The Conservative Party is starting from scratch in a Toronto-area riding after a bitter nomination battle led both candidates to drop out.
Eve Adams, who is currently an MP in a nearby riding, and chiropractor Natalia Lishchyna have both bowed out of the race to be the Tory nominee in the newly created riding of Oakville North-Burlington, leaving the party restarting its search for a candidate in the riding after the earlier race led to allegations of wrongdoing.
The resignation of both candidates pre-empted a ruling from the Conservative Party's national candidate selection committee, sources say. The committee was considering what action to take in the riding, though an internal party review had recommended it disqualify both candidates.
The departure leaves both the Conservatives and Liberals, who are expected to be their closest competition in the riding, without a candidate there for the 2015 election. Local Conservatives haven't been told when the nomination period will be reopened for new candidates.
Ms. Adams and Ms. Lishchyna did not return messages Wednesday, nor did Dimitri Soudas, Ms. Adams's fiancé and the Conservative Party's former executive director. He resigned amid questions of whether he interfered in his partner's race. That included the dismissal, under Mr. Soudas's watch, of Conservative organizer Wally Butts, who had complained a day earlier about the situation involving Ms. Adams's candidacy. Mr. Butts later said the issue was in the hands of his lawyer, but said Wednesday the matter had "been settled" and he'd parted ways with the Conservatives.
With Ms. Adams's departure on Aug. 1, Ms. Lishchyna stood as the sole remaining candidate, though the party had not decided whether to spike her candidacy. She nonetheless bowed out Tuesday. A Conservative source familiar with the riding said it had become clear that the allegations between the two camps would hurt Tory election chances in the riding. "The reality is, what's in the party's best interest – the best shot at winning the seat – is not with either of the current nomination candidates," the source said. "It's with somebody new."
The riding is expected, as of now, to be a "toss-up on paper" between the Liberals and Conservatives, a Liberal source said, pending each party picking a candidate. The riding is a new one, but in the 2011 election, the Conservatives won 54 per cent of the vote in polls that will form the new riding.
Hurdles may remain for Ms. Adams, who is an MP representing the nearby riding of Mississauga-Brampton South. The House of Commons Board of Internal Economy (BOIE), which oversees MPs' spending, was asked by a Conservative in Burlington, Ont., to review Ms. Adams's use of parliamentary resources in her effort to win the nomination in the Oakville riding. The board, however, has not said whether it will. "We cannot discuss what the Board of Internal Economy may or may not be reviewing," said Laura Smith, a senior adviser to Conservative Whip John Duncan, a BOIE spokesman. A complaint against Ms. Adams was also sent to Elections Canada.
Ms. Adams, who moved to Oakville last year, bowed out of the race citing health reasons after suffering a concussion earlier this year. "The time has come to take my health seriously," she wrote in a message to supporters. She remains an MP. A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday Ms. Adams also continues to serve as a parliamentary secretary for health, a position that includes $16,300 in additional yearly pay.
In her own letter, Ms. Lishchyna pledged to run again in the future, but said the party's "electoral prospects" would be damaged if she'd stayed in the race. "It is often said that time heals all, but I am not convinced that we have enough time to do the best in achieving unity before the next election under the current circumstances," she wrote.