 letter from party president John Walsh says.
That deadline falls before the nomination deadline, leaving Ms. Adams facing a busy month.
If her expenses are found to be in order, the nomination timelines mean a candidate will be selected within the next couple of months. As of Thursday, candidates have 14 calendar days to submit applications – Ms. Lishchyna and Ms. Adams are the only known contenders so far. Their applications will need to be approved, a process that typically includes an interview. Several other Conservative incumbent MPs have seen challengers disqualified for various reasons. One – Calgary MP Rob Anders – is facing a nomination challenge, with a vote set for Saturday.
After the 14-day application window expires, Oakville North-Burlington candidates will have have another seven days to sign up party members in time for them to be eligible to be vote. A voting date will then be set, presuming more than one candidate is approved. Regardless of the outcome, Ms. Adams still represents the Mississauga riding in the meantime.
In his letter to Ms. Adams, Mr. Walsh signalled the party is paying close attention to nomination races, which it has said will be "fair and open." Ms. Adams has said the accusations made by Mr. Fedak against her included a "slew of inaccuracies," and filed a rebuttal.