A candidate seeking the Conservative Party nomination in Port Moody-Coquitlam said she is forging ahead with her campaign despite the controversy over her only other opponent being blocked from the race.
Nelly Shin, who parachuted into the riding from Ontario earlier this year, said she has been focusing ever since her arrival on rallying supporters ahead of the nomination meeting.
She avoided questions about how she intended to unite Tories in the riding after Matthew Sebastiani — a resident of the riding and her only opponent in the nomination race — was ousted from the contest last week without explanation by party officials in Ottawa.
“I am working hard on my nomination campaign signing up new members and connecting with supporters,” Shin said in an emailed statement. “Ultimately, the voters of Port Moody-Coquitlam will decide on Oct. 21 who they want representing them.”
She added that the process in Port Moody-Coquitlam has been open and transparent and that decisions over who qualifies for nominations is determined by the Conservative Party.
Last week, Sebastiani put out a statement saying he had been blocked from seeking the nomination without reason, ending his 10-month campaign. He said there were no issues with his electability, noting that he submitted his completed paperwork and background checks to the party last fall.
Cory Hann, director of communications with the Conservative Party of Canada, told The Tri-City News in an email that all 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. “The nomination remains open and ongoing, and per our standard practice, reasons for disallowing an applicant are not provided.”
However, some Sebastiani supporters have accused the party of paving the way for Shin’s nomination.
Diane LeBrun, a longtime party member, told The Tri-City News she is concerned with how the process has unfolded. She pointed to emails she received from party brass assuring her the contest would be fair.
“I can tell you that I and the party are committed to a fair and transparent nomination process,” Tory riding president Phil Chau wrote to LeBrun in February. “Both Matthew and Nelly are working hard to win support with new and existing members.”
Chau did not return a phone call from The Tri-City News and a message from the riding association’s Facebook page said the association would not be commenting on the issue.
In another email sent in January, Conservative Party president Scott Lamb said it is up to the candidates to decide where they want to seek a nomination. He added that if members in the riding do not like the fact that Shin is from outside of the province, they could support another candidate.
“That will be to Mr. Sebastiani’s advantage,” he wrote in an email provided to The Tri-City News. “It is for the members to decide in a vote for their candidate.”
Shin arrived in the riding earlier this year.
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 then-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 said in March.
“When I saw that, I had to think of next steps immediately,” she told The Tri-City News in March. “One of the things that ran through my mine was, this would be a great way to go back to British Columbia.”
Some local Conservative have welcomed Shin into the riding. She has received endorsements from Coquitlam Coun. Terry O’Neill, 2015 Port Moody-Coquitlam Tory candidate Tim Laidler, and David Bassett, president of the Conservative funding apparatus BCBlue.
Bonita Zarrillo, a Coquitlam city 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 Liberal Party banner.