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Former riding president alleges meddling in Conservative GTA nomination

A former Conservative is accusing party brass of blocking him from running to be nominated as a candidate in the next election.

Anthony Yacub, 24, said he believes the party made him ineligible for the nomination in order to run a “star” candidate in his riding, currently held by Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell.

“It’s a real slap in the face to grassroots people,” he told CBC News. “What does it say to them? It basically says, ‘We don’t really care what you think.'”

Yacub was the Conservative riding president in the greater Toronto area riding of Pickering-Uxbridge until he decided to seek the federal nomination for the riding last September. (Due to changes in electoral boundary maps, the riding will be called Pickering-Brooklin in the next election.)

Yacub said he initially felt supported by the party when he told them he was planning on seeking the nomination. Three months later, he said, he started getting “weird vibes” from a regional party organizer and in February, he was told he was ineligible to seek the nomination.

WATCH | Former Conservative riding association president says the party’s nomination system needs reform

Former Conservative riding association president says the party’s nomination system needs reform

19 hours ago

Duration 0:24

Anthony Yacub says more needs to be done to allow “ordinary” people to run in nomination races. He is calling for Elections Canada to regulate these races.

This is at least the fourth time Conservative Party brass have been accused of interfering in local nomination races in the run-up to the next election — allegations the party has denied.

“I’ve never seen a party that’s going this hard against their own people,” Yacub said.

His claim hinges on an interpretation of a rule in the party’s electoral district association (EDA) constitution.

In a statement, Conservative Party spokesperson Sarah Fischer says Yacub was ineligible to run because of a neutrality agreement he signed when he was on his riding’s nomination committee in 2023. According to the party’s rules, the riding president is automatically on the nomination committee if they are “willing and able to participate.”

The signed agreement, which Fischer shared with CBC News, says that committee members must agree to “maintain neutrality with respect to the nomination process.” The rule is meant to ensure fairness in the nomination process.

But Yacub said he received assurances from two party officials — one in writing, which he shared with CBC News — that if he resigned from the executive and the nomination committee, he would be free to run for the nomination himself.

He said the rule was reinterpreted to prohibit him from seeking the nomination only after he launched his campaign.

Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks during a rally in Ottawa, on Sunday, March 24, 2024.
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks during a rally in Ottawa on Sunday, March 24, 2024. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

An internal party memo obtained by CBC News was sent on February 16, 2024, five months after Yacub left his post as riding president.

It contained a “clarification” stating that anyone who served on a nomination committee since the last election would be ineligible to seek a nomination. The clarification effectively barred Yacub from running for the nomination.

“It was a precedent-setting, retroactive application to me. So I said right off the bat, I’m not going to take that,” he said.

“They can’t just change the rules halfway through the race and say, ‘Oh well, you’re done.'”

Yacub said he tried to appeal the ruling but was unsuccessful. He  said he sold more than 400 memberships and believes he would have won the nomination, had he been allowed to run for it.

There is currently no confirmed CPC candidate for the riding.

Yacub said that when he met with party leaders, they told him it would “not end well” if he continued to fight.

Internal documents obtained by CBC News also show a party official expressing a concern about Yacub accessing the party’s voter database system, CIMS, as he was preparing to launch his nomination campaign — something that could give him an unfair advantage as it would give him access to voter lists.

Yacub said he printed off some data as recently as two weeks before stepping down from the executive because some senior volunteers preferred paper copies. He denied ever using the data improperly or in a way that would benefit his campaign.

Multiple allegations of nomination meddling

The Conservatives have faced at least three other allegations of party brass favouring one candidate over another in recent nomination races. Last week, former journalist Sabrina Maddeaux alleged “clear evidence of a corrupted process” after she dropped out of the nomination race in Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill.

Last year in the Ontario riding of Oxford, the party was accused of parachuting a candidate into the riding and displacing a local leader and anti-abortion campaigner. A report in The Hill Times says local Conservatives had concerns about the nomination of former Ontario PC MPP Parm Gill in Milton, Ont.

The Conservative Party has denied all claims of wrongdoing. Liberals have faced similar accusations in the past.

Yacub said he decided to speak publicly about his experience after Maddeaux shared hers.

“She actually has a lot of courage to come out because a lot of people are very scared to say anything because you’d be blacklisted,” he said.

“I was very disappointed with the Conservative Party. They just decided to throw her out and then that’s what they did with me.” 

Political parties have the right to choose their candidates however they want. Yacub said he’d like to see these races regulated by Elections Canada.

Yacub said he has been involved with Conservative politics since he was 14 years old. Last September at a Conservative Party Convention, he won an award for his work as a riding president. He is no longer a member of the party.

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