By Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton, ON
A candidate was working hard to win the Conservative Party nomination in the federal Mississauga-Malton riding over the last three years, knocking door-to-door, talking person-to-person and gathering enough support to fight from the riding.
This man, Bob Dosanjh, was a well-known community face, a TV and radio program host and a business owner.
Conservative Party members in Canada each pay a yearly fee ($15). These are the people who elect the party leader and local candidates, and vote on various internal matters like amendments to the party constitution and policy platforms.
Dosanjh got 3,800 people to take these memberships and join the party to vote for him on nomination day. Hence, Dosanjh brought at least $57,000 to the Conservative Party’s coffers. However, with just a day’s notice, the May 9 nomination battle was cancelled.
The Conservative Party declared a person named Tom Varughese as its candidate after Dosanjh withdrew. The riding’s website shows that Varughese was nominated on May 9.
There has been no response from Dosanjh at the time of publishing despite multiple requests using various communication methods, asking why he withdrew; nor has the Conservative Party replied to repeated requests for comment.
It is not known if Dosanjh got booted out by the party or left of his own accord. All the membership money he gathered now belongs to the party.
Dosanjh is a media specialist and owner and host of Sanjha Punjab Radio and TV program.
There are often complaints against candidates, especially in closely-fought nomination races. These complaints can be complicated, with there being occasions where the party itself turns on a candidate. Sometimes, a statement of withdrawal is sought from the candidate using allegations contained in complaints.
Only Bob Dosanjh and the Conservative Party know the real reason for his withdrawal.
This phenomenon is not confined to just Mississuaga-Malton or the Conservative Party. In many other constituencies, the Liberal Party has excluded a candidate from the nomination in favour of a party insider.
With the NDP, the practice is not as common since the base of the party is limited, which sometimes makes it difficult to even find a candidate. The Liberals and Conservatives are the only two parties that currently hold real sway in Ontario at both the provincial and federal levels.
In the third week of January this year, the federal Liberal Party turned aside the nomination of Azeem Rizvi for the Milton constituency and confirmed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s favoured candidate, Olympian Adam van Koeverden. Rizvi expressed anguish over this.
Prior to the 2015 federal election, Trudeau also dismissed the nomination of Barj Dhahan. Instead, the party appointed Harjit Singh Sajjan, who is now Minister of Defence in the federal cabinet.
In the 2004 election, then Liberal leader Paul Martin chose Ruby Dhalla against the wishes of the local Liberal riding association as candidate for Brampton-Springdale. Dhalla eventually won the election by a large margin.
The nomination of Harjadan Khatra, who won this year’s Conservative nomination in Dufferin-Caledon constituency, is currently under review. A rival candidate had accused Khatra of buying votes.
Many cases of nomination untidiness were also reported in Ontario during last year’s provincial elections. There were many allegations of bias on the part of Conservative Party leaders, including then-leader Patrick Brown, who had a criminal case against him that went to court. Even after the removal of Brown, the allegations of rigged nominations have not ceased.
This sampling of instances shows that candidate nomination races are often tilted in favour of one candidate. Clearly, there is little point in candidates raising money and bringing in local party members from a riding, only to have their candidacies pulled from under them, replaced by nominees favoured by party leaders elsewhere.
This system cripples the democratic process long before an election is even called.