The candidate who replaced Eva Nassif for the Liberals in the Montreal-area riding of Vimy is being forced to rely on money from Ottawa to run her campaign.
The Liberal riding association is refusing to transfer its funds to the new candidate, Annie Koutrakis, because members are furious with the party for dropping Nassif fewer than three weeks before the start of the election campaign and for parachuting in another person.
Koutrakis has had to pay for her election posters with money from party headquarters in Ottawa and had to negotiate with the owner of her riding office for a delay in paying rent.
Nassif had told the Globe and Mail she was not nominated to run in the Vimy riding because she did not publicly support Trudeau as a feminist following the SNC-Lavalin controversy, which led to the resignation of two female cabinet ministers.
Trudeau denied the accusation. He told reporters last Wednesday Nassif didn’t meet the standards of the Liberal party’s protocol for vetting candidates — but he did not elaborate.
Giuseppe Margiotta, president of the Liberal riding association in Vimy, said he and his 10 colleagues adopted a resolution rejecting Koutrakis’ candidacy.
He said he is refusing the party’s demands to transfer the money, so the Liberals will have to “toss aside” the members of the riding association “like they did with Nassif.”
“If the party wants us to work with (Koutrakis), they need to talk to us,” Margiotta said in an interview. He said the riding’s bank account contains more than the $40,000 the party requires its associations to have on the eve of an election campaign.
“We worked hard as an association to raise money and then to arrive to the point where Nassif is no longer the candidate … it’s frustrating, demoralizing,” he said.
Koutrakis’ campaign team is also frustrated. Marc-Andre Blanchette, Koutrakis’ head of communications, said “we are trying to run a campaign. And this story is always coming up.”
“We understand there is a certain animosity,” Blanchette added. “We didn’t close the door on anyone … We haven’t had contacts — in any practical sense — with the members of the local executive.”
He said the campaign is working with volunteers and spending the least amount of money possible while it waits for the new donations for which Koutrakis could only start giving receipts on Thursday.
The Liberal party did not return requests for comment.
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