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Liberal membership in Ottawa-Vanier balloons to 3,000 ahead of federal nomination in January, 10 candidates lining up

By Abbas Rana      

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must call a byelection in Ottawa-Vanier by Feb. 19.

Eight-term Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, pictured with Catherine Bélanger, died of ALS in August. The riding of Ottawa-Vanier will hold a nomination meeting next month to choose a new candidate. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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OTTAWA—After winning the provincial byelection last month with a 20 percent point margin in the coveted Liberal riding of Ottawa-Vanier, the federal Grits are now gearing up to hold a federal nomination meeting to elect their candidate next month in one of the safest Liberal ridings in the country. The federal by-election has not been called yet.

Tony Stikeman, the Ottawa-Vanier Liberal riding association president, told The Hill Times the nomination contest will take place next month.

“It’s going to be in the second half of January,” said Mr. Stikeman.

As of last week, he said, 10 candidates had expressed interest in running for the Liberal nomination in the riding, including Mona Fortier, Ottawa communications consultant; Nicolas Moyer, executive director of Humanitarian Coalition; Ainsley Malhotra, a former public servant; Francis LeBlanc, former Nova Scotia Liberal MP; Véronique Soucy, executive director French language radio station 94.5 Unique FM; Eric Khaiat, parliamentary assistant to Liberal MP William Amos; Jean Claude Dubuisson, Ottawa lawyer; Abdourahman Kahin, a psychotherapist; Khatera Akbari, Senate administration staffer; and Persévérance Mayer, co-founder of African League Canada.

Former public servant Ainsley Malhotra is seeking Liberal nomination in the riding of Ottawa-Vanier

Braeden Caley, senior director of communications for the Liberal Party of Canada, told The Hill Times that no date for the nomination meeting in Ottawa-Vanier had yet been fixed, but said the party “expects to be able to call the Liberal candidate selection meeting early in the new year.” Mr. Caley declined to share how many candidates have filed their applications to the party or how many have been “green-lighted” to run for the Liberal nomination.

“A wide variety of talented potential candidates have expressed interest in running for the Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Vanier and the party is in close communication with them about the process,” Mr. Caley wrote in an email to The Hill Times.

“We look forward to running a campaign that will continue to focus on the real progress that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team are making for middle class families in Ottawa–Vanier and across Canada.”

As of Tuesday, two candidates—Mr. Moyer and Ms. Fortier—had issued press releases to announce they had been approved by the party to run for the nomination. Ms. Malhotra also confirmed to The Hill Times that she has also been green-lighted by the party.

Of the three major parties, the New Democratic Party is the only one that has so far nominated a candidate as of deadline yesterday.

Emilie Taman, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, was acclaimed as the NDP candidate on Nov. 29. She also ran unsuccessfully in the last federal election.

Eight-term Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger, who represented Ottawa-Vanier since 1995 and was a member of former prime minister Paul Martin’s cabinet, died in August of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He won the last federal election with 57.6 per cent of the vote while the second-place NDP candidate Ms. Taman garnered 19.2 per cent. The third-place Conservative candidate David Piccini won 19.1 per cent, and the fourth-place Green Party candidate Nira Dookeran won three per cent.

Provincially, the riding has been vacant since June when four-term provincial Liberal MPP and attorney-general Madeleine Meilleur resigned to spend more time with her family.

According to Statistics Canada, it has a total population of about 100,000 people, and of that, 28,000 are Franco-Ontarians.

In the provincial byelection on Nov. 17, the Liberals elected Nathalie Des Rosiers as the new MPP. She won by a margin of 5,655 votes over the second-place PC candidate André Marin and NDP candidate Claude Bisson. Ms. Des Rosiers won 48.5 per cent of the vote, Mr. Marin 29.8 per cent, and the NDP 15 per cent in the by-election.

The Liberals have never lost any election, federally, in the riding’s 83-year history.

The nomination contest in Ottawa-Vanier is among the first ones where registered Liberals who signed up with the party without paying any fee will be able to take part in the nomination contest.

The federal Liberals eliminated the $10 party membership fee, earlier this year. Any Canadian can now register online with the federal Liberal Party and can vote in a nomination contest. Party members can also can take part in the party policy development process. The Conservatives charge $15 and the NDP’s membership fee vary from province to province, ranging between no fee and $25.

Meanwhile, Mr. Stikeman told The Hill Times that since the start of the nomination contest, the membership numbers in the riding has more than tripled. The riding had about 900 members before the prospective candidates started to campaign and now has 3,000 members.

“The numbers are ballooning,” said Mr. Stikeman. “There are at least 3,000 new registered Liberals. We expect the number to go significantly higher.”

As of deadline on Tuesday, Dec. 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) had not called a byelection, but according to Elections Canada, a byelection has to be called within 180 days after a riding becomes vacant. The riding of Ottawa-Vanier officially became vacant on Aug. 23 and a byelection must be called by Feb. 19.

Besides Ottawa-Vanier, there are two other vacant ridings: Calgary Heritage, Alta., and Calgary Midnapore, Alta., and no by-elections have been called. In Calgary Heritage, former prime minister Stephen Harper’s riding, the byelection must be called by Feb. 25. In Calgary Midnapore, Jason Kenney’s former riding, it has to be called by March 22. Mr. Harper resigned  his seat in August and Mr. Kenney resigned his seat in September.

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