Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says his party did not reject the candidacy of Quebec MP Eva Nassif because she failed to publicly endorse his feminist credentials earlier this year.
Mr. Trudeau confirmed on Wednesday that Ms. Nassif did not meet the Liberal Party’s vetting standards to be a candidate for the Oct. 21 election in the Montreal-area riding of Vimy, but he did not give a reason.
Liberal spokesman Pierre-Olivier Herbert has also refused to explain why the nominations committee, which the party refers to as the green-light committee, turned her down.
Ms. Nassif has told The Globe and Mail she believes she was punished for “failing to hail Justin Trudeau as a great feminist” after two female ministers – Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott – resigned from cabinet. Ms. Wilson-Raybould quit cabinet in February, after she said Mr. Trudeau and other high-level officials had pressured her to reverse her decision not to order a settlement of charges against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.
Ms. Philpott resigned on March 4, saying she could no longer defend Mr. Trudeau’s handling of the matter.
A number of Liberal MPs, particularly women, were then encouraged to defend Mr. Trudeau on social media. Some used similar language to express confidence in him as a leader who “always listened to the voices of women.”
Mr. Trudeau said Ms. Nassif was wrong to say she was denied the nomination because she refused to speak in his favour, but did not divulge the committee’s reasons.
“I am not going to comment on the specific decisions of the green-light committee, but those determinations are made on a fair basis according to the rules of the party," Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Delta, B.C. "But in this case, that was not the issue that ended up leading to Madame Nassif being red lit.”
Ms. Nassif told The Globe that Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly, a Montreal MP, contacted her on March 4 about the request to support Mr. Trudeau.
“I was called by minister [Joly] to ask why I wasn’t going to support the Prime Minister. And I said I didn’t feel I would be authentic to come and post that he is a feminist after what he had done,” she said.
Through a spokesperson, Ms. Joly initially denied reaching out to Ms. Nassif. Shown a screenshot of a text exchange in which Ms. Joly asked Ms. Nassif if they could speak later that day, Ms. Joly said she has no recollection of their discussion.
“It is normal for an MP to communicate with colleagues to offer support or to get a sense of the situation. However, she does not remember that conversation,” said Jeremy Ghio, a spokesman for Ms. Joly.
Ms. Nassif said other Liberal MPs were not happy that she had hugged Ms. Wilson-Raybould outside the House of Commons. She added the way Mr. Trudeau and others treated Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Ms. Philpott led to her disenchantment.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould said Ms. Nassif was supportive after she and Ms. Philpott were expelled from the party.
“When I was going through what was a challenging time to say the least for me personally, she was supportive, and I remember her giving me a hug at the elevators in the West Block, and I appreciated it,” she said.
Ms. Nassif learned on Aug. 21 that the Liberal green-light committee had rejected her candidacy.
Ms. Nassif told The Globe that Mr. Trudeau told her twice in a telephone conversation on May 28, 2019, that she “worked the riding very, very well,” and “promised me that [waiting for approval] doesn’t stop me from winning the riding and I will get in touch with you as soon as possible with a positive answer.”
Mr. Trudeau defended the committee as “independent and transparent." He said he did talk to Ms. Nassif on May 28, while her candidacy was being reviewed, but denied promising she would be approved.
“I had many conversations with Madame Nassif and with other candidates going through that green-light process. Every time, I expressed hope it would be successful, but I trust the processes we established as a party,” he said.
Ms. Nassif announced in late August that she would not seek re-election in her riding, one of four in the city of Laval just north of Montreal, which she won with 46 per cent of the vote in 2015. In a statement on Aug. 22, she said “recent events of a personal nature have motivated this decision.”
Ms. Nassif told The Globe she wanted to run again, and party officials forced her to issue the statement or they would announce she was rejected as a candidate.
She maintains she was one of the first Quebec MPs to meet the Liberal candidacy requirements – in April, 2018 – having knocked on at least 3,500 doors or made 5,000 telephone calls, signed up 150 new members and added 30 new monthly donors.
Ms. Nassif provided a timeline and other documents she said are related to her rejection.
Starting in June, 2016, she alleged, she began experiencing intimidation and harassment from Liberal MPs in the other three Laval ridings - Yves Robillard, Angelo Iacono and Fayçal El-Khoury. She said she complained about it to the Liberal party whip and the Liberal women’s caucus in 2016, in the House of Commons in 2018 and in her May 28 conversation with Mr. Trudeau.
The three MPs, who are running for re-election, did not respond to requests for comment.
Ms. Philpott said she applauds Ms. Nassif for speaking about her experiences dealing with Mr. Trudeau and party brass. “She didn’t feel heard and she didn’t feel that she was spoken to truthfully, and I think those are important messages that she has shared," Ms. Philpott said.
– With a report from Laura Stone in Toronto
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