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Edmonton Progressive Conservative candidates charge they were unfairly pushed from nomination race

Two former Edmonton candidates for Progressive Conservative nominations are charging they were unfairly pushed out of their respective races and still don’t know why.

Don Martin, who was running against incumbent MLA Janice Sarich in Edmonton–Decore, said he was notified just a day before the vote that he was being disqualified.

He said PC party director Kelly Charlebois gave him the choice of voluntarily withdrawing or being disqualified, based on an affidavit alleging he participated in some form of misconduct.

“Since I had not seen the affidavit, since the author was, and still remains unknown to me, and since I regarded Mr. Charlebois, actions akin to a Star Chamber proceeding, and morally equivalent to blackmail, I declined to withdraw,” he said in a statement released through his Facebook page.

Charlebois denied Martin’s version of the events and said Martin is well aware of why he wasn’t allowed to run.

“Don and I had a conversation I made it very clear to him what the issue was and it was a gross violation of the party’s rules. He admitted it and that was that,” said Charlebois.

Martin said he still has no idea who's making claims against him or the nature of those claims.

“At this time I am unaware of who swore the affidavit. I was also, at no time offered the chance to review the contents of the affidavit, nor given the opportunity to find out who swore the affidavit,” he said.

Martin said the next day his campaign team called hundreds of people who were prepared to vote for him.

“My campaign team sorrowfully laboured in informing more than 400+ supporters that their choice in who would be their nominated PC party candidate would be deprived,” he said.

He said he believes his disqualification was orchestrated by a small group.

“I do not believe that what occurred was done with the knowledge of the leader of our party, but rather a small cohort of persons with motives unknown.

Martin is not alone in alleging wrongdoing in a nomination race.

Balraj Manhas, president of the United Cabbies Association, said he's still waiting for answers weeks after allegedly being forced to leave the Edmonton-Ellerslie race.

Manhas was the lone challenger to incumbent Naresh Bhardwaj, but says he received a call two days prior to the Feb. 21 ballot from riding nomination committee representatives who claimed there were problems with his candidacy papers.

Manhas said 25 signatures were required from members to allow him to run and he says he supplied 30.

"They asked me to pull out or they said they would put in the public that I was disqualified or something like that," he said. "I only had a few minutes to decide.

Manhas reluctantly pulled out. He said he'd sent another email Monday morning inquiring for more information about why he would have been disqualified but hadn't received a response.

"I need an answer from the party . . . if they open the nominations it should be fair for everybody," he said. "If they don't want to open the nominations, that's fine."

In the case of Edmonton-Ellerslie, Charlebois said the party was still looking at the case.

“The whole matter is still considered under review by the party,” he said.

Charlebois said he would not say what the review entailed or if it could alter the outcome of the nomination.

“I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole here, all I can say is the whole situation is under review.”

— With files from Jeremy Nolais

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