McNaughton reminds party it is a broad coalition

Monte McNaughton

Monte McNaughton

When Patrick Brown ran for the Progressive Conservative leadership in 2015, he vowed to have open nominations. Recently, that commitment has been called into question. The Toronto Star reported in December that numerous candidates have been disqualified from seeking the PC nomination for the 2018 general election. Brown spins the disqualifications as a sign that so many people want to represent the Tories against Kathleen Wynne’s unpopular Liberals that the party is simply nixing nominations as a matter of increased volume, without ideological considerations. Asked by the Star if he was disqualifying social conservatives, Brown simply said, “There’s a process here and we do our best to make sure that candidates share the values that we’re putting forward and so there’s a variety of things they can be disqualified for.”

But there are charges of shenanigans against the Tories in the way they run their nominations.

Former MP Bob Dechert abandoned his run for the Tory nomination in Mississauga Erin-Mills and issued a statement questioning the legitimacy of the process. “I have lost confidence in the integrity of the party’s nomination process,” Dechert said. “I have determined to withdraw from the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario candidate selection process.” He accused the the riding association of allowing candidates who worked with Liberals to run and sign up “instant members” who have no stake or history in the party. Dechert said as an active member of conservative party politics for four decades, he has not seen problems. “I have become deeply concerned that the party’s recent nomination process in Mississauga Erin-Mills and in multiple other electoral districts, is failing to respect the requirements of the party’s constitution to ensure an open and fair nomination process.” But he went further: “I have come to this decision based upon my observation of widespread abuse of the process in Mississauga Erin-Mills by multiple persons and a failure by the party to enforce its own rules.”

He called for an investigation and audit and suggested that the party work to ensure each individual who joins the PCs pays for their own membership. He accused the party of tolerating bulk payments for the purchase of large numbers of instant members whose connections are to candidates seeking nominations and not the party.

Dechert added: “If the only qualification for the job is how many bogus and fraudulent instant members one can round up and cram into a room, then there is no need for any candidate approval process at all.”

While the Dechert brouhaha became public, Campaign Life Coalition says they have worked with numerous candidates who are pro-life and opposed to Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum who have been disqualified, many of which are below the media’s radar. CLC’s Jeff Gunnarson said that while candidates are not told they were rejected as candidates for nomination because of their socially conservative views, the pretenses for rejection are laughable.

Derek Duval did not get past the vetting process in the eastern Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. He told the press that he was rejected due to a video that purported to show him eating a hamster off of a hockey stick. Duval says it was a mockumentary video in which he ate poutine. Duval suggests the real reason he was prevented from seeking the nomination is that Amanda Simard is the leader’s preferred candidate and that he sold more memberships than she did.

Meanwhile, Jay Tysick, who was disqualified from seeking the nomination in Nepean, near Ontario, accused Patrick Brown of being too involved in the nomination process. When asked by Metroland about Tysick, Brown’s press secretary Nick Gergamini, said the PC Party “is committed to the principles of inclusiveness and tolerance,” mimicking the leader’s line explaining his flip-flop on sex-ed last summer.

Meanwhile, a slew of sitting MPPs were nominated to run again, including Monte McNaughton (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex). McNaughton told the Sarnia Observer that he has garnered broad support. He said “we’ve built a coalition of conservatives here in my riding, and I think it’s something that we need to build across the province.” McNaughton explained: “I’ve been able to bring conservatives of all stripes together in my riding, including social conservatives, but I’ve also been very fortunate to have disenfranchised Liberals.”

In December, McNaughton, who ran for the PC leadership in 2015 before bowing out and endorsing Brown, spoke up in Queen’s Park to criticize the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for its attack on the conscience rights of health care workers. He vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to defend conscience rights as the province debates how to implement the federal “Medical Aid in Dying” law passed last June. “I’ve talked to many healthcare administrators and healthcare providers. There’s just huge concerns because people don’t think that anyone should have to go against their conscience when it comes to assisted suicide.” The CPSO conscience policy currently forces objecting doctors to refer patients to willing and accessible colleagues for such “services” as abortion, abortifacient contraception, and euthanasia.

While McNaughton is the only MPP to address the issue he says “within the caucus there’s concerns about conscience rights.”