OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau says he was striking a blow against bullying and in favour of young people in politics when he blocked a former candidate from running in the Trinity-Spadina byelection.
“I have been absolutely consistent that I will not accept bullying on my watch as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, because those are the kinds of behaviours that led us to being 36 seats in the House of Commons,” Trudeau says.
With some Liberals continuing to grumble about alleged heavy-handedness by Trudeau and his campaign team, the Liberal leader is giving out a few more details on what led up to the decision to block Christine Innes from running in Trinity-Spadina.
Innes was the candidate in 2008 and 2011 and many of the Liberals in Trinity-Spadina became members through her campaigns or the campaigns of her husband, Tony Ianno, who was MP for the riding from 1993 to 2006.
The riding is now vacant because NDP MP Olivia Chow, who defeated Ianno in 2006, stepped down to run for mayor of Toronto.
Trudeau is now saying that “young volunteers” were the complainants in the Innes case and that there was a process lasting “weeks” before the Liberals made the decision to block her candidacy.
Innes says the falling-out is a result of her refusal to sign a deal on where she planned to run in 2015 and go along with the Trudeau team’s larger plans for the redrawn GTA boundaries in the next election.
“There were many, many meetings with her and her campaign team over the weeks leading up to this decision,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday.
“If someone is engaging in intimidation tactics and bullying young volunteers, that’s simply something that is unacceptable.”
Though Innes has said in emails to supporters that she was never given a chance to respond to charges of alleged bullying and intimidation by her campaign team — charges she’s called “baseless” — Trudeau said the opposite was true.
“Warnings were not heeded, which led us to this unfortunate situation,” he said.
“This is a big change in the way politics is being done. I am serious about being committed to politics that is done in an open, an inclusive and responsible way, where the games and the backroom negotiations of the past simply will not be accepted.”
Trudeau said he was given a mandate nearly a year ago to “clean up” the Liberal party and the Trinity-Spadina decision is part of it. He also stressed, as he has before, that he wants it to be an example to any others who might be engaging in bullying or old-time Liberal infighting in the lead-up to the 2015 election.