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Justin Trudeau loses Zach Paikin over candidate controversy

Mar 17, 2014 5:19:21 PM - thestar.com

OTTAWA—Justin Trudeau’s decision to block a candidate from running in the Trinity—Spadina byelection has cost him a young, would-be contender in Hamilton, who is accusing the Liberal leader of breaking a basic, democratic promise.

Zach Paikin, 22, who has been strenuously organizing to run for the Liberal nomination in Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, announced on Monday that he was abandoning his bid in protest over how Trudeau dealt with former candidate Christine Innes last week.

“Justin Trudeau broke a key promise to hold open nominations in every riding by blocking the candidacy of Christine Innes in downtown Toronto,” Paikin said in a widely circulated letter.

“I cannot, in good conscience, campaign to be a part of a team of candidates if others seeking to join that team are prevented from doing so if their ideas or ambitions run contrary to the party leader’s interest.”

Trinity—Spadina became vacant last week when Liberal MP Olivia Chow resigned to run for mayor of Toronto. Innes, who has run twice before for the Liberals in that riding, was notified on Thursday that she would not be allowed to run again because of bullying and infighting by members of her campaign team — which includes her husband, former cabinet minister Tony Ianno.

“I don’t know how widespread these allegations are and I can understand the perspective of those on Justin’s team,” Paikin said in an interview. “But I can’t agree, on these democratic principles, that the ends can justify the means.

“I think if you promise open nominations, you have to stick with open nominations.”

David MacNaughton, the Ontario campaign co-chair who notified Innes last week that she wouldn’t be allowed to run, said Paikin did not talk to him before issuing his statement — though he wishes he had done so.

“The open-nomination process remains firmly in place,” MacNaughton said, explaining that Innes and her campaign team were blocked because of bad behaviour, not because her interests were in conflict with the leader, as Paikin alleged.

MacNaughton acknowledged he’d been hearing from other Liberals since last week who were troubled by the Innes decision, but the complaints were coming from people who didn’t know the full story of what led to the decision and how it was made.

Paikin, who says he’s talked to a “tremendous” number of Liberals who share his view, said it was difficult to make the decision, especially in light of how much he has been working to win the nomination — drumming up support and raising $15,000 so far for his campaign.

“I’ve been knocking on doors, selling memberships, meeting with local residents, building up my team . . . . We were really working hard,” Paikin said.

Paikin’s candidacy had also assumed a higher profile because of his father, TVO host Steve Paikin, who went public with the ethical and journalistic issues raised for him by having a son plunging into active, partisan politics.

Canada, Ontario: (Latest Stories)