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OTTAWA, Que. — The federal Liberals have forced a Montreal-area riding association to hand over campaign funds to the new candidate parachuted in to replace ousted incumbent Eva Nassif.

The party fired the riding association president and financial officer on Sunday, ensuring more than $75,000 in funding would be made available to Annie Koutrakis’ campaign.

The association originally refused to transfer the funds to Koutrakis, angry that the party had dropped Nassif as its candidate less than three weeks before the start of the election campaign.

As a result, Koutrakis had to pay for her election posters with money from party headquarters in Ottawa and had to negotiate with the owner of her riding office for a delay in paying rent.

Nassif told the Globe and Mail she was not nominated to run in the Vimy riding because she did not publicly support Trudeau as a feminist following the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Trudeau denied that was the reason but did not provide specifics.

Nassif handily won the riding for the Liberals in 2015, collecting over 46 per cent of the vote.

Koutrakis’ communications director Marc-Andre Blanchette expressed hope that the decision would turn the page on the controversy.

“We want to put this behind us and advance in the campaign,” he said in a phone interview. He said a campaign event Tuesday night attracted more than 200 people, which he sees as an indication voters will support the new candidate.

Giuseppe Margiotta, the ousted president of the Liberal riding association in Vimy, was bitter at being removed from his functions.

“I’ll go vote … but I won’t vote Liberal, that’s for sure,” said Margiotta, who has worked with the party for more than 10 years. He believes others in the riding will also shift their vote to protest Nassif’s treatment.

The association’s financial agent, Georges Abi Saad, was also relieved of his duties. Margiotta said Saad had always displayed the utmost professionalism and should have been allowed to continue in the role.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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