MONTREAL — People vying for the federal Liberal nomination in one of the few remaining open ridings in Montreal are not-so-subtly suggesting the party is delaying the vote to favour a perceived star candidate who is a friend of Leader Justin Trudeau.
Melanie Joly, whose charm and fundraising and get-out-the-vote abilities make her highly coveted, became well-known in Montreal after her novice political campaign in 2013 ended with her finishing second in the race to become the city’s mayor.
A lawyer and businesswoman, Joly helped organize Trudeau’s Liberal leadership campaign. She entered the crowded race in Ahuntsic-Cartierville riding — there are six candidates excluding Joly — in February.
Her late entrance and the fact the riding has not yet had its nomination meeting has fuelled speculation the party is delaying the date in order for Joly, 36, to sign up enough members come nomination day.
Ahuntsic-Cartierville is one of only three ridings on the island of Montreal with no Liberal name. The other potential candidates say the delay in the nomination vote is hurting the party no matter who wins because little time will be left before the scheduled October federal election to mount an effective campaign against the NDP’s star candidate, Maria Mourani.
“What are we waiting for?” asked Anthony Di Carlo, one of the Liberal hopefuls and a lieutenant in the Canadian Forces. “There is only one logical extension of that argument and it’s that maybe one candidate is not ready for (the nomination).”
Di Carlo and the others seeking the candidacy sent a letter to party brass in late April asking for a meeting with “all the candidates” to arrange a nomination date.
The email was also sent to the Joly campaign and the words “all the candidates” were in bold and underlined.
“We did not get a response (from the party),” Di Carlo said.
Viken Attarian, an engineer who is also going for the candidacy, said no matter who wins, “it’s (almost) too late” to campaign effectively against Mourani, who has held the riding since 2006 and whose NDP is polling first in the province.
He said the “candidate will be handicapped” because of the short time frame to raise funds and enhance his or her profile in the riding before the election.
Over the past 18 months Trudeau has been criticized for allegedly breaking his promise to have “open nominations in every riding in the country” after certain candidates accused the party of interfering to favour a preferred name.
A source in the party said the “delay” in the nomination vote for Ahuntsic “doesn’t make it fair and open anymore, it just makes it open.”
One other Montreal riding without a Liberal candidate is Saint-Leonard-Saint-Michel, whose incumbent Liberal MP, Massimo Pacetti, found out in March he won’t be allowed to run for the party following allegations of personal misconduct.
The third riding is Pointe-de-L’Ile, where the Liberals polled nine per cent in 2011 and where Bloc Leader Mario Beaulieu is running.
Liberal party spokesman Olivier Duchesneau denied the party is delaying the vote in Ahuntsic or trying to benefit Joly in any way.
He said the party still has to nominate candidates in eight Quebec ridings and “we can’t do them all at once.”
Duchesneau also denied the eventual nominee will be handicapped compared to Mourani because all seven are on the ground knocking on doors and getting the vote out.
“A campaign to win a nomination is exactly the same to a campaign to win an election,” he said.
Soraya Martinez, a spokeswoman for Joly, said she’s “heard the rumours” that her boss’s campaign is not going well and that Joly is having trouble selling membership cards.
“That is completely not the case,” she said. “We are ready (for the nomination vote) and Joly has no say when it is called.”
Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press