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Politics Local Liberals urge Trudeau not to block would-be candidate

Liberal Christine Innes.

Peter Power/Globe and Mail

The infighting between Liberals in Trinity-Spadina and the party executive is intensifying after the head of the local riding association called on Justin Trudeau to review the disqualification of a potential candidate for an upcoming by-election.

Sources within the party say the plea to Mr. Trudeau, the leader who has pledged to hold open nominations in every riding across Canada and who has appealed for party unity, was made after the riding association executive was pressed by unnamed parties into asking for Christine Innes be given another chance at the nomination.

Julia Metus, the riding association president, said in a release issued Thursday that she has requested a meeting with Mr. Trudeau in the hope of persuading him to overturn the decision. Mr. Trudeau did not respond to questions about whether he will intervene.

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Ms. Innes, a two-time federal Liberal candidate in the Toronto constituency – which was vacated last week with the resignation of NDP MP Olivia Chow – was told she could not enter the nomination race because members of her team had bullied and intimidated young campaign workers. It is an allegation Ms. Innes rejects.

"There was absolutely no due or fair process," Ms. Metus said in the statement distributed to the media after the riding executive held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night. "No one picked up the phone to contact me, there was no opportunity to discuss their concerns, and there was zero local involvement."

But the original text of the statement approved at the meeting was considerably different. While expressing "disappointment" with the process that ejected Ms. Innes, it made no mention of Mr. Trudeau or request that her disqualification be reviewed. It instead conceded that "there is no place for intimidation tactics in our party" and said the executive would work with the party "to address the allegations of wrongdoing."

A Liberal source said there were a variety of calls made to all the executive members after the meeting had ended to say the message should be made tougher.

Ms. Metus said in a telephone interview on Thursday that the computerized Liberal communication system prevented her from sending the original, softer, statement to the members of her riding association. "We realized, at that point, that we had to send a strong message," she said, adding that the second version was approved by all members of the executive before it was sent to media outlets on Thursday morning.

Ms. Innes says she was disqualified because she refused to sign a form saying that if she won the nomination and the by-election, she would agree to allow the party executive to determine the riding in which she would be the candidate in the 2015 general election.

The boundaries of Trinity-Spadina will divided between the time of the by-election and the general election, and the party brass wanted her to agree to run in the new riding of Spadina-Fort York, leaving the more Liberal-friendly new riding of University-Rosedale open for Chrystia Freeland, a star candidate who is now an MP after winning a by-election in Toronto Centre last fall.

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