Rejected Manitoba Tory leadership candidate protests exclusion from race – CBC.ca

A former Progressive Conservative official who did not make it through the screening process for the party’s leadership race gathered with a crowd of supporters near the legislative building on Saturday to call for an explanation for why he was excluded from the ballot that will decide Manitoba’s next premier.

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Ken Lee formally announced his candidacy on Wednesday with a platform that included opposition to vaccine mandates to enter businesses and work in government jobs. (CBC)

A former Progressive Conservative official who did not make it through the screening process for the party’s leadership race gathered with a crowd of supporters near the legislative building on Saturday to call for an explanation for why he was excluded from the ballot that will decide Manitoba’s next premier.

Ken Lee, a chartered accountant and the party’s former chief financial officer, formally announced his candidacy on Wednesday with a platform that included opposition to vaccine mandates to enter businesses and work in government jobs.

The next day, the party announced Lee was not among the two candidates who met all the requirements for the race by the Wednesday evening deadline.

At the time, PC leadership election committee chair George Orle said in a statement the party has “a rigorous application process that embodies a broad range of factors, all of which have been carefully considered.”

The party would not elaborate on why Lee was denied a spot on the ballot — and the former leadership hopeful said he doesn’t expect it will.

“We’ll probably never know why I wasn’t allowed to run,” he said among a crowd of several hundred people.

Many of those supporters held signs opposing vaccine mandates while others had ones supporting Lee’s failed bid for premier.

“I’m not happy with the way this went down. I don’t know what to say. It’s — I’m in a very bad position,” he said, adding that as far as he’s aware, he met or exceeded the requirements the party set out for the race.

“It’s almost embarrassing that they won’t tell me.”

The requirements to enter the race included having nomination signatures from 50 party members, selling 1,000 new memberships and paying a $25,000 entry fee.

Interview process

Candidates also had to submit to an interview “to ensure a commitment to the principles and values of the party,” the party said.

Lee said party officials asked questions about his values during the vetting process, including his position on COVID-19 vaccines, but didn’t react poorly to anything he said.

“I don’t think it mattered what I would have said. I think at that time they knew that there was a movement going on here,” he said.

“If I had to speculate, I would say that they couldn’t believe how many memberships we sold in such a short period of time. It looked like we may be the leader. And possibly, they didn’t think that I was electable in [Manitoba’s next election in] 2023.”

rally manitoba legislature sept 18 2021

Several hundred people gathered near the Manitoba Legislative Building on Saturday. Many held signs in support of Lee’s failed leadership bid. (CBC)

Lee said his campaign had an estimated tally of somewhere upwards of 2,000 memberships sold, though memberships come in online and can only be confirmed by the party.

David Grant, who said he’s been involved in volunteering for the party for several years, was among those gathered in support of Lee.

“This thing that’s going on now is just distressing,” Grant said, adding the interview process should have happened before leadership hopefuls started selling party memberships.

“You’ve got 2,000 people or whatever that plunked down their money [for memberships]. They were really hoping this would happen and now they’re really mad.”

david grant

David Grant was among those gathered in support of Lee on Saturday. (CBC)

Lee, who during his time as an official in the PC party helped create the leadership-selection mechanism guiding the race he’s been excluded from, said he has no plans to take action against the party.

“That’s really a waste of time,” he said, adding a legal challenge would cost too much time and money.

“I wrote the rules, so I know there’s no recourse.”

As for the party’s next leader, Lee said he doesn’t plan to publicly throw his support behind either Tuxedo MLA Heather Stefanson or former Conservative MP Shelly Glover.

“I think people should decide for themselves. That’s what democracy’s all about,” he said.

“Unfortunately, I won’t be on the ballot.”

The party will select Manitoba’s next premier on Oct. 30.