Thwarted PC nomination candidate takes party to court

By Allison Smith August 6, 2021

Stella Ambler, the wannabe PC candidate in Simcoe—Grey who felt thwarted after the party appointed Collingwood Mayor Brian Saunderson to run, has filed an application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice seeking to overturn the acclamation.

“The PC Party has no authority to circumvent the democratic process in this riding,” Ambler said in a statement yesterday, adding that “under our party’s constitution, the PC party members in Simcoe—Grey are the only ones who are entitled to select their PC Party candidate for the next election.”

Ambler and her lawyer, Asher Honickman, argue “the law is clear that political parties must adhere to their own constitutions” and that a 2020 change to the PC Party’s rules governing candidate nominations, which allow the premier to appoint up to 10 candidates of his choosing, was passed only by the party executive and not cleared by members.

“I’m not suing for damages. I’m simply asking the court to compel the party to deliver on its own constitutional provisions, place my name on a ballot and allow an open, public and democratic vote in Simcoe—Grey,” Ambler said.

Saunderson was acclaimed as the PC’s candidate in the solidly blue riding on June 3, despite the fact Ambler and two other contestants spent time campaigning and selling memberships in hopes of an open nomination race.

Asked about the legal challenge, PC Party spokesperson Stephanie Bellotto said the party does not comment on internal matters.

Saunderson’s nomination also stoked the ire of local riding association president Ted Rowe, who said the PC grassroots in the area were caught “totally off guard.” In June, Rowe penned an open letter to Premier Doug Ford asking for membership dues to be refunded to himself and the 783 members Ambler and the two other nomination hopefuls signed up.

Rowe also noted Saunderson’s father, Williamson J. Saunderson, and Doug Ford Sr. sat as PC MPPs at the same time during the Mike Harris years.

The riding is likely to be an easy win for the PC Party in 2022; it has been represented by PC-turned-Independent MPP Jim Wilson since its creation in 1999.

Ambler is a former Conservative Party of Canada MP for the riding of Mississauga South. She says her earlier appeal of Saunderson’s appointment was shot down in June by Patrick Harris, the PC Party’s fourth vice-president and chair of the Simcoe—Grey nomination committee.