A drastically reduced nomination period for candidates to replace Conservative MP Chuck Strahl in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding – and his son’s announced bid for the job – has brought charges of “dynasty-making” from opposition New Democrats.
But Ernie Charlton, a long-time Conservative Party member who announced his bid for the nomination Wednesday, said while the one-week nomination period is “not ideal,” he had “no reason” to believe Mark Strahl had advance knowledge of his father’s intention not to seek re-election.
“I’ve known (the Strahl family) for 15 years, and to my knowledge Mark had the exact same nomination period that I have,” he said on Thursday.
In an email to The Progress, Mark Strahl said his father informed the family and staff members on March 11 that, on the following day, the Prime Minister would announce his decision not to seek re-election.
After the March 12 announcement was made, Strahl said he resigned as president and as a director on the party’s Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding association to seek the nomination.
“Just to be clear, I have no access to membership lists, email lists, or the party database,” he said, and would not have access until his candidacy is approved by Conservative headquarters.
“Every potential candidate is playing by the exact same rules,” he said.
But in an earlier interview, Menno Froese, who sits on the Conservative Party’s national council, said he would be “quite surprised” if Strahl did not have advance knowledge of his father’s decision, not only because of the family connection, but also because of his connections to the regional party.
“He’s very well connected,” Froese said.
Candidates for the nomination have until 5 p.m. Friday to file documents, which includes a list of signatures of 25 valid party members. The vote takes place on Monday, but no time or location has been decided. The “normal” nomination period is six to eight weeks.
Party members must have memberships older than 21 days to vote on Monday.
Froese said party officials changed the nomination rules in Strahl’s riding, and two others in B.C. where Conservative MPs had announced they would not seek re-election, in order to have “credible candidates” in place for a possible election call after the March 22 federal budget.
He said opposition parties were not likely to approve the budget, and the minority government would fall.
Burnaby New Democratic MP Peter Julian agreed a budget fight is in the offing, but he blamed the Tories, who “clearly” want an election.
And in the party’s rush to get on election footing in the three B.C. ridings where they no longer have a candidate, he charged that party members are not going to get their democratic right to a “vigorous” nomination campaign.
Especially in the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding, he said, where Mark Strahl “obviously had the inside track” on his father’s decision not to seek re-election.
“It’s a sad day for democracy,” he said. “You shouldn’t be able to hand over your riding. It’s not a dynasty.”