A New Brunswick woman vying to be the candidate for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming St. Croix byelection is speaking out after the party barred her from the nomination convention.
Lorraine Gilmore Peters says she received a short phone call from the party’s executive director, Rick Lafrance, after the lengthy application process telling her that she would not be a part of the convention that is set for Jan 18.
“He said I’m calling to tell you that you’re not permitted to run,” Peters said.
“I said, ‘do I have the right to know why?’ and he said, ‘No, you do not. Goodbye.'”
In an interview with Global News on Thursday, Lafrance said Peters failed to pass the vetting process.
“Each potential candidate is subject to the same vetting process. The process includes filling out a lengthy application form, face-to-face meetings, and at the end of the day, the committee looks into a candidate’s background using social media and a variety of other methods that we have,” Lafrance said.
“So [with] this candidate, there was obviously something there and she didn’t make it through the vetting process.”
Lafrance declined to elaborate any further and said the party has no obligation to give a candidate a reason if they are being barred from seeking the nomination.
Peters says she was not given any indication at any point during the vetting process that the party had turned up any issues.
She said that her application included an initial in-person meeting, a large volume of paperwork, a criminal background check, a social media scrub and finally a lengthy panel interview, during which Peters says one panelist remarked that she “was doing great.”
During that interview, Peters was even let in on some of the strategies to be used against the candidate from the People’s Alliance.
“The sheer fact that they told me I was on to the last step in the process seemed to indicate anything that came before that had checked out,” Peters said.
“I had assumed I had met all the other hurdles, otherwise I wouldn’t have made the interview. I felt very good leaving that interview on Thursday and by Friday I got that call from Rick Lafrance.”
After moving so far through what can be a taxing process, Peters says she deserves to know why she is being blocked from seeking the nomination.
She says an explanation would have made it easier to walk away at peace with the result and that the party should be more transparent when it comes to nomination applications.
“If they had said, you know, something has come up that we feel is either an embarrassment to the party or just doesn’t show us in the best light … I think most reasonable people would have said, ‘OK yeah, I’m disappointed but I get it,'” said Peters.
“How would you feel if you went to the bank for a mortgage and you know that your neighbour was told why they didn’t qualify for a mortgage yet you were not. I mean I think there has to be some layer of responsibility to people coming forward.”
The PCs are dealing with the resignation of the riding’s association president, Vern Card, who stepped down on December 30th, the day before Peters went public with her concerns about the nomination process.
In his an email resignation Card said “over the last couple of week as president of the riding association I have experienced situations in working with PCNB that made me questions the positive characteristics of the party.”
Card would not elaborate on what these situations were and has declined multiple interview requests and will not say why he resigned.
Peters says she only met Card through the nomination process and did not know why he resigned, but said he tried to help Peters get answers as to why she would not be allowed to seek the nomination.
St. Croix is one of two vacant ridings in the province and has been empty since former MLA Greg Thopson died over the summer.
The other is former premier Brian Gallant’s old seat, the Liberal stronghold of Shediac Bay-Dieppe.
Premier Blaine Higgs has until March 10 to set dates for the two byelections, but told Global News during a year-end interview that he is in no hurry to do so.
The St. Croix byelection could have wide-ranging implications for the rest of the province.
Should the PCs lose both vacant seats to the Liberals, Higgs would have a hard time keeping the confidence of the house, meaning a general election or a change in government would be likely.
Peters says her experience with the PCs makes her wonder if the party has the best interests of St. Croix’s constituents at heart.
“This is an important riding. And to some degree I think that Fredericton is focused on the seat and not so much the people,” she said.
“I get the people of this riding. … I do think that what has unrolled with me over the last month that the people are going to have something to say about that.”