Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said his decision to remove former cabinet minister Sandra Morin as the party candidate in Regina Walsh Acres will not change.
Meili released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying the decision is a result of a confidential vetting process.
"We have done our utmost to respect this privacy in all cases, and it remains our hope to do so. However, the public assertion that the former candidate in Walsh Acres was removed without being given reasons for that removal is simply false," the statement said.
It said Morin has been informed of the reasons verbally and in writing.
"These decisions are not taken lightly, but the reasons for this choice are compelling and I stand firmly behind this decision," Meili said.
Meili said the party will hold a new nomination process, but the constituency association has refused to this point.
Barb Dedi, president of the Regina Walsh Acres NDP constituency association, said she was called by the provincial NDP CEO John Tzupa more than a week ago and told there would have to be a new nominating convention.
"(Tzupa) advised me that Sandra was not the candidate and when I asked why he said that was confidential. So basically, that's all the information I have. We have not been given any reasons for it, although we've requested it by email and by letter," Dedi said.
"We are proceeding as a constituency executive to ensure that Sandra gets elected and we are not participating in another nomination."
Morin says 'nothing new has come to light'
Morin is no political newcomer. She served eight years as an MLA for Regina Walsh Acres from 2003 to 2011. She held a position in cabinet as Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation in the Lorne Calvert government.
Morin won a contested nomination in May 2019.
She said she is "absolutely shocked Leader Ryan Meili would rather fight his own members and candidates" than fight the Saskatchewan Party.
Morin said she was cleared through the vetting process prior to becoming the candidate.
"There is absolutely nothing new that has come to light. I can state that 100 per cent unequivocally."
Morin said she had one verbal conversation with the party where she indicated she felt their position was "ridiculous" and was provided information in writing on Wednesday.
She said what the party claims the vetting process revealed does not meet the bar — in her opinion — to remove a candidate.
Morin said she is bound by the confidentially agreement from disclosing the allegation until a hearing is held.
"I'm standing with every other woman who has been held to a higher bar than other people in the category they are being judged in. This is incredibly frustrating."
Morin said she has heard from people from across the province reacting to her removal. She said messages of support cross party lines.
"There's no justifiable reason for Mr. Meili to bully or sideline me or the members who voted for me. I am going to continue on until I have exhausted all measures."
Morin said she can get past this issue if Meili has a conversation with her and they work toward her reinstatement.
Dedi said the constituency association would look at any new information if it was "credible," but to this point has been told nothing by the party executive.
"I've been involved in the party, working in the party, for over 42 years. And this is very strange for me to have to participate around this type of activity," Dedi said.
She said the constituency executive's request is simply, "reinstate Sandra."
Dedi said she believes the NDP can win the seat it lost to the Saskatchewan Party's Warren Steinley in 2011. The seat has been vacant since September 2019, when Steinley resigned to run for the Conservative Party in the federal election.
Dedi said the constituency has been campaigning hard for more than a year and is ready for the election.
The Saskatchewan Party nominated Derek Meyers in January. Meyers was the sports director and sports anchor at Global Regina before starting his own business.
Former Unifor leader backs Morin
It is not just Dedi who is backing Morin. Former Unifor Local 594 President Kevin Bittman is rallying behind her candidacy as well.
Morin's candidate Facebook page posted a message from Bittman on Wednesday afternoon.
"It is time to take back the riding and that starts with listening to the people of the riding. Walsh Acres has put forward their candidate in a democratic process and we expect to see Sandra Morin on the Ballot on Oct 26, 2020," it said.
Bittman guided the local union during the lockout at the Co-op refinery complex, which lasted six months. He stepped down shortly after an agreement was reached in June.
He said in his statement on Morin's page that the government did not support local workers during the lockout.
"Sandra will be that MLA and I will do whatever is needed to ensure democracy is upheld. I endorse Sandra for the NDP candidacy of Regina Walsh Acres and look forward to knocking on doors to let my neighbours know she is the right person to represent us at the Saskatchewan Legislature."
Carla McCrie, one of Bittman's former colleagues at the refinery and on the union executive, withdrew herself from potentially replacing Morin on the ballot. She posted a message on Facebook on Tuesday.
"Given the tight timeline to the election and all the information I've learned over the past week, I am withdrawing my name as the NDP nominee for the Walsh Acres MLA candidate."
Dedi said McCrie was informed that Morin had stepped down as the candidate and that was not the case.