Eight members of a Liberal riding association in Eastern Quebec have cut up their membership cards and defected to the NDP in response to what they say is a nomination gone sour.
The defectors in the Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine riding are accusing the party of scheduling the nomination meeting for a date that it knew only Lebouthillier — one of two potential candidates — could attend.
"I think it was tricked," Tony Langlois, the other Liberal hopeful, told BuzzFeed Canada. "I think everything was arranged with Madame Lebouthillier and some of the high leaders of the party."
Langlois, a high-school history teacher, said he was unavailable April 12 because he was bringing his students to a youth parliament event in Quebec City.
Langlois, who was vice-president of the riding association until Monday night, also said he first found out that the party had set the date for April 12 through the media — not through the party. He said he and some of the other members of the association's executive tried twice, in vain, to get the date changed.
But the party says the reason Langlois wasn't immediately informed of the April 12 meeting date was that he never submitted the candidate package required to be considered for the job.
Hopeful candidates have to fill out forms, provide background checks, and answer questionnaires as part of the party's vetting process.
Liberal spokesman Olivier Duchesneau said in an interview that since he failed to submit the documentation, Langlois wasn't taken into consideration when the party chose the date. It's against the party's rules to change the date once set, he said.
"The open, democratic nomination process in the riding of Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine allowed members to choose an excellent candidate, Diane LeBouthillier," Duchesneau said in a written statement. "Everything was done in full respect of the rules established by the Liberal Party of Canada."
The riding association's new president, longtime Liberal Richard Léonard, also noted that Langlois never submitted his candidate package.
"I agreed that there should be a new date, but they couldn't come to an agreement," he told BuzzFeed Canada.
Langlois claims he didn't send in his candidate package because he didn't want to spend the required $1,000 fee on a nomination meeting he couldn't attend.
Typically, though, hopeful candidates submit their documentation well in advance of the party choosing the date of the nomination meeting.
Another defector, Yoan Méthot-Bernatchez, told Le Soleil he was "muzzled" by the party.
"I was president of the association and wasn't invited to the nomination meeting. I was muzzled. I was refused the chance to speak," he said in French.
Facebook photos posted by Lebouthillier show what appears to be a couple dozen people gathered to hear her speak at the April nomination meeting.
A French press release posted with the photos said Lebouthillier won the nomination at a meeting with "no opponents."
Lebouthillier refused an interview request from BuzzFeed Canada. Her press secretary, Alex Caron, wrote in French that Lebouthillier is on the ground meeting voters and that she feels her candidacy is "warmly welcomed."
Langlois said he and the eight riding association members tried to offer their support to Lebouthillier once she was declared the candidate, but that she was resistant to working with them.
In the end, their "values" were better aligned with Toone's, Langlois said.
"He opened his arms to our team," he added.
Langlois said the ordeal contradicts what Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau previously stated about the party's nomination process.
Duchesneau disagrees: "Thanks to open nominations, our leader Justin Trudeau allowed candidates from across the country to run in order to form the best Liberal team during the campaign."
Trudeau's promise has come under fire in other ridings, where some Liberals have claimed the nomination process was unfair.
In December, a nomination meeting in Ottawa—Orléans went off the rails when a disqualified candidate and his supporters interrupted the acclamation of former army general Andrew Leslie. The party had initially given local lawyer David Bertschi the green light, then rescinded its decision a month before the nomination meeting.
Emma Loop is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Emma Loop at email@example.com.
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