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Nomination process for Oakville’s federal Conservatives in disarray

National party declines request to turf absentee contender.
Election Voting Sign
Election Voting Sign

Widespread speculation of a fall federal election has Oakville’s Conservatives scrambling to find a candidate to face off against incumbent and high-profile Liberal cabinet minister Anita Anand.

But the nomination race is “turning into a disaster,” according to Michael Reid, chair of the nomination committee for the Oakville Conservative Electoral District Association (EDA).

Three candidates are seeking to represent the Conservatives in the Oakville riding during an upcoming federal election.

One of those contenders, Irshad Chaudhry, is a new-to-Oakville candidate who ran unsuccessfully in a Scarborough riding during the 2019 federal election.

He refused to participate in a proposed debate earlier this year and declined an invitation to participate in an upcoming online “Meet the Contestants” event on July 29. Chaudry did not respond to a request to provide information for a profile by Oakville News.

But a recent request by the association’s board to turf Chaudhry from the race has been rejected by the Conservative party’s national office.

We don’t appear to have any say in our own riding, says Reid.

A July 20 letter signed by Oakville Conservative EDA president Brian Cargill expressed concerns about Chaudhry and “the fact that it is apparent he is not familiar with Oakville and the issues that matter to the constituents,” as well as his “alarming” showing when he ran for a seat in Scarborough in the 2019 federal election.

The letter adds that the board "will have difficulty supporting" Chaudhry if he is chosen as the candidate and believes voters won't gravitate to him as he has only been an Oakville resident for a short period of time.

“In addition, we have concerns with discrepancies with our membership list, which at first glance appear to be new members affiliated and/or linked to Mr. Chaudhry,” said the letter sent to Janet Dorey, executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Reid said those discrepancies include the recent addition of two Oakville households with 10 new members in each.

“He may win the nomination if it continues as it is because of the membership,” Reid added. “It’s hard to prove new memberships are not appropriate, but the suspicions are there.”

Despite local concerns, the national party has told the association that no rules have been broken and that “non-participation is not grounds to remove a candidate,” according to Reid.

“We don’t appear to have any say in our own riding,” he said.

In response to an interview request about the effort to oust him, Chaudhry said by email, “If this is true, it would be disappointing to see them attempting to circumvent the democratic process and take away the opportunity of the membership to decide who should represent them.”

He told the association he would not participate in the candidate meeting because he was "unable to take away precious time from my normal campaigning of reaching each member directly by phone or in person."

According to his LinkedIn page, Chaudhry is a small business owner and executive director of IMS Energy Ltd., a Toronto-based parts supplier to the energy industry.

In 2019, he ran as a Conservative candidate in Scarborough Centre, finishing second to the Liberal contender and earning 22 percent of the vote.

Reid said the association’s board of directors is concerned that Chaudhry has no name recognition in Oakville and limited knowledge of local concerns.

“Our other two candidates are much higher profile because they’ve lived in Oakville for a number of years, so we think one of them has a much better chance,” he said.

“We only have one goal: beat the Liberals in Oakville. So we need to give ourselves the best chance.”

The other candidates in the nomination race are Kerry Colborne and Nadirah Nazeer. An online nomination vote is scheduled to run from Aug. 4 to 6.

The ConservatIve party’s national office did not respond to our request for an interview.