OTTAWA - Ousted candidate Christine Innes is appealing to Liberals in Trinity-Spadina to help her fight against the “undemocratic” way she has been blocked from representing the party in the coming byelection.
“I cannot understand how the Liberal leadership could allow a handful of people to act in an undemocratic fashion, contrary to Charter rights and values, by making unproven allegations and then not allowing any due process to refute those allegations,” Innes says in a letter circulated this week to more than two dozen Liberals in the riding.
The letter also says that Innes is considering some kind of legal action, though no specifics are provided.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said recently that “weeks” of warnings were delivered to Innes before he made the controversial decision on March 13 to disallow her as the Liberal candidate in the coming byelection in Trinity-Spadina. The warnings revolved around complaints of “bullying” of young Liberals, Trudeau said.
Innes, who has run in two previous federal elections as a Liberal candidate, is countering Trudeau’s claim by circulating copies of email correspondence between her and campaign officials in which there is no mention of the bullying complaints.
The emails also show that Innes and Ontario campaign co-chief David MacNaughton were talking about a “path forward” to approving her candidacy less than a week before Innes was told on March 13 that she was not allowed to run in the byelection or the 2015 general election.
In the letter accompanying the emails, Innes states: “At no time were the details of any of the allegations made by David MacNaughton shared with me, nor was I provided any opportunity to respond.”
Trudeau campaign officials insist that Innes was made aware of the complaints as far back as February, in face-to-face meetings, if not emails.
MacNaughton says he was obliged to protect the confidentiality of the people who provided written evidence of the bullying. “The information that came to us about intimidation and bullying was confidential for obvious reasons,” he said when asked about the emails.
Innes believes that she was blocked from running in Trinity-Spadina because she wasn’t going along with the Trudeau team’s larger plans for Toronto once the riding boundaries are massively shuffled in the 2015 general election.
The current riding of Trinity-Spadina — which had been represented by NDP Olivia Chow until she decided to run for mayor — will disappear in 2015. Much of it will be swallowed up in the new ridings of University-Rosedale and Fort York-Spadina.
Innes alleges the Trudeau team wanted her to run in Fort York-Spadina so that new MP Chrystia Freeland could move from Toronto Centre to the University-Rosedale riding.
But Innes argued against the deal, saying it was “offensive,” and counter to the spirit of open nominations. On March 10, she notified MacNaughton in an email that she wouldn’t be signing the deal, laid out in something called “Form 12.”
“I continue to believe that we should focus our efforts on the possible byelection, and delay any discussion of the nomination process for the three related downtown Toronto ridings until after things are settled in Trinity-Spadina,” Innes wrote.
On March 13, Innes was told that she would not be approved as a candidate. She tells Liberals in her letter that she found out at the same time as the media, and that this was the first time she heard about alleged bullying.
MacNaughton said in his email: “Not only did you reject this (riding deal) solution out of hand, but your campaign team began to use intimidation and bullying on young volunteers. Derogatory remarks were made to enthusiastic Liberals about one of our leading MPs. Suggestions were made to volunteers that their future in the Liberal party would be in jeopardy if they were on the “wrong side” in a nomination battle.”
Innes writes in the letter of the emotional toll taken on her in the past month and of the exile she now feels from her lifelong party.
“Despite the party leadership’s public attempts to destroy my reputation I have been given extraordinary comfort by the hundreds of supportive calls, emails and texts I have received from friends, volunteers and others of all political stripes across the country. They have encouraged me to fight against this unfair and undemocratic action,” she writes.
“Friends and colleagues in the legal community have offered to support me in legal action. This support has overwhelmed me and will require some careful thought and reflection in the days to come.”