Wasaga resident sues PCs for nominating Collingwood mayor

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Simcoe-Gray PC nomination contestant files complaint claiming party lacks the power to bypass membership vote by nominating a candidate

A Wasaga Beach resident is suing the Progressive Conservative Party over his appointment of Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson as local candidate in the upcoming provincial election.

Stella Ambler and Saunderson were among four nominees and candidates to become the PC candidate for Simcoe-Gray. The usual process is for party members to vote for their local candidate.

However, in early June, before a local vote was taken, Premier Doug Ford announced that Saunderson was the local candidate. No party vote took place.

Ambler sent a press release stating that his position is that the party does not have the power to nominate a candidate based on the PC Party constitution.

“The PC Party does not have the power to bypass the democratic process in this constituency,” Ambler said in the press release. “Under our party constitution, PC party members in Simcoe-Gray are the only ones who have the right to choose their PC party as candidate in the next election.

The nomination contest for Simcoe-Gray opened in the fall of 2020. Current Simcoe-Gray MPP Jim Wilson has announced he will no longer be running. He has been a local MLA since 1990 and, with the exception of the last two years, has been a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus. Since 2018, he has sat as an independent Member of Parliament.

The next provincial elections are scheduled for June 2022.

After the nomination, Ambler began to challenge the party’s decision, suggesting it was undemocratic. Ambler, who has lived in Wasaga Beach since 2020, filed an appeal with the PC Party’s nominating committee. The party rejected the appeal.

The party’s requests for comment were turned down, with representatives saying they did not comment on internal affairs.

A petition also circulated locally calling on the PC Party to allow local members to elect their candidate.

According to Ambler’s statement, the party executive passed a motion in January 2020 authorizing the provincial nominating committee to nominate up to 10 candidates for elections in Ontario based on direction from the party leader.

Ambler argues that the rule is new and has not been approved by all party members.

“The PC party executive only has the power to make rules consistent with the PC party constitution,” Ambler said. “The executive does not have the power to pass rules that contradict the constitution. In the case of Simcoe-Gray, there is no rule allowing such an appointment several months after the nomination process begins, with candidates and members all expecting an open, public and democratic outcome.

Ambler is asking the courts to force the party to have a local candidacy vote, but is not asking for financial compensation.

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