Tory Deathwish in Ontario: Party Bosses Cutting Grassroots

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Do The Tories Have A Death Wish?
by Charles W. Conn
The federal riding of Halton lies west of Toronto. The city of Milton is in the centre and corners of Oakville and Burlington lie on its southern border. The rest is farm, estate and small village country. It's a natural Tory stronghold and the Tories are doing everything they can to hand it over to the Liberals.

It's Garth Turner's riding. He was a staunch Tory until he offended some sensitive person(s) in the PMO and the Party threw him out. Now he's a staunch Liberal.
 
They are planning to appoint another candidate, ­ in Halton this time.
 
 
It must be quite puzzling for the 'smart guys' in the Tory PMO to see the polls continuing to show them lagging the Liberals in 98-seat southern Ontario. Let me venture an opinion. It's not just the avalanching list of errors of omission and commission made by the Harper-quarterbacked government. It's also the thuggish behaviour of Doug Finley who runs the Party's political operations ­ PoliOps in bureaucratic newspeak. He and his gang of yespersons are alienating riding memberships so much that they will not work for appointed "Stars". And grassroots do feed the lawn!

By his disdainful contempt for the membership in ridings like Toronto Centre, Guelph, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Mississauga South, Halton and who knows how many others, Finley is virtually guaranteeing the Tories will do even less well in southern Ontario in October 2009 than they did in January 2006. Quebec won't offset and they'll be lucky to maintain a minority government.

The pattern of misbehaviour varies only slightly in detail.

In Toronto Centre, Mark Warner was duly elected as their candidate by the membership. PoliOps threw him out and appointed a non-resident. He lost a by-election. (Hal Jackman was not pleased!)

In Guelph, the membership elected Brent Barr to be their candidate by a substantial majority over Gloria Kovach, a local city councillor. PoliOps threw out Barr and installed Kovach. She will lose in the September by-election.

In Mississauga East-Cooksville, PoliOps installed Melissa Bhagat, a Liberal living in Brampton, as the candidate before the new board, never mind the membership, had a chance to organize a candidate search and fair election. She will lose.

It is likely that so much fuss was raised in The Star, the Mississauga News and bloggers about the underhanded treatment of the membership in Mississauga East-Cooksville that PoliOps had to tell Major Ted Opitz of Etobicoke that they couldn't give him an automatic appointment in Mississauga South after all ­ he'd have to campaign for the candidacy! (Mississauga South's two-time candidate, Phil Green, had been unceremoniously told that he wouldn't be allowed to even contest for the candidacy this time in order to give Opitz an opening.) Mississauga South was finally allowed to hold their candidate election June 10 at which date poor Major Opitz was blown away by a resident, Hugh Arrison. So far, PoliOps has not thrown him out. He might have a chance because the membership will work for a candidate they chose.

Halton has suffered a textbook combination of political Dirty Tricks.

First of all the riding's board has been asking PoliOps for permission to hold a candidate election for nearly two years. Their requests have been denied and, most recently, simply ignored. (One might wonder how an unelected, unaccountable staff can deny the elected, accountable representatives of the membership, but that's Tory democracy nowadays under the new Rules & Regulations drafted by [surprise] PoliOps.)

Halton riding has a consistent and active membership of around 550 and a significant amount of money in the bank. It has always had a healthy riding association ­ active in many community events and experienced at winning elections. There have been at least three very well-qualified members who have announced their intention to seek the candidacy for the same two years. All the requirements for holding a candidate selection process have been in place. It is axiomatic that the longer a candidate has to work the riding the more likely he/she is to have a positive influence on the outcome of an election.

However, PoliOps has decided to appoint Lisa Raitt as the Tory candidate in Halton.

Lisa Raitt at least lives in the riding. She is the CEO of the Toronto Harbour Commission. Formerly, she was chief counsel for the THC and was responsible for extracting the $35M penalty from Toronto City Council for their holdup of the Island Airport. Clearly a "Star" candidate!

While at the THC, Ms. Raitt hired two lobbyists ­ Vic Gupta and Mark Spiro. Vic Gupta is the Principal of Prime Strategies - a PR firm in Toronto. Mark Spiro is a Partner at Goodmans LLP in Toronto and ran the Target Management Group for Doug Finley during the 2005-06 election. He has recently backed off from open contact with Ms. Raitt, but is still a key advisor to Doug Finley.

Investigators might possibly find it useful to also probe Toronto city councillors and mayor Miller about Ms. Raitt's tenure at THC.

Now here's where it gets a little complicated. Early in 2008, both Lisa Raitt and the Halton board were told that Lisa Raitt was going to be the Tory candidate in the next election. Ms. Raitt was introduced to the board as such. Only one board member resigned in protest, the rest prepared to dig in their heels.

It is likely that the fuss raised by the newspapers and blogs about the nefarious treatment of the Mississauga East-Cooksville membership caused PoliOps a little temporary concern (see Mississauga South) and sometime in February/March 2008 they told Lisa Raitt she'd have to campaign for the candidacy (like Major Ted Opitz). She flatly refused. She gave the bogus excuse that her position in a government agency didn't allow her to campaign for a political position. This is not true. More likely she was concerned about the optics among Toronto city councillors and/or she simply didn't want to lower herself, or exert herself, to engage in a contest for a position she had previously been assured was hers and that she still wanted to have.

So PoliOps made a tactical shift. The membership in Halton will not be allowed to choose their own candidate. Whenever the writ is dropped for the next federal election, the cover of the call to arms will be used to sneak in Lisa Raitt as the official Party Representative.

Recently, Ms. Raitt has been showing up at community events and behaving for all the world as though she is in fact the Tory candidate for Halton.

Investigators might find it useful to ask Ms. Raitt whether she is going to compete for the nomination or whether she has already been promised the candidacy.

Talk about abusing the membership!

The National Council of the Conservative Party is elected to serve and protect the interests of the membership and the Party. Instead, as recent events have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt, National Councillors have abdicated their positional responsibility and ceded their authority to the bully-tactics of Doug Finley and his gang of fellow hirelings.

National Councillors know full well what's going on. I for one sent complete details of what transpired in Mississauga East-Cooksville to: Don Plett ­ President, Richard Ciano ­ Vice President, Jean LeBlanc ­ Secretary, Lois Brown ­ Ontario Councillor, Kara Johnson ­ Ontario Councillor and Susan McArthur ­ Ontario Councillor. Not one had the courtesy, never mind the integrity, to respond.

Furthermore, they can read the media accounts that relate the destruction being wrought, not just in southern Ontario, but also in Quebec, the Maritimes, Manitoba, Alberta and B.C. just in the last year. And probably three time as much damage is being done in ridings lacking the juice to fight back or get media attention.


National Councillors and the PMO must soon realize that Finley's actions are wrecking the enthusiasm of party members by denying the memberships and boards the fundamental democratic right to choose who will represent them in elections and parliament. If they don't do something about Finley and his gang they will rightly bear the blame for the next reign of Liberal socialism.

In addition to the persons named above, you may wish to contact:

Keith Hesse, long time and still current Halton board member, 905-876-9900 (home), 905-34-5307 (cell). Lisa Raitt told him she won't declare because she's worried about the media and Toronto Council finding out about her responsibility for the Island Airport. (Rumour has it the Tories want to make her Transport Minister to expand Toronto Island Airport so Porter will buy more planes from Bombardier in Montreal!!!}

Tasha Woodcock, Ontario PoliOps, 613-755-2192.
Wally Butts, south central Ontario Region PoliOps, 519-586-3019
Karma MacGregor, GTA Region PoliOps, 416-846-8236.

Guy Giorno and Tony Kenanke in the PMO with Doug Finley. 

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