Conservatives choose their candidate for 2019
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Businessman and Conservative candidate Mike Coates makes his final pitch to party membership at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 72 in Pembroke Sunday afternoon. Coates was seeking to represent Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke as the Tory candidate in the 2019 federal election.
Cheryl Gallant will once more represent the Conservatives as its candidate when the voters go to the polls in the next federal election.
The party’s membership cast ballots across the riding over the weekend endorsing the incumbent MP’s bid for a seventh consecutive term in the House of Commons. She had been challenged for the nomination by businessman Mike Coates, who recently chaired Kevin O'Leary's leadership campaign and was a former treasurer and secretary of the federal Conservative party.
Both candidates had an opportunity to make their final pitch to party faithful at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 72 in Pembroke Sunday afternoon. In order to vote, memberships had to be purchased by Feb. 1. Similar polls were held in Renfrew and Barry’s Bay on Saturday where the turnout was described as considerably high. It took less than 90 minutes for the ballots to be counted and Gallant was declared the victor. Party officials said they would not be releasing the final results.
“I am very thankful, humbled and honoured,” Gallant said after the announcement. “I am happy that we can unite and fight the real battle.”
With the ruling Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holding an 11-seat majority, the next scheduled general election will be held on Oct. 21, 2019. Although the nomination process was moved up, Gallant saw it an opportunity to get the volunteer mobilized for next year’s campaign. She also believes anger and outrage at the current government, and in particular Trudeau, who has just finished what critics are calling a disastrous foreign tour of India, is propelling voters to take interest in the next election and who will represent them. On Saturday night, the R.C.A.F. #433 Champlain Wing in Renfrew was packed with not only Conservatives, Gallant said, but folks from other political parties.
“It’s a reflection of how badly they want to see Trudeau out,” she said. “That speaks volumes that prominent Liberals have come over to the Conservatives.”
A magnanimous Coates immediately called for party unity and congratulated Gallant on winning this campaign fair and square. He said he will fulfill his promise to the MP that, if he was unsuccessful, he would support her. Considering the numbers who came out to vote and attend his stump speeches, Coates believes there is a growing grassroots movement against what is happening in Ottawa under the current Liberal administration.
“The Valley loves their politics and they are very passionate about it,” he said. “I can tell you there is no love lost for Trudeau.”
A lifelong Conservative who recently retired as a senior executive in the field of communications and government relations with Hill and Knowlton Strategies, Coates pursued a campaign of seeking to promote jobs, economic development and funding for infrastructure.
“I hope that the riding association looks at the race and broadens its agenda into the areas of job growth and economic development,” he added.
This was the first time the nomination had been contested since Gallant won her seat under the former Canadian Alliance in November 2000 defeating Liberal MP Hec Clouthier. Some members echoed Coates’ thesis that a member of parliament should not be a career choice and called for renewal within party.
“Cheryl has been in the job for a long time and it’s always good for democracy to give people a choice,” said Sheila Parras, who was attending her first nomination meeting. “I’m willing to give Mike a shot.”
Coates was greeted with a loud applause from the crowd who packed the legion’s banquet hall to hear both contenders before voting. When she took to the stage to deliver her five-minute speech, Gallant’s supporters gave her an equally rousing ovation. Both Coates and Gallant said they appreciated the campaign not dissolving into rancour and personal attacks. The MP added she looks forward to Coates’ support and energy when the federal campaign begins.
“We are all on the same team,” she said. “I am pleased that when the results came in that he is still committed to working with the Conservative team.”
In this riding, the Liberal, NDP and Green parties have yet to announce when they will chose a nominee.