The Newmarket-Aurora PC riding association board president has resigned over a “highly unusual” process to decide the riding’s new candidate.
The Ontario Progressive Conservatives announced March 4 that Dawn Gallagher Murphy would take over the nomination from Newmarket-Aurora MPP and Minister of Health Christine Elliott. The longtime official had announced she would not run for re-election that same day.
But now-former association president Bill Hogg said the party informed the local board about the new candidate on the same Zoom call as they did Elliott’s decision. He said denying the local association input into the candidate that will represent the riding “goes against the principles I believe in,” so he stepped down.
“There was no open process to determine the new candidate,” Hogg said. “It is highly unusual and inconsistent with the nomination process for a candidate interested in running to represent the PC Party.”
In response, the Ontario PC Party said it does "not comment on internal party matters."
"We thank MPP Christine Elliott for her years of service and dedication to supporting her constituents, and we are excited to have Dawn Gallagher Murphy as our candidate for Newmarket-Aurora in the next election," the party said.
NewmarketToday did not receive a response to a request for comment from Gallagher Murphy by the publication deadline.
Gallagher Murphy has worked with Elliott since 2018, currently serving as her constituency office manager. In a March 4 news release, the party said she has worked as an entrepreneur for 25 years, including 15 years managing her own consulting business.
“I am honoured to join Doug Ford and the Ontario PC team ahead of the next provincial election,” she said in the news release. “I am truly grateful to have served MPP Christine Elliott, over the years, who has been instrumental in Ontario’s COVID-19 response … The people of Newmarket-Aurora need a strong, local representative who will build a stronger community and Ontario as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”
The party said Gallagher Murphy is a “strong, effective and results-oriented community leader,” who assembled a team for Nature Emporium’s Run for Southlake in 2019 and has “championed” supports for business, mental health and addictions.
But her nomination came out of the blue. Hogg — a former Aurora councillor who sought the nomination in 2018 — said the association was actively working on Elliott’s re-election campaign.
Gallagher Murphy previously stated Elliott was acclaimed to the nomination Sept. 26, 2020, and had intended to run for re-election as of late February.
“Both were a complete surprise,” Hogg said of Elliott’s decision not to run and Gallagher Murphy’s candidacy. “That is not the normal process we would expect to nominate a candidate.”
According to the Ontario PC nomination rules, candidates are determined via nomination meetings submitted by local associations. It said a riding association shall strike a candidate search committee where a PC MPP is not seeking a nomination, who "shall conduct a diligent and exhaustive search for potential contestants." However, the rules also say the provincial nomination committee, under instruction from the party leader, can appoint up to 10 candidates with no search.
Both the provincial Liberals and NDP confirmed their Newmarket-Aurora candidates in February, setting up a neuropsychologist and an epidemiologist respectively to run against Elliott, the health minister. No other candidates have been announced.
The Liberals also had controversy in its nomination process, with the central party dropping one of the prospective candidates in the vetting process in January.
Hogg said he was unsure why the party decided on Elliott’s replacement the way it did.
“I can’t offer any explanation for the process being run in this manner,” he said.