Would-be Progressive Conservative candidates are being flatly told to hit the road to make way for hand-picked favourites, the Star has learned.
The latest to get the hook is Ade Olumide, a candidate for the Tory nomination in Ottawa West—Nepean, who was eager to butt heads with Randall Denley, a long-time Ottawa Citizen columnist personally anointed by Leader Tim Hudak.
“I was informed (Tuesday) night by the president of the Ontario PC Party in writing that I will not be allowed to contest the party nomination in Ottawa West Nepean,” said Olumide, founder of the Ottawa Taxpayer Advocacy Group, in an email Wednesday.
“To my volunteers, members and supporters I say a heart felt thank you; I recognize this news is very disappointing,” said Olumide.
The reign of terror, as one insider called it, comes as the party, which conceivably could form the next Ontario government, searches for candidates for 107 ridings.
Anointing candidates started out as isolated practice but has become common as the Conservatives vie for candidates with name-recognition.
Included in the stable of so-called high-profile candidates is CHCH TV’s Donna Skelly, who was another one to be anointed at the expense of a long-time Conservative party member in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale.
Several riding association members there quit because of the party meddling.
Tory Leader Tim Hudak defended the party’s screening process, saying sometime people don’t make the cut.
“Our party has a screening process to determine candidates fit the bill as a potential candidate and MPP. It’s an arm’s length process that looks at these decisions,” he told reporters at Queen’s Park, insisting it is an open process.
According to party insiders that’s not the case at all, noting that the Ottawa-West Nepean riding association didn’t even know that the three existing candidates were being strong-armed by party officials to pull out of the race.
“Seems to be a bizarre reign of terror,” said one party insider.
It still sticks in the craw in Tory caucus members and party faithful that Hudak stood by and watched Norm Sterling, a veteran Progressive Conservative MPP and former cabinet minister, get stripped of the nomination for the riding of Carleton- Mississippi Mills by Ontario Landowners Association activist and cash-crop farmer Jack MacLaren.
“I really was upset at the way it went down,” MPP Bill Murdoch (Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound) told the Star.
Political observers from the Belleville area are expecting the next shoe to drop when Todd Smith, a local radio personality, gets tapped by Hudak to run in Prince Edward-Hastings against Liberal cabinet minister Leona Dombrosky.