OTTAWA - We are about to learn whether all is fair in love and federal Conservative nomination battles.
The struggle for the party nod in Oakville North-Burlington pits sitting MP Eve Adams, who wants to move over from her existing riding to this newly created enclave, against Natalia Lishchyna, a chiropractor who thought the nomination would be hers until the Adams bulldozer headed west.
So far, the battle has featured the ousting of the party’s executive director, Dimitri Soudas, who says he chose love over party, a concussion, a couple of dogs borrowed for a photo opportunity, allegations of verbal abuse, a temper tantrum at a car wash and a stern warning to Adams from the party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
That was just the warm-up.
On the eve of the Saturday vote, both camps are now trading charges of electoral fraud, broken rules, intimidation and character assassination.
And yes, the gang that brought you the oxymoronically named Fair Elections Act is now accusing each other of vote suppression, overspending and harassing and illegal phone calls and have launched formal complaints with the party, Elections Canada and the CRTC.
Thursday, Lishchyna’s camp accused the Adams team of being a bunch of criminals and Adams said Lishchyna had surrounded herself with bullies who are disloyal to the party. (All on background, of course).
Lishchyna’s campaign says it has now uncovered 38 cases of potential membership fraud, based on 238 calls to those on a riding membership list of about 1,800.
They include those who said their party memberships were paid for by the Adams campaign or “someone else,” and others who were sold Conservative memberships while holding membership in the Liberal party, a violation of the party constitution.
Lishchyna’s spokesperson, John Mykytyshyn, said he would continue to seek other such violations up to Saturday’s vote and beyond.
Adams’ campaign immediately countered with a complaint to Elections Canada saying the calls are illegal because they do not identify on whose behalf they are made and because of intrusive questions asking how they paid for their party membership.
Lishchyna’s campaign said there is no requirement to reveal the client, and, indeed, it is standard practice not to do so.
Soudas called the tactic used in the calls “voter suppression.’’
In the audio of one call provided to the Star, a voter is asked who paid for her membership.
“Some guy calling on Eve’s behalf,’’ she says.
In a separate complaint to the party, Adams stands accused of leaving a “threatening personal message” on the voice mail of a party official from a neighbouring riding.
Soudas denied that, saying the official was merely asked to cease making “defamatory and personal” comments about Adams in seeking support for Lishchyna.
Before we got to this point, of course, the Adams bid had all the hallmarks of a soap opera—Soudas, the executive director of the Conservative party, was fired for working on the campaign of his partner, Adams, turning it into a story of love, saying he had to help his partner after she suffered a concussion. Adams was accused of verbally abusing members of the riding association and refusing to leave a meeting when requested.
The party investigated those allegations and another that she had improperly used information from the party’s internal database, but she was cleared to seek the nomination, although placed on a short leash by the party.
Adams had also been warned about an embarrassing tantrum over a $6 Ottawa car wash that she felt was not up to her standards.
While under siege, the couple borrowed a couple of pugs from their neighbours and allowed themselves to be photographed walking the borrowed canines.
What we have learned again is the most vicious political fights are within the family, whether it is the Liberals in Trinity-Spadina, where a spurned candidate has launched a lawsuit, or the recent internecine war in which loose cannon Conservative Rob Anders was defeated by challenger Ron Liepert.
In this campaign’s final hours, the Conservative party appears to be simply keeping its heads down, hoping it can get past the vote with no more collateral damage.
Adams and Soudas have made themselves exceedingly unpopular in Harper’s office and, it is said, 24 Sussex Drive, where Laureen Harper is no fan of the pair.
But for Harper, an Adams victory Saturday might be the best outcome.
It is hard to imagine he would relish having both Adams and Anders in his caucus, scouting around for something to do, for another year or more.