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Liberals still facing grassroots grumbling over Toronto nominations

Liberal Chrystia Freeland, left, was acclaimed as the party’s candidate in the new Toronto riding of University-Rosedale, but contender Christine Innes, right, is suing leader Justin Trudeau and party officials for what she says was a decision to bar her from running for the party.

Toronto MP Chrystia Freeland has been acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in the new riding of University-Rosedale for the 2015 election but that has not ended the party discord which saw another hopeful nominee barred by the Liberals from running against her – or anywhere else.

Hugh Scher, a constitutional lawyer and president of the Liberal riding association in University-Rosedale, said Wednesday that party brass disqualified Christine Innes, who also filed nomination papers in the riding that will be formed from portions of the redrawn Trinity-Spadina and Toronto-Centre constituencies.

Ms. Freeland, who now holds Toronto Centre and who was hand-picked by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, will be acclaimed in University-Rosedale at a nomination meeting scheduled for May 2.

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Mr. Scher said in a telephone interview that her acclamation notice was sent to the riding executive on Tuesday evening and came as a surprise.

"Without consultation to the executive of the association, they have gone ahead and booked the nominations and determined that Chrystia is going to be the candidate," he said.

"I think Chrystia Freeland is a great lady and a very qualified candidate. I think the Liberal party is lucky that we are receiving such interest from such quality candidates," said Mr. Scher.

But "holding true to a commitment to open and fair nomination processes is essential to party development and renewal," he said. "Recent efforts to circumvent the usual nomination process and to bypass the duly elected community board representatives of University-Rosedale are contrary to basic Liberal and democratic values and to efforts of party renewal that put grass roots community interests ahead of political expediency and backroom dictates."

A senior Liberal party source who asked not to be identified said it should come as no surprise to members of the riding association in University-Rosedale that they were not involved in the process of vetting candidates.

"We have never said we are going to, and we won't, consult with the riding association in terms of the green-lighting or red-lighting process," he said. "Much of the information that we get in that process is confidential information which we are not going to share broadly."

Ms. Innes is currently suing Mr. Trudeau and David MacNaughton, the Liberal party's Ontario campaign co-chair, saying they slandered her by falsely claiming she was blocked from running in any riding because of bullying and intimidation tactics used by her campaign.

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Ms. Innes, a two-time federal Liberal candidate in the Trinity-Spadina – which was recently vacated – says Mr. MacNaughton told her she would be allowed to run in the by-election in that riding only if she would agree not to contest Ms. Freeland in University-Rosedale in the lead up to the general election. She refused to sign a document to that effect and was subsequently barred from being a Liberal candidate anywhere in 2015.

Mr. Trudeau, at one time, had promised open nominations in all ridings.

Meanwhile, Ryan Davey, the husband of Trinity-Spadina riding association president Julia Metus, has announced his intention to run for the nomination in that riding. Mr. Davey is expected to face several challengers.

As for the infighting that has taken place in the Trinity-Spadina and University-Rosedale nominations, said Mr. Davey, there is no question that the party must now allow a fair and open process.

"What happened to Christine Innes was wrong," said Mr. Davey, "and a lot of Liberals in Trinity-Spadina are upset about that because she was a well-supported candidate and they are wary of what the party's plans are for Trinity-Spadina."

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