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PCs turf their Interlake candidate

Shocked MLA hopeful says he won't back party now

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John Zasitko thought he joined the Tories to fight the good fight against the NDP in the coming provincial election.

But now Hugh McFadyen's party is his enemy after Zasitko was suddenly punted as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Interlake.

"It took me aback," said Zasitko, who initially won the nomination last April in a four-way race.

"I'm not going to support the party anymore. Why would I, right?"

Political parties rarely drop a nominated candidate. But party chief executive officer Jonathan Scarth said while unfortunate, it was needed so the party could run a credible campaign in the Interlake, which has been held since 1999 by NDP MLA Tom Nevakshonoff.

"It wasn't done lightly," Scarth said.

Scarth said Zasitko was removed because he didn't meet the party's expectations in three areas -- a campaign team hadn't been organized, campaign fundraising hadn't met party goals and there was little sign of campaign activity.

Those expectations are made clear from the nomination date and the party did provide the necessary support, he added.

As of Wednesday, the PCs had 25 nominated candidates in the province's 57 constituencies. The PC Selkirk nomination meeting will be held tonight. Candidates are Bradley Bell and former mayor David Bell. (They are not related).

All other nominated candidates are meeting the party's campaign expectations, Scarth said.

Zasitko, a 46-year-old Arborg farm implement businessman, said he believes his ouster was not only unfair, it went against the wishes of party faithful who elected him a candidate.

"I had more support than you could shake a stick at," he said. "I sold close to 400 memberships. The people were the ones who voted me in in the candidacy process, but these guys took it upon themselves to let me go. If the people didn't like me and they said so, that's different."

There is no appeal process, and Zasitko said even if there was, he no longer wants to be associated with a party that doesn't think he's a fit candidate.

He said other candidates should watch over their shoulder to see if the axe is hanging over them, too.

The new Progressive Conservative nomination date for Interlake constituency is March 7.

The Dear John letter

Letter to PC candidate John Zasitko removing his candidacy:

Dear John:

Re: Candidacy in Interlake

Further to our previous discussions, this is to confirm that in accordance with its mandate under Article XVIII (2) of the Constitution of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba, the Candidate Selection Committee has exercised its discretionary power to disallow your candidacy for the Progressive Conservative Party in the constituency of Interlake in respect of the next general election.

It has done so on the basis of its review of identified shortcomings with regard to your participation in the Party's election preparedness program and campaign planning efforts.

Accordingly, the Candidate Selection Committee is satisfied that your ongoing candidacy would not be in the best interests of the Party.


Don Plett, Chair

Candidate Selection Committee

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2011 A6

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