This story has been updated to include a statement from the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Conservatives have rejected a pro-life candidate seeking the party’s nomination in the Ontario Conservative stronghold of Oxford, True North has learned.
Gerrit Van Dorland, a long-time Conservative activist from Otterville, Ontario, was disqualified in a 3-2 vote by the Conservatives’ National Candidate Selection Committee Tuesday evening.
According to a statement from pro-life political action group RightNow, Van Dorland was targeted for his beliefs.
“The party gave no reason for Gerrit’s disqualification,” said an email sent by RightNow co-founder Scott Hayward to the organization’s supporters. “The real issue is that Gerrit is pro-life and more than likely to win the nomination.”
A Conservative spokesperson told True North Van Dorland was disqualified for failing to disclose details in his application.
“Although the Conservative party does not typically discuss internal party matters, we are aware of information being circulated regarding the nomination contest in Oxford, Ont. that requires clarification and context,” the spokesperson said. “Gerrit Van Dorland, a nomination applicant in Oxford, was disqualified from standing in a nomination race by the party’s National Candidate Selection Committee (NCSC) due to a failure to comply with the obligation to disclose required information during the candidate application process. The recommendation to disqualify this individual was first made by the local Candidate Nomination Committee.”
Prospective candidates must complete a comprehensive candidate application that must include, among other things, a list of all current and former social media accounts and websites, a copy or publicly inaccessible online postings, and copies of all articles and media coverage about the candidate.
The party did not specify what details Van Dorland allegedly did not include in his application.
Van Dorland could not be reached for an interview, but his campaign manager, Bas Sluijmers, said in a statement the campaign would be appealing.
“We are very disappointed with the notice we received yesterday from the Executive Director of the Conservative Party informing us with no reasoning that Gerrit has been disqualified from the nomination race,” Sluijmers wrote. “We will be appealing the decision to the National Council in the coming days.”
Under the party’s nomination rules, candidates have the right to appeal National Candidate Selection Committee decisions to the party’s elected National Council.
Van Dorland was seeking to replace recently retired Conservative MP Dave MacKenzie in a forthcoming by-election. The hotly contested Conservative nomination has already drawn accusations of favouritism.
MacKenzie, who held the riding for the Conservatives from 2004 until his retirement earlier this year, accused Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre of backing lawyer Arpan Khanna’s candidacy.
MacKenzie’s daughter, Woodstock, Ont. city councillor Deb Tait, is also seeking the nomination, as is Toronto political strategist Rick Roth.
Khanna, who ran as a Conservative candidate in Brampton North in 2019, served as Poilievre’s Ontario co-chair in last year’s Conservative leadership race. His website contains an endorsement from Poilievre, though Poilievre’s office has said this was in relation to his work on the campaign and not his nomination bid.
Oxford has 6,000 Conservative members after the cut-off date to vote in the nomination. A source connected to Van Dorland’s campaign said just under half of those were sold by Van Dorland.
The Oxford by-election must be called by July 29.