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This article was published 12/12/2014 (1941 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA – The Liberal candidate who almost staged a major political upset in Brandon-Souris last year says he only lost the 2013 byelection because of meddling by the national Liberal office.
Rolf Dinsdale, who lost the byelection in November 2013 by just 391 votes, issued a scathing letter on Facebook today, saying he won’t be seeking the nomination for the riding again and that "the Liberal Party has made deciding not to run an easy choice for me to make."
The Liberals came within 391 votes of defeating Conservative Larry Maguire, in large part because of a party nomination dispute among the Conservatives. Because of alleged meddling in the Conservative nomination, Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls announced he was going to run as an independent.
Dinsdale, already seeking the Liberal nomination, was thrilled at the prospect of seeing Pauls split the vote with Maguire, leaving the Liberals to come through the middle with a win.
Instead, he says everything went haywire when the Liberals decided to lure Pauls in to run against Dinsdale for the Liberal nomination.
"This outside meddling in the Brandon-Souris Liberal nomination had the triple effect of damaging my confidence, delaying my nomination, and taking away the advantage a conservative family-feud and split vote would have provided the Liberals," Dinsdale wrote. "I made it clear at the time that I felt our best chance to win had just been thrown away. Foolishly. Others have commented likewise in the media. Unfortunately I was right."
Dinsdale says if he had won it would "have ushered in a significant change to the entire Canadian political landscape", arguing, as others have, that it would have given the Liberals a credible base to win back seats in western Canada.
The Liberals won just four of the 92 seats available in the four western provinces in 2011, and any hope of returning to government has to include winning more of them. Many believed if the Liberals had won Brandon-Souris it would have sent a chill into the Conservative party, possibly undermined Stephen Harper’s leadership and given Justin Trudeau a huge victory under his belt as the Liberal leader. The Conservatives were afraid enough of losing the riding they sent senior political advisor and Harper confidant Jenni Byrne in to oversee things.
Others think a Liberal win would have been alarming but not incredibly so, a sign more of a disaffected base in one particular riding than of any great problems for the party at the national level.
Dinsdale also says the party has gone to great lengths since the byelection to find someone other than him to run in the next election, and he says, the Liberals now win. He isn’t going to try. Instead he’s returning to Toronto, where his 10-year-old daughter lives, so he can continue to share custody of her with her mother.
One source says when Trudeau visited the riding during the byelection he was already meeting with Glen Kirkland, the Brandon realtor who is a decorated veteran of the Afghan war, about running for the Liberals in the next general election.
Kirkland has announced intentions to run for the nomination. So has Brandon lawyer Jodi Wyman.
A spokesman for the Liberal Party said the party is proud of its record in holding open nominations and the results in Brandon-Souris. He said it's no surprise, given the success in 2013, that more people are interested in running there.
Dinsdale is the latest in a string of Liberals to complain about the national Liberal office meddling in local nominations. Although Trudeau has repeatedly promised to hold open nominations in every riding, the complaints about his team meddling in them have been raised across the country. He did say in February he would not promise not to get involved in nominations, or to publicly support all candidates. But there is a growing anger among some Liberals that Trudeau’s team will stop at nothing to get their candidates in place.
Trudeau is facing two court challenges over it. In one, a candidate is suing him for defamation after he refused to allow her to run for the nomination in a downtown Toronto riding over allegations her team was bullying local Liberals. In another, former leadership challenger David Bertschi has announced his intention to sue for defamation after he was barred from running for the nomination in an Ottawa riding because he had failed to repay all his leadership campaign debts.
In Winnipeg, there is still resentment in Winnipeg South Centre after business leader Jim Carr defeated Karen Taraska-Alcock for that nomination.
In British Columbia, some Sikh Liberals said they were leaving the party after they say their candidate was forced from the race.
However some Manitoba Liberals brushed off Dinsdale’s complaints as grandstanding. They say he was unlikely to win the nomination regardless, because he has barely been around in the riding since the byelection and Kirkland and Wyman are more popular within Brandon Liberal circles.
One Liberal also said the party threw a lot of money and effort at Brandon-Souris, more so than in most other campaigns there, and that Dinsdale wouldn’t have come as close as he did without that support.
Insiders also say Dinsdale was not high on the list of preferred candidates for a number of reasons, including that he has lived in Toronto for most of the past few years, and there are concerns about his close friendship with columnist and former Liberal staffer Warren Kinsella. Kinsella wrote his own missive today saying he wasn’t going to run for the party this time because he is a contrarian and he’s not wanted by Trudeau.
Kinsella has been critical of the party on a number of occasions in his column.
Kinsella and Dinsdale play in the same band, and are good friends.
Updated on Friday, December 12, 2014 at 4:41 PM CST: Adds comment from Liberal party.