On Wednesday, just hours after Bob Runciman announced he would not be seeking the nomination for the Conservative candidate of Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, he received a robo-call from premier-designate Doug Ford, asking to support Colin Brown, nephew of the late MP for the region Gord Brown, for the same nomination.
When Gord passed away on May 2, the suddenness of his death left the riding without a federal leader, or concrete plans for his replacement.
The thought was, according to long-time MPP for the region and former Senator Bob Runciman, that the riding needed an experienced interim leader who could hold the Conservative seat until the next federal election was called.
“I was approached by party members and potential candidates as running as a unity candidate,” said Runciman.
Little did Runciman know that Colin, Gord’s 25-year-old nephew, would announce on Monday that he would be seeking the Conservative nomination for the riding. Runciman said that was not part of the plan.
“There’s obviously going to be a nomination battle. After 45 years in public service I really don’t have the appetite for that,” said the 75-year-old politician.
Runciman also did not expect that Colin would receive such vocal support from the newly minted premier-designate.
On Monday, Ford gave his official endorsement in Colin Brown’s nomination-bid press release.
“Colin has always demonstrated very strong leadership skills and an excellent work ethic,” said Doug Ford in the press release. “I am confident that he will be an effective voice for this community.”
Then a string of robo-calls went out on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a recording of Doug Ford asking the people of Leeds-Grenville-Thousands Islands and Rideau Lakes to support Colin Brown’s Conservative nomination.
Colin worked on Ford’s advance team during the provincial election, which is the reason Colin says Ford “went above and beyond” with his support of the first-time political hopeful.
Runciman said he was taken off guard by the Ford calls.
“I was surprised, I was a good friend of [Doug’s] father,” Runciman said. “I’d like to think he didn’t know I was considering this,”
Jeff Silverstein, director of communications for the PC party was contacted about the robo-calls, namely why Ford chose to send them and how the numbers of the recipients were chosen.
“Doug Ford has always supported conservative candidates running for office in many ways, including with calls. We are fully compliant with the rules,” said Silverstein.
Michael Barrett, the federal riding president for Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, said the federal Conservative Party had nothing to do with the calls.
Colin says the calls were a joint effort between the Ford team and his own, and that they used a third-party company who contacted random recipients throughout the riding. According to Colin, Ford’s support has already made an impact.
“The response has been really overwhelming,” Colin says about the calls. “Support has been flooding in.”
No one else has put their name in the nomination race yet, but Runciman believes at least a few more will run against Gord Brown’s nephew.
It’s unclear when the Conservative will call a nomination race for the riding, although Colin mentioned it will be soon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has until the end of October to call a by-election.
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