Sebastiani blocked from Conservative nomination, he says

26-year-old said he was assured race would be "open, fair and transparent" after Ontario candidate was parachuted into the riding

A candidate hoping to run under the Conservative banner in the upcoming federal election said his party has blocked him from seeking its nomination in Port Moody-Coquitlam.

Matthew Sebastiani, 26, said in a statement Monday, June 10, that no reason was given for pushing him aside and ending his 10-month campaign. But the Conservatives have been accused by some local Tories of clearing the path for Nelly Shin, who recently moved to the area after a riding could not be found for her in her home province of Ontario.

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"I was always assured that the nomination race would be open, fair and transparent, despite a candidate arriving from Ontario to contest the nomination in the riding," Sebastiani said in a press release. "After 10 months of running an honest and fair campaign, being blocked for no provided reason is a testament to the good campaign my exceptional team and I ran. I am glad to have never compromised my values or integrity."

Sebastiani added that there were no issues with his electability, noting that he submitted his completed paperwork and background checks to the party last fall. He also said he has "maintained respectful discourse in conversations and on social media."

When contacted by The Tri-City News, Sebastiani, who has lived in Burquitlam for his whole life, said his emailed statement "is all I have to say at the moment."

A spokesperson for the Port Moody-Coquitlam Conservative Electoral District Association said they would not comment on the situation.  

Cory Hann, director of communications with the Conservative Party of Canada, said all of the party's nominations are fair and open.

"Our rules and procedures are very clear, and have been applied equally throughout the process in Port Moody-Coquitlam, and will continue to apply equally to any applicant that may seek the nomination," he said in an email. "The nomination remains open and ongoing, and per our standard practice, reasons for disallowing an applicant are not provided."

Shin was parachuted into the riding last March, dividing some local supporters and adding intrigue to a hotly-contested race in October's federal election.

As previously reported by The Tri-City News, she was once in line for the Conservative nomination in Toronto's Richmond Hill riding but her plans were complicated when Liberal MP Leona Alleslev, who occupied the seat, crossed the floor and joined the Tories last year. Shin was unable to find a seat in a neighbouring riding, prompting her to look west, she told The News in March.

“When I saw that, I had to think of next steps immediately,” she said. “One of the things that ran through my mind was, this would be a great way to go back to British Columbia.”

Her decision to join the race has raised concerns with local party members. 

In January, two months after Shin arrived in Coquitlam, a CPC representative approached Sebastiani and asked him to bow out of the Port Moody-Coquitlam nomination process, several sources told The News.

Phil Chau, president of the Conservative Port Moody-Coquitlam Electoral District Association, said the encounter was brought to his attention by one of the association’s board members.

“People were like, 'Ottawa people are coming in asking Matthew to step aside.' I was like, 'OK, that's a concern. Let's bring it up. Let's talk about it at the board meeting.' Then we discussed it at the board meeting. And that's all I'm going to say,” he said in March, adding that he is only concerned with ensuring a free and fair nomination process.

Still, some local Conservatives have welcomed Shin into the riding. She has been officially endorsed by former Coquitlam Coun. Terry O’Neill; Tim Laidler, the CPC's Port Moody-Coquitlam candidate in 2015; and David Bassett, president of the Conservative funding apparatus BCBlue.

Shin said she first visited British Columbia in 2003 on her summer vacation from her job as an English teacher at a Toronto public school. In 2008, five years later, Shin quit teaching, sold her condo in Toronto and began a stint of missionary work in places like Los Angeles and New England. It wasn’t until 2012 that she first moved to B.C., spending three years as a singer in Victoria before moving back to Toronto in time for the 2015 federal election.

Sebastiani, meanwhile, was endorsed by Linda Reimer, a former BC Liberal MLA in the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam as well as a former Coquitlam city councillor. The first-time candidate is a recent MBA grad and a former advisor to Conservative Sen. Yonah Martin.

Bonita Zarrillo, a Coquitlam citiy councillor, is the NDP candidate in the riding, which is currently held by NDP MP Fin Donnelly, who announced he would not be running for re-election. Sara Badiei is running under the Liberay Party banner.

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