The latest development in the saga of Dimitri Soudas, Eve Adams and a hotly contested riding nomination fight came this week in the form of a letter – from a Conservative in that riding to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, raising concerns about Ms. Adams.
The letter, from Oakville North–Burlington Conservative association president Mark Fedak, alleged Ms. Adams' actions "are both negatively impacting the internal workings of our local association and are beginning to take a toll on the brand of the Party." The president – who happens to support Ms. Adams' opponent, along with most of the board – broke his complaint into five categories. Ms. Adams, an MP, and fiancé Mr. Soudas, a former spokesman for the PM and Conservative party executive director, have declined comment.
The allegations are nonetheless worth a closer look, as is the feedback.
1. She hired a guy before the board could
In the section "election readiness plans blocked," Mr. Fedak writes that the board tried to hire consultant Mitch Wexler to generate detailed maps of the riding – demographic data, past voting results and so forth – to begin preparing for the 2015 election. Mr. Wexler is a well-known Tory consultant. The board's request to Mr. Wexler had come from John Mykytyshyn, a board member who also happens to be a key figure in the campaign of Natalia Lishchyna, Ms. Adams' nomination race opponent. And Ms. Adams had already hired Mr. Wexler.
Ms. Adams "may have thought the request came from another campaign. That was not the case," Mr. Fedak wrote. In any event, Ms. Adams essentially didn't want Mr. Wexler working for both her and a board whose members overwhelmingly support her opponent.
"Politics is a competitive business, so when I take on work for a client, there's a trust that that client has that I'm not also going to be taking on work against them," Mr. Wexler said in an interview this week.
2. Using the party database
The Tory constituency information management system (or CIMS) database is a gold mine of supporter and donor information. Having access to it is a huge advantage in a race where it's party faithful who will crown a nominee – you can quickly identify who all the local Tories are and go straight to them for support.
There are varying accounts, however, of who has access to it.
Mr. Fedak's letter says Conservatives in Oakville, Ont., have been getting calls from "a Member of Parliament" – the suggestion, it seems, is that it's Ms. Adams, given his letter is about her. And Mr. Fedak alleges the party has blocked efforts to find out "who has been accessing or using CIMS as it pertains to our riding."
The party declined to say who currently has access to the CIMS database for the riding. "It's an internal party matter," spokesman Cory Hann said. But several sources said Conservative MPs typically only have access to CIMS for their own riding – Ms. Adams represents a nearby Mississauga riding, but is seeking a nomination in Oakville – while new riding associations have access to the data for the new ridings. Once nominated, Conservative candidates get access to the data, the sources say.
Another source, however, said all incumbent MPs were given CIMS data for their new ridings in February, even if they weren't yet nominated. That includes people whose ridings were heavily redrawn or, in Ms. Adams' case, those who moved altogether, the source said.
That leaves varying accounts.
If Ms. Adams has had access to the database of supporters in Oakville without the board or party giving it to her, the allegation is she had it prematurely – because it's not currently her riding and she's not yet the nominee.
If she got CIMS access to Oakville from the party recently, along with other MPs, then she's within the rules but being given a major leg up over her rival in the newly created riding. That's at odds with the party's oft-repeated pledge of "fair and open" nominations.
3. The infamous board meeting
This issue erupted to its current scale largely because of a March 19 board meeting that Ms. Adams attended, uninvited (according to one account, she had sent an e-mail asking to attend but didn't hear back). It was a "bizarre situation," Mr. Fedak wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister, saying he asked Ms. Adams a total of nine times to leave, instead inviting her to the next meeting. She declined, other board members left instead, the meeting lost its quorum – the minimum number of people required – and essentially collapsed. Mr. Soudas, despite a contractual requirement not to get involved, was outside in the hallway and is said by one board member to have asked another why she wasn't supporting Ms. Adams.
There's mixed interpretation of the rules. Conservative rules allow card-carrying members to attend "any meeting of the electoral district association," but some have interpreted that to not include board meetings. Further, even if she was allowed, the Conservative rules mention the right to "participate" but don't specify any right to speak, which Ms. Adams wanted to do.
And what was the issue that was set to be discussed in the final 45 minutes of the meeting, which Ms. Adams' arrival interrupted? The attempt to hire Mr. Wexler.
Mr. Fedak wrote Ms. Adams tried to hijack the meeting, trying to "filibuster the meeting without ever being recognized with a right to speak." Mr. Fedak says Ms. Adams asked him how much he donated to the party, "and said that she would use her access to CIMS data to look that up for herself."
Mr. Fedak said board members are now concerned "whether it is safe to attend a meeting without being verbally attacked and whether volunteering for our Party is worth the abuse." The board met again 11 days later to finish its business.
Conservatives in Oakville are getting mail from Ms. Adams, who doesn't represent the riding. The mail is unstamped, suggesting it's being sent through MPs' offices. She's identified in at least one of the messages just as a "Member of Parliament," a banner that doesn't say what riding she represents. "Are taxpayers' money being wasted for personal gain?" Mr. Fedak asked in his letter, adding: "Why is the MP hiding what riding she represents in these mailings?"
All MPs get mailing privileges, and the rules are clear and nearly wide open – they can send most addressed mail, for free, to Canadians under the Canada Post Corporation Act. Parcels and some other types are excluded. Ms. Adams appears to be using those privileges to send messages into the riding where she wants to run. Incidentally, one of the messages also contains a reference to a "Dimitri," despite Mr. Soudas's contractual provision to not be involved in the race.
Mr. Fedak essentially thinks the mailings go too far. But they seem to be within the rules.
5. Wally Butts' exit
A day after the March 19 board meeting, a local Conservative Party organizer, Wally Butts, appealed for the party to help ease concerns in the region, saying he was caught in an untenable position between the board and his boss, Mr. Soudas. Mr. Soudas dismissed Mr. Butts the next day, but party sources have insisted that move was unrelated.
The local board president thinks Mr. Butts should be welcomed back. "One thing for certain is that if there were a restructuring of political operations, there should definitely be a position for Wally Butts," Mr. Fedak wrote.
Whether it's related or not, the dismissal nonetheless flared tempers further, leading to outcry, which itself led to a party investigation that ended in Mr. Soudas's resignation. There's been no sign, however, Mr. Butts will get his job back.
6. The feedback
One board member who backs Ms. Adams, Chris Finnerty, responded to Mr. Fedak's letter with one of his own, saying the board and its president have engaged in "childish behaviour" since the March 19 meeting, which Mr. Finnerty did not attend. "I would like to whole-heartedly provide my endorsement for Eve Adams, she has my full support. In this entire sordid affair, she has been the only one I've witnessed to remain rational, reasonable and honest," he wrote. After receiving Mr. Fedak's letter, the Prime Minister asked the party to review the allegations. It's unclear how soon they'll report back.
Josh Wingrove is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa.