Rejected leadership candidate to protest at Tory party HQ
Lee says he's victim of 'dirty party politics'
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/09/2021 (630 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A controversial candidate for the Progressive Conservative leadership who was rejected by the party won’t go down without a fight.
Ken Lee, who met most of the entry requirements to run for leader, plans to hold a protest outside the PC party’s downtown headquarters Saturday afternoon.
Lee posted social media notices on Friday claiming his exclusion from running for party leader — and premier of Manitoba — is “dirty party politics.”
The party’s former chief financial officer was endorsed by anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and the far-right People’s Party of Canada. Lee says he met all the entry requirements and hasn’t been told why he was not approved.
The PC party announced Thursday that former health minister and Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson, and former police officer and Conservative MP Shelly Glover, will be the only two candidates in the Oct. 30 race. They have “met all requirements as set out in the rules established by the party’s executive council.”
Candidates also have to pass an interview process “to ensure a commitment to the principles and values of the party,” the Progressive Conservative party said Thursday. It said the vetting process is confidential.
On Friday, the party’s leadership election committee said it considers the application process closed.
“The rules provide avenues for applicants who disagree with the decisions of the committee,” spokesman Keith Stewart said in an email.
Lee, a critic of the PC government’s pandemic restrictions and vaccine passports, sold more party memberships than Glover or Stefanson, sources told the Free Press. Each PC party member gets to vote for leader.
Lee, who has declined interview requests, suggested the party disqualified him because he had sold the most memberships.
“Leading, then shut out?” his notice about Saturday’s protest said.
The party has not released the number of memberships sold by each candidate. Each was required to sell 1,000 by Sept. 15 as one of the criteria to run for leader. Several sources have said Lee sold more than four times that amount, at $20 each — raising more than $80,000 for the party, in addition to the $25,000 entry fee per candidate.
“Our memberships and donations don’t count?” said Lee’s protest poster. “Give our voices back NOW!”
The PCs said they can give people back their money.
“The party will consider requests for a refund on memberships,” Stewart said. He noted the office on Kennedy Street, where Lee’s protest was to be held, is closed on weekends.
On Friday, Lee’s fellow leadership hopefuls expressed a mix of disappointment, sympathy and enthusiasm for Lee, his grievances and demonstration plans.
“A leadership campaign should be a time of optimism and unity for members of the PC party,” said PC MLA Shannon Martin, who left the race Wednesday after falling short of meeting the entry requirements.
“Although I can’t comment on the leadership election committee’s official candidate selection process, I hope we can work together to chart a better future for our party and all Manitobans,” Martin said.
Peaceful protest and freedom of speech are an important part of democracy, he said Friday. “I remain hopeful that we can move forward together in a positive and inclusive way.”
Glover, meanwhile, expressed sympathy for the men who are out of the race.
“I’m sure the last couple of days have been hard for Shannon Martin and Ken Lee,” Glover said Friday. She wouldn’t comment on the decision to disqualify Lee or his planned protest.
“The candidate qualification process was established by the PC party and any questions should go to them,” Glover said in email.
Stefanson said likewise. “The approval of official candidates is decided through the PC party’s leadership committee, and I’ll leave it at that.” Stefanson said she’s “excited” to run for leader and for Manitoba to have its first female premier.
“We’re ready to prove to Manitobans that our vision is the best way to move our party and government forward,” Stefanson said in an email. “Regardless of what happens in this race, Manitoba will be led by a woman for the first time in its history.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.