Questions raised about votes in Marc Miller's Liberal nomination

Questions raised about votes in Marc Miller’s Liberal nomination

While Trudeau promised ‘politics done differently,’ the Liberals are facing new accusations of favouritism


Trudeau and Miller (Photo by Adam Scotti)

The Liberal Party of Canada’s open nominations policy is a staple of the party’s democratic renewal initiative—a way to “ensure that local Liberals, in every riding, get to choose who they want to represent them in the next election,” according to the party’s website. The premise is simple: anyone with $1,000 and a list of 100 signatures has a chance to get onto the party’s election slate. Designated candidates, often picked for their connections, were to be a thing of the past. “Politics done differently,” as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has often said.

Yet apparently the process isn’t without its pitfalls. Maclean’s recently contacted several people who voted for Marc Miller, a close friend of Trudeau and the party’s recently elected candidate in the Montreal riding of Ville-Marie. These people, primarily from the riding’s Muslim community, say they never paid for the membership cards—a clear violation of the Liberal party’s own rules.

Rather, the membership cards were given to these voters through intermediaries, who in most cases suggested that the new Liberal members vote for Miller. All of the people contacted by Maclean’s had signed up on either March 6 or 7, the final days of a deadline for new memberships in the riding.

“We didn’t buy a membership,” said Nahida Rahman, who despite having voted for Miller on the nomination was unaware she was a Liberal member. “Maybe my mother’s friend bought it for me. He gave us a form to fill out. I never gave any money to anyone. My two brothers, my mother and me all got cards.”

“Somebody paid for me,” echoed Mohammed Shabuddin. “I don’t know who paid. They paid for everyone in the family. I don’t know [Marc Miller]. Somebody I know likes him, so I gave him my vote.”

Yet another surprised Liberal and Marc Miller supporter, Sufi Ali, asked how much he owed the Liberal party.

Miller said he was “obviously, absolutely not” aware of that some of his supporters didn’t pay for their membership cards. “I know my team, I know the way it worked, they brought in a lot of members, and a lot of memberships and they were all paid for, as far as I know,” he said.

The Muslim community vote was important to Marc Miller. When the Liberal party announced a change of venue for the April 3 vote to a Holiday Inn in downtown Montreal, Miller’s campaign rallied hard to keep the original voting station open. The party acquiesced and allowed members to vote at the CEDA community centre—one of the rare times that multiple voting stations were used in an urban riding. “There is no other recent example of this,” acknowledged Liberal party spokesperson Michel Archambault. CEDA is located in the heart of the riding’s Muslim community. (Miller won the final vote 292 to 175 against candidate Bernard Amyot.)

According to party rules, membership cards can be solicited and paid for by credit card, cheque or cash. In the case of the latter, the applicant must confirm that the $10 membership fee “is being paid from the applicant’s own funds,” according to the membership rules. An amendment to the rule further restricts anyone from paying membership fees for immediate family. “Everyone must pay for their memberships,” Archambault said. “We do spot checks, but we’ve had 75,000 new members since the beginning of the year.”

The campaign for Ville-Marie, one of three new Quebec ridings, is further marked by allegations that Miller, who has known Trudeau for 30 years, traded on his proximity to the Liberal leader. The party was so concerned that on Dec. 20, Liberal party co-chair Dan Gagnier and Liberal national director Jeremy Broadhurst hosted a conference call with Miller and his campaign executive. During the course of the call Gagnier and Broadhurst addressed concerns that Miller was “positioning himself as Justin Trudeau’s candidate,” according to someone with details of the call, and that this was casting doubt among Liberal members about the openness of the nomination. Miller was asked to cease talking about his ties to the Liberal leader. (Liberal spokesperson Archambault said the call was set up “to address the worries of certain candidates” in Ville-Marie.)

Miller denies the CEDA voting site was kept open out of favouritism. Rather, he said, closing it “would confuse voters and suppress the vote. [The location] was changed precipitously, and we didn’t know if people were playing tricks,” Miller said.

His relationship with Trudeau is well known. The two met at Montreal’s private Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf. The pair travelled abroad together. On his campaign website, Miller vaunts his connections to the Liberal leader—he was adviser and fundraising director for Trudeau’s leadership campaign. “I’ve been an integral part of helping [Trudeau] succeed over the last six or seven years,” Miller said. “I never said I was the preferred candidate. I don’t know if I used ‘Justin’s guy,’ but I’ve told people who asked how I know Justin. I don’t hide it. It’s one of the reasons I got into politics.”

It isn’t the first time the Liberal party has faced accusations of favouritism in its open nominations process. Former Liberal candidate in the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina, Christine Innes, recently filed a $1.5-million defamation lawsuit against Trudeau and Ontario Liberal co-chair David MacNaughton, claiming she was victim of a “full-scale character attack” after she sought the nomination for an upcoming by-election. Innes claims the party would only green-light her nomination if she agreed not to run in the new riding of University-Rosedale, now home to star MP Chrystia Freeland. Fellow would-be candidate Ryan Davey also dropped out, claiming the party stymied his candidacy in favour of star candidate Adam Vaughan.

Miller says he is put off by Maclean’s reports of memberships bought by his supporters. “These are very, very serious accusations, and our team will take them seriously,” he says. He bristles at the suggestion that his long-time friend favoured him. “I worked really hard with my team for six or seven months. No one was rubbing their hands in the background. I don’t believe I was favoured in any way.”

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Questions raised about votes in Marc Miller’s Liberal nomination

  1. I accept that barring Innes was acceptable, but these allegations are serious and the party should investigate. I am not so concerned about Miller touting his ties to Trudeau, since that appears not to have been condoned by the party, but these allegations of membership buying are troubling.

    • Martin tactics. Been happening forever. Martin took over the party right under Chretien’s nose – one riding association at a time – with similar tactics. Except he took the trouble to bring in “busloads of drunken students”, to quote Andrew Coyne.

      • I know they happened in the past, which is why Trudeau needs to address the allegations they are happening again.

    • Gayle,

      If you were barred from submitting a resume to a local business, and then were told you couldn’t have the job due to something your husband said at one time……would you still think it justified?

      that’s what happened to Innes. She was punished for something her husband did/said.

      Truth of course, is that Justin was just paying lip service to his “open nomination” commitments. It’s like everything else the Liberals are known for…say one thing, and do another.

      Not surprised really.

      • Your comparison is inapt.

        As the senior manager of several employees, if one of my employees conducts himself in a manner that harms the organization for which I work, I am accountable for that conduct. Which is exactly the way it should be.

        If she is running as a candidate, and does not have the ability to choose the right people to manage her campaign, she is of little use to the party.

        • And your reply was inept.

          This was not the conduct of an employee she was responsible for…it was her Husband. Are you saying that you are responsible for anything your husband says? Or is he responsible for anything you say? What about your kids?

          The action taken by Trudeau had nothing to do with Ms. Innes’ campaign…and even if her husband was running her campaign, the “bullying” supposedly took place before the campaign.

          Spin it all you want, this was just an excuse for your boy Justin, to keep an opening for his star candidate. Trudeau isn’t fooling anyone….only himself.

  2. Gosh even I’m wondering now if say my wife signed using her credit card but I’m the primary cardholder and the balance is paid from a joint account, would that follow the rules?

    Seems pretty unfair the way this article insinuates Marc’s direct involvement in ‘questionable’ tactics.

  3. What’s new?
    Here in BC it is an ancient custom of the Liberals to bus in sometimes hundreds of instant Liberals to vote for anointed candidates.
    When Trudeau has lunch at a ritzy restaurant with a candidate for Trinity-Spadina before the nomination contest it might signal to the others that they are part of the forlorn hope brigade – n’est ce pas?
    How much longer Trudeau will continue the “open” nomination stich is not really in doubt.
    How does ones one spell “hypocrite” in French?
    Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.

  4. Typical of the silver spoon crowd. Trudeau and Miller – they’re not in it for you.

    • Don’t you mean “spooner” crowd?

  5. Busing people in was stopped long time ago, but both parties did it. Mulroney bused em in when he ran for the leadership.

    Cons were a little perturbed in Alberta to discover that SIkhs knew that trick.

    However, it oesn’t matter if they pull names out of a hat…’s internal

  6. And The Chertienite Martinite Lieberal Civil War Rages On.

    Turdeau 2, the final nail in the coffin of the once “natural ruling party”, now “da turd Pardi”.

    Even with the ‘media party’s” help the Fibs are doomed like the dinosaurs that they are.

  7. There are other examples of Trudeau’s team intefering with so called open nominations as well. In Scarborough-Agincourt, one Muraly Srinarayandas was one who was seeking nomination. He had gone to the extend of opening an office on May 4 at 5 PM. But meanwhile he received numerous phonecalls from the so called emissaries of Trudeau asking him to drop off from the nomination as they were no longer assured of the victory to the prefered candidate. Apparently after getting told that the candidate will be red carded for future nominations, Muraly dropped out at 5 PM on May 4th infront of a crowd of over 100 people in his office.

  8. Actually, Ville-Marie — Le Sud-Ouest — Île-des-Soeurs is not “one of three new Quebec ridings.” Montreal still has 18 ridings. The three new ones are in the suburbs on the north shore and the south shore. Ville-Marie — Le Sud-Ouest — Île-des-Soeurs comes 61% from Jeanne-Le Ber, and has a transposed NDP majority of 5,612, which should increase as the 6,423 Bloc votes move on. Still, closer than on the 2011 margin in Jeanne-Le Ber. Incumbent Jeanne-Le Ber MP Tyrone Benskin has announced he intends to seek the nomination in Ville-Marie — Le Sud-Ouest — Île-des-Soeurs. Might be close?