MLA for Edmonton-Decore-um

Don Martin, the former Calgary Herald columnist Edmonton businessman and one-time Wildrose Alliance candidate, announced on Monday that he had been barred from the Progressive Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Decore.

Balraj Manhas, a cab union president, was also told he was required to drop out of the race in Edmonton-Ellerslie. Manhas didn't have much to say on his forced removal except that it seemed to be on technical grounds:

Manhas said 25 signatures were required from members to allow him to run and he says he supplied 30.

“They asked me to pull out or they said they would put in the public that I was disqualified or something like that,” he said. “I only had a few minutes to decide.

Manhas reluctantly pulled out. He said he’d sent another email Monday morning inquiring for more information about why he would have been disqualified but hadn’t received a response.

“I need an answer from the party...if they open the nominations it should be fair for everybody,” he said. “If they don’t want to open the nominations, that’s fine.”
Manhas being barred may be related to this story from May of last year where Manhas attacked the City of Edmonton's Vehicle for Hire Industry Advisory Group. As per the SUN story, his own organization (United Cabbies Association) didn't like how drivers and owners weren't permitted onto the advisory group and that the meetings were closed-door.
When asked about the closed-door nature of the group's meetings, city staff explained that because the group is simply there to provide expert advise to the executive committee and not make binding decisions, it does not have to meet in public. The public, staff explained, can voice concerns about the industry at the committee meetings held at city hall.

It was also mentioned that Manhas' organization was somewhat ad-hoc and repeated requests for his membership list or terms of reference have been denied.

Manhas said his members are afraid their jobs could be at risk if their names are given to the city and become available to license owners. Meanwhile, he said licences are being sold on the black market for up to $200,000 while the industry remains without a watchdog.
Seems so long ago, the pre-Uber days, don't they?

Unlike Manhas, though, Don Martin isn't keeping remotely mum about the details.
On Friday March 6th 2015, hours before the Edmonton-Decore nomination, at around 6 pm I was given notice that I was disqualified as a Progressive Conservative Party nomination candidate for the provincial riding of Edmonton-Decore. I received a call from the Executive Director, Kelley Charlebois informing me of this disqualification. According to Mr. Charlebois an affidavit outlining misconduct on my part had been sworn, the contents of the document had been shared with the nominating committee, and that the committee had voted to disqualify me as a candidate.

Mr. Charlebois, when notifying me of this disqualification, exhibited highly irregular behavior. At the time he phoned me he briefly made me aware that the affidavit had been sworn, and then issued me an ultimatum – withdraw voluntarily within 5 minutes or a press release would be issued stating that I had been disqualified. Since I had not seen the affidavit, since the author was, and still remains unknown to me, and since I regarded Mr. Charlebois, actions akin to a Star Chamber proceeding, and morally equivalent to blackmail, I declined to withdraw.

It is my position that I was being asked to accept a finding misconduct that was completely unverifiable. Mr. Charlebois, in response to my statement on blackmail, immediately stated that we had no more to discuss and notified me that the press release stating that I was disqualified would be released. For reasons unexplained an unusual, he then phoned me back several minutes later in an attempt to somehow rationalize to me that his actions did not constitute blackmail, coercion, or otherwise. When I restated my disagreement with his actions he again hung up stating that he had nothing further to say to me. It would appear that despite using similar tactics, with affidavits of possibly dubious nature in the nomination contest in Edmonton-Ellerslie, he is not quite comfortable with this script yet.

At this time I am unaware of who swore the affidavit. I was also, at no time offered the chance to review the contents of the affidavit, nor given the opportunity to find out who swore the affidavit. Also an actual copy of the affidavit, to my knowledge, was at no time shared with the nominating committee. In fact it is my understanding, at this time, that Mr. Charlebois merely communicated his understanding of contents of the affidavit to the committee. At no time was I allowed to defend, explain, nor was I even aware of the existence of the affidavit prior to it being shared with the nominating committee.

As of today, I have still not seen the affidavit, nor am I aware of its contents or its author. Indeed, aside from oral statements made by Mr. Charlebois there is no actual physical proof, to me at this time, of its existence.

It is my opinion, in a fair and just democracy, that persons accused have reasonable right to recourse as well as the right to face their accusers. It is also my opinion that prior to submitting this affidavit to the nomination committee that the party had a moral obligation to consult with me in a private manner regarding whatever contents are in that document, if it exists, before a decision was made. I should have also been afforded the right to submit any explanation or evidence, as it may or may not be needed, to the nomination committee.

On the morning of Saturday, March the 7th, my campaign team sorrowfully labored in informing more than 400+ supporters that their choice in who would be their nominated PC party candidate would be deprived, along with their right as party members and supporters to cast a ballot. It was disheartening to witness the many new Canadians on my team, born in countries where there are minimal if any democratic rights to vote, contacting their friends and peers to inform them that their opportunity to vote had been taken away from them. When pressed for an explanation, all they could offer is that this was due to some backroom proceeding that neither they nor I understood. Many volunteers on my team are community leaders from visible minority communities; a beautiful cross-section of cultures, religions, and backgrounds. I was humbled that they were and remain willing to support me; I am morally outraged that they have been disenfranchised.

The next logical step will be to obtain this affidavit and to learn the identity and motivations of its author. I will be pursuing this course of action using whatever resources necessary. I hope while doing so I will have the co-operation of our party. At this time I do not believe that what occurred was done with the knowledge of the leader of our party, but rather a small, cohort of persons with motives unknown at this time. There have been numerous nomination irregularities throughout the last month or so - Edmonton-Ellerslie, Calgary-Cross, Calgary-Cross, Calgary-McCall, and Sturgeon-St. Albert have also had highly irregular nomination contests indicative of a power struggle within. The rank and file grassroots are suffering for it and are being used as pawns.

I am not certain how events will unfold going forward; however, I will not allow what has occurred to stand on merits of some empty threat over a telephone. I am fully prepared to be honest and upfront regarding anything that emerges. I challenge those who would dare to deprive their own members due process and the right to vote to do the same.
Martin doesn't disclose what that misconduct is: either he doesn't know, which means Charlebois is probably taking action on misconduct that didn't happen; he does know, which means Charlebois is taking action on misconduct that Martin is hoping the PC Party isn't too keen on disclosing publicly; or Don Martin is guilty of misconduct but he doesn't realize that he did it, either a disagreement over what the misconduct is or misconduct done by members of his campaign team without his knowledge.

If there is no misconduct, it's a witch hunt by Charlebois and company that doesn't want Martin in the party. Seeing how he's a former Wildrose guy, he's the sort of "big tent name" that you'd think the party would be happy to have. Hell, they had no problem with Chris LaBossiere, the far-left Alberta Party guy that decided he was interested in the reins of power after all. Why not Martin? If instead of Martin we were dealing with a small fish guy who carried baggage (LaBossiere or Manhas both fit that bill, you may note), you could see the PCs trumping up some charges to clear the way for the nominee they want. In this case though, the nominee is Janice Sarich, one of the leftish Red Tories who worked with the distasteful pukes over at Public Interest Alberta (ironically enough, in the "Democracy Task Force") and finds herself agreeing with David Eggen. She was part of the anti-Redford dissidents, and while likely a Prentice loyalist there's nothing there to hint that the PC leadership is that keen on her. Certainly not enough to risk what's happening now: public exposure of 'dirty pool' tactics, making false claims about misconduct in order to keep a 'bad guy' out who wasn't really that bad. You'd expect this sort of executive-level bungling during Stelmach or even Redford, but not Prentice.

If there is misconduct, and Don Martin knows about it, we certainly wouldn't expect anything from his Facebook post quoted above. He'd exclusively cover the good things about his work with the party and with his strength in the constituency, hoping that the negative press he was putting on the party made them more fearful of backlash over quashing his nomination than any backlash over letting somebody run who had conducted misconduct. This would be shades of Trudeau welcoming Eve Adams into the federal Liberal party: yes yes, Don Martin is guilty of some electoral misconduct, but he's a biggish-named Wildrose guy etc. etc. etc. The problem with this strategy is that despite what I wrote in the last section, Martin isn't a big enough "score" that he'd be worth bringing in despite nomination irregularities. Eve Adams is a sitting MP, Martin got 20% of the vote for Wildrose in the last election. I said above that Martin isn't bad enough to risk getting political flack for inventing charges, but here he's not good enough to risk getting political flack for ignoring misconduct. Moreover, surely Don Martin and/or his team are saavy enough to pick up on this. When a public spat like this is declared, it's because you're trying to force your opponent's hand. Charlebois's hand in this scenario is so amazingly strong he has no reason to fold. He's got a capable MLA already in the riding, and a newcomer who's been caught in misconduct. The only way out of this scenario for Martin is if the PCs don't want to say explicitly what the misconduct is: Maher Arar style, they're too worried that the misconduct can be easily replicated. Unlike Arar, which had national (and international!) security implications, this doesn't seem likely in a nomination battle in provincial politics.

If Don Martin took actions that the PCs consider misconduct and he does not, then we're in Jian Ghomeshi territory. And like Ghomeshi, that means that the Don Martin Facebook post can be gleaned for clues as to what the PC party considers misconduct that Martin thinks is perfectly justified and standard procedure. We're almost not talking about rough sex with pretty starlets here, but let's see how far the analogy spreads. The first thing I noticed when I looked at the post was that Don Martin, who's whiter than Eminem, suddenly thought to play the race card.
It was disheartening to witness the many new Canadians on my team, born in countries where there are minimal if any democratic rights to vote, contacting their friends and peers to inform them that their opportunity to vote had been taken away from them. When pressed for an explanation, all they could offer is that this was due to some backroom proceeding that neither they nor I understood. Many volunteers on my team are community leaders from visible minority communities; a beautiful cross-section of cultures, religions, and backgrounds. I was humbled that they were and remain willing to support me; I am morally outraged that they have been disenfranchised.
Was this because he actually was morally outraged that people who planned to vote for him had their option removed? Was there a particular reason that he had secured such a large ethnic vote? I can't say I'm familiar enough with Martin's 30+ years at the Calgary Herald years in the Edmonton business community to say whether he expressed or showed an intense interest with issues related to immigrants or minorities, so maybe the interest in his campaign stems from mutual respect and admiration, or maybe even a little quid pro quo. But what if the pro quo comes before the quid? What if the strong support from those "born in countries" other than Alberta, the same supporters who Martin specially highlights as important, are the reason for his ouster from the party? It wouldn't be the first time a Conservative candidate in the Edmonton area tried shady tricks and an ethnic bloc to gain a nomination, and if Martin wasn't breaking the rules as blatantly and publicly as Uppal then it might explain why we're only learning of this now. It's also quite possible that Martin was bending rather than breaking those rules, and that the fine line between "bend" and "break" (which is more of a fuzzy smear akin to where electrons are) is interpreted differently whether your name is Don Martin or Kelley Charlebois. Similar struggles impacted the Liberal Party of Canada in Vancouver South in November, so we aren't really talking too deep into the realm of fiction. And like Ghomeshi with the "kinky sex that people may dislike" defense, it may be that the "morally outraged about disenfranchising" bit takes one element of the truth and spins it in a way that paints the ousted party as the victim, the target of the wrath of a cruel organization, making the ousting itself repugnant. There may well be other instances where Martin's campaign did some rule-bending that is now being admonished as worthy of disqualification, and that there is no hint of them in Martin's Facebook posting, though the odd devotion to the ethnic community line does set off my spidey-senses.

Finally, if Don Martin's campaign team is guilty of misconduct he was unaware of, the situation starts to get murky. For one, it means that Don Martin doesn't "control his people", which you would think isn't the worst sin in the world but when it comes to political staffers is a damning indictment. The guy running for office, like the captain of a starship, is responsible for the conduct of the men and women under his command. It also explains Don Martin's confusion over why everything was blowing up, why he posted the Facebook posting, and possibly why Charlebois wanted him to quit outright and not release the details of the affidavit. In his Facebook post, Martin asks why he's not being allowed the opportunity to face his accuser. If this is the scenario, then Martin has no accusers, at least not as such. The affidavit could very easily be one of Martin's own campaign team, or somebody in the party who found it fishy. It's possible that Charlebois didn't want to divulge too much info about who reported whom, and also that the plan was to see what Martin knew. If it was, it's obviously a misjudge on Charlebois and the Progressive Conservative Party's part, the whole incident is still blowing up in their face.

So which of these scenarios is true? At the moment, we don't know and perhaps never shall. The charges against Uppal were much more public than the ones against Martin, and Uppal still has more than enough defenders. It's quite possible that more information over the next few days will start to "firm up" some of the uncertainty here. There may still be a flip-flop by the Progressive Conservatives, and if it's scenario one or four watch that flip-flop be in the form of trying to parachute Martin into a neighbouring constituency such as Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, where he ran for Wildrose in 2012 (currently held by the New Democrats). If the charges by the Progressive Conservatives hold up, or partially hold up, or don't reveal anything that Martin can disprove, it could be back to the Wildrose. Or the a newspaper. Or everything is forgiven when a new leader replaces Prentice.

Update, March 11 2015, 6:01am: This would be the Don Martin the Edmonton businessman, not the Don Martin Herald reporter.