Post-Karahalios dispute leaves the Cambridge PC riding association ‘derecognized’

By Sabrina Nanji August 20, 2020

The Ontario PC riding association in Cambridge is fighting back after being “derecognized” by the party in the wake of Belinda Karahalios’s ouster from caucus. 
The riding association’s board authorized an anti-Doug Ford flyer to be sent Monday to “every household” in Cambridge and Etobicoke North — the heart of Ford Nation. 
Tim Cross — who sits on the riding association’s board and was trying to solidify his position as president (more on this below) — told Queen’s Park Today the flyer explains the board’s “concern with the removal of MPP Karahalios from caucus.”
The mailer — obtained by Queen’s Park Today — also alleges PC party brass “said that Belinda will not be allowed to run in a PC nomination” in the next election or be invited back to the Tory benches.
Premier Doug Ford turfed Karahalios from caucus in July after she voted against third and final reading of Bill 195 — the political-hot-potato legislation that enables the government to extend and amend sweeping emergency orders for up to two years without debate or a vote in the legislature. At the time, Karahalios called it an “unnecessary overreach” on parliamentary democracy.  
Cross said the board wanted to point out “the weeks of poor treatment members of the board have been subject to at the hands of PC Party staff” since then.  
PC Party organizer warned riding association to move on from Karahalios
In emails to the association’s prior president sent last month, Gareth Neilson, the PC’s director of organization, warned the riding association to stop operating in the interests of Karahalios, now that she was no longer a member of the caucus. 
“The PC Party expects the riding association to support the PC Party and PC Party activities. The PC Party will not accept a riding supporting the activities of other provincial political parties or independents,” Neilson wrote in an email dated July 27.  
The Cambridge board, which includes Karahalios’s husband Jim, didn’t appear to heed the advice, and last Thursday, was informed it had been deregistered by the party and a new president would be appointed. 
“This action means that you are no longer a board affiliated with the PC Party of Ontario and are not authorized to conduct any business on behalf of the Cambridge PC Riding Association,” Neilson said in an August 13 email. “Conducting business includes but is not limited to holding meetings, sending public communications, using Party IT infrastructure or undertaking or attempting to undertake any banking or financial transactions related or connected to the Cambridge Riding Association credit or banking facilities,” Neilson went on to say. 
That prompted a complaint to Elections Ontario. 
The riding association claimed the elections agency erroneously denied Cross’s application for the role of president because the PCs advised they had “derecognized this association.” 
“We were not provided with any reasons for this decision,” they wrote to Chief Electoral Officer Greg Essensa, asking him to “ensure that any attempt to ‘deregister’ our association follows the process outlined in section 12” of the Election Finances Act. (That section is mostly related to filing requirements.) 
Elections Ontario confirmed Hayden Faus, another member of the executive, was appointed the next president on April 13 and the local association was re-registered.
The board also alleged the former president resigned “as a result of threats, bullying and intimidation tactics made against him” by Neilson, and contends PC Party headquarters interfered with the selection of a new president. 
Christina Wramhed, spokesperson for the Ontario PCs, said the party “does not comment on internal party matters.” 
Jim Karahalios — a frequent thorn in the side of the party — still has an outstanding lawsuit against the PCs alleging the last executive election in which Brian Patterson became party president was rigged against him. 
None of the allegations mentioned in this story have been tested. 

This story was updated with a response from Elections Ontario on Friday, August 21.