After promising wide-open nomination races for the 2015 election, the Conservatives will instead carry over the nominations of a half-dozen candidates – a decision that's already getting push-back within the party.
Any incumbent Conservative MP who has won a nomination since the 2011 federal election will not have to seek one again before next year's election, party brass have decided.
The move will see the Conservatives avoid races in ridings that have recently held nomination battles. All of the ridings have long been considered safe seats, although one – Brandon-Souris – was the site of a messy nomination battle last year that had the party denying allegations of interference.
The decision means four Conservative MPs who won by-elections – Erin O'Toole, Joan Crockatt, Ted Falk and Larry Maguire – won't face a nomination challenge before 2015. The same will likely be true of the eventual nominees in a pair of Alberta ridings that are currently open. In one of those ridings, Macleod, a nomination vote will end Saturday, crowning a nominee that will represent the party in both a looming by-election and the next general election.
The decision was made by the Conservatives' national council, party spokesman Cory Hann said.
"Any MP who won a nomination since the 2011 election will be recognized as the nominated candidate for the 2015 election, when Canadians will have a choice between the strong, stable leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the poor judgment of Justin Trudeau," Mr. Hann said in an e-mail. The Tories have frequently framed the election as a two-way race between them and Mr. Trudeau's Liberals.
Mr. Hann had earlier said the party would have "an open and fair nomination process for all 338 electoral districts."
The decision raised the ire of Gary Duchak, president of the Macleod Conservative riding association, where a vote will be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday to select a nominee to replace departed MP Ted Menzies. "We're appealing it," Mr. Duchak said of the decision.
Canada will get a new electoral map for the 2015 election, one that adds new seats in Alberta and other provinces. That means riding boundaries are changing, in some cases substantially.
In Macleod, much of the outgoing riding overlaps with the new riding of Foothills. Nomination candidates have been told the Macleod nominee will also be the Foothills nominee in 2015. But Mr. Duchak says that's unfair to Conservative voters whose homes fall in Macleod and will fall in Foothills, saying they're being short-changed of a voting opportunity.
"We feel there should be a nomination contest … this is not Foothills, this is Macleod, and we don't get to vote if we become Foothills. The people still in Foothills don't get to vote [again], whereas the people that are presently in Macleod that are going to another riding will be allowed to vote in that riding," Mr. Duchak said.
While he personally believes a new vote should be held in Foothills, he said the Electoral District Association board hadn't formally taken a position yet.
Ms. Crockatt said she was ready to fight a nomination race if needed, while Mr. Falk – elected along with Mr. Maguire on Nov. 25, 2013 – confirmed that "due to the recent by-election, there will not be another nomination process required for the 2015 Federal Election for [the riding of] Provencher."
Mr. Maguire, a former provincial legislator, won a nomination battle in Brandon-Souris that divided Conservatives locally after some candidates were disqualified. The party insisted the nomination was fully transparent and carried out according to party rules. This decision means another race won't be held in that riding for several years. Mr. Maguire then only narrowly won his seat, long held by the Conservative Party and its predecessors.
Any MP who hasn't won a nomination race since the 2011 election can still be challenged, and the races are already heating up. The most high-profile challenge so far is in Calgary, where long-time MP Rob Anders, a divisive figure for some in the party, is facing a challenge from former Alberta Finance Minister Ron Liepert.