Conservative party members in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell say their candidate was selected by party brass with little to no input from local rank-and-file, spurring one official to resign in protest.
First-time candidate Susan McArthur was announced as the Conservative flagbearer in the eastern Ontario riding by party leader Erin O'Toole on social media last Saturday. The news caught the local riding association by surprise.
McArthur lives in Hudson, Que., located just east of the riding on the western side of the Ottawa River, and works for a finance firm in Toronto. She told the Hawkesbury Tribune-Express that she "wanted to run in a riding that was an Ontario riding ... [and] bilingual."
Local members say McArthur's selection was a fait accompli, occurring with little involvement of the riding association and announced without warning. Joël Charbonneau, vice-president of the riding association, resigned in the wake of the announcement.
"I find it unacceptable that the board of directors learned [of] the news through social media," he told Radio-Canada in French.
"That is deplorable — most of the time, the announcement is made to the members."
Preferred candidate rejected
The riding association's preferred candidate, Pierre Lemieux, had been disqualified from running by party officials just 48 hours before the nomination deadline, Charbonneau said.
Lemieux held the seat from 2006 to 2015, but lost in 2015 and again in 2019. Conservative Party rules bar unsuccessful candidates from mounting a third challenge without approval.
"Waiving this requirement is an exception, not the rule," a spokesperson for the national campaign told Radio-Canada.
Charbonneau questions the timing of the decision, which left little time for someone else to seek the signatures necessary to secure the nomination.
"There is no way to run a campaign in 48 hours," he said.
McArthur, a newcomer to politics, will face an uphill battle to win the seat. Lemieux was defeated by more than 10 points in 2019.
In September's vote, she'll face incumbent Liberal Francis Drouin and the NDP's Konstantine Malakos, who also ran in 2019. Daniel Lapierre and Brennan Austring are also on the ballot, for the Greens and People's Party, respectively.