OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau’s decision to block a candidate who wanted to run for the Liberal party in the coming Trinity-Spadina byelection has been condemned by the riding’s Liberal executive members.
They say the move to block Christine Innes, a two-time failed candidate in the riding and wife of former MP Tony Ianno, was undemocratic and amounted to the leader breaking his promise of open nomination meetings in all ridings.
“There was absolutely no due or fair process … and there was absolutely zero local involvement,” riding president Julia Metus said in a statement Thursday.
“This is contrary to everything the Liberal party — new or otherwise — is supposed to stand for.”
The executive voted at an urgent meeting late Wednesday to condemn the move and request a meeting with Trudeau to review the decision.
Trudeau’s team last week said complaints of bullying and intimidation tactics by Ianno prompted the decision to bar Innes from running for the byelection nomination in Trinity-Spadina and from seeking a nomination in any riding for the 2015 general election.
Trudeau this week defended the move as necessary to demonstrate that party infighting will no longer be tolerated.
However, Innes has denied the allegations of overly aggressive campaigning. She maintains she’s being punished for refusing to rule out challenging Chrystia Freeland, one of Trudeau’s hand-picked star recruits, in a nomination contest for the 2015 election.
In the statement Thursday, the executive backed Innes’ assessment, accusing the party of making “unproven and malicious allegations against the candidate and her family to cover up its desire to control the nomination process.”
Trinity-Spadina and the existing riding of Toronto Centre, which Freeland won in a byelection late last year, will be chopped into three new ridings for the general election, due to redistribution.
Freeland intends to run in the northernmost new riding of University-Rosedale and the party had asked Innes to promise to that she’d seek the nomination in the southernmost new riding of Spadina-Fort York. She refused.
Her campaign team had been preparing for months for a byelection in Trinity-Spadina, which became vacant last week when New Democrat Olivia Chow quit to run for mayor of Toronto. Her team had simultaneously been trying to recruit support for a pro-Innes slate to take control of the University-Rosedale executive.
Complaints lodged by several young Liberals, and obtained by The Canadian Press, specifically singled out Ianno for suggesting they’d have no future in the party if they supported Freeland and questioning Trudeau’s leadership.
Ianno, who was instrumental in organizing a caucus revolt against former prime minister Jean Chretien, was the Liberal MP for Trinity-Spadina from 1993 until he was defeated by Chow in 2006.
Innes lost to Chow in 2008 and 2011.