OTTAWA — Failed Conservative leadership candidate Brad Trost is seeking an Ontario court’s opinion on whether his campaign ought to have been fined for leaking the party’s membership list.
Trost filed a request for judicial review Tuesday, asking a judge to compel the party to return his campaign’s $50,000 fine, or — failing that — to require that the issue be reviewed by an impartial decision maker.
The Conservative party’s leadership organizing committee levied the fine in June after concluding Trost’s campaign was to blame for the membership list ending up in the hands of the National Firearms Association, a breach of the rules.
Several party members complained about getting correspondence from the group once the leadership contest was over, and insisted the list was the only way the NFA could have obtained their contact information.
After those concerns were made public, the party said a perpetrator had been identified, and that disciplinary action would be taken.
That, alleges Trost in the documents filed Tuesday, is where the problem began, kick-starting a fundamentally biased process that deprived him of basic procedural fairness and tarnished his reputation.
The party’s statement on the issue was made before Trost’s campaign was told they were being investigated, Trost notes in the documents. The campaign responded by saying they could find no source for the leak and demanded proof of the allegations.
The party responded with a letter accusing Trost’s campaign of breaking the rules by leaking the list, and said it would lose the $50,000 compliance deposit it paid at the start of the race.
Both the fine and the purported inquiry “were a sham designed to justify a decision that had already been reached by (party) officials, namely to blame the Trost campaign for the leak,” Trost alleges.
While Trost alleges the process was flawed, a spokesman for the party said the former leadership hopeful failed to take full advantage of it.
“Our leadership rules set out a process for appealing decisions any campaign may not agree with,” Cory Hann said in an email.
“As we have done throughout this, we’ll continue to invite the Trost campaign to utilize that appeals process. Our appeals committee remains ready to hear any appeal if or when that process gets used.”
In the documents, Trost said that the members of the appeals committee are all part of the broader leadership executive, and therefore “irremediably tainted with a reasonable apprehension of bias.”
Trost’s campaign was blamed for the leak thanks to a practice known as salting, whereby each campaign is given membership lists with different fake names, so that breaches in the party’s confidentiality rules can be traced.
Trost’s campaign denied the allegations they were behind the leak from the start, and in the documents, noted that officials within the party also had access to the specific list that was provided to the Trost campaign.
“At best, the available evidence permitted (the leadership organizing committee) to conclude only that the leaked list was the Trost list,” says the court filing.
“The evidence does not responsibly permit a finding that Mr. Trost of his campaign was responsible for the leak.”
For that reason, the party had every motive for finding somewhere else to lay the blame, Trost alleges.
“The executive director’s role in the party would motivate him to shift responsibility for the embarrassing leak onto one of the leadership candidates and away from CPC officials.”
Trost, a long time MP from Saskatchewan, finished fourth in the leadership race, which declared Andrew Scheer the winner after a 13-ballot battle.