Outside the room where Joe Peschisolido was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in Steveston-Richmond East, his disqualified rival made an impassioned challenge to party leader Justin Trudeau.
“He should show more leadership,” Wendy Yuan said Tuesday (August 11) about Trudeau, whose promise for open nominations across the country has sounded hollow amid claims of favouritism in the selection of candidates in other ridings.
Yuan, who has run for the Liberals in the past, was not allowed to run in the nomination even though she has signed up about 3,000 members.
Responding to questions from the Straight, Yuan directly addressed Trudeau as her placard-waving supporters shouting "Wendy" repeatedly jammed the hallway of the Hamilton Community Centre where Peschisolido was being crowned.
“Justin, I know you’re [an] honourable man,” Yuan said. “Justin, I know you’re a fair man, and I think being the leader of the Liberal Party, a major party in Canada, I have confidence that you will come to make a decision that’s going to be fair for the riding and for all the members in this riding.”
Yuan blamed “backroom boys who are abusing the system” inside the party for her not being able to receive the go-ahead from a national vetting committee. She had earlier claimed that former Richmond MP Raymond was behind her troubles.
Yuan also said that she hopes that the people Trudeau “uses at the backroom truly has the best interest of the people, [and] not for their own little group or their self-serving purposes”.
She referred to her disappointed supporters as the “heart and soul…the voice of this riding”.
“For the Liberal Party to decide that their rights are taken away, it’s simply wrong,” Yuan said.
On Tuesday, Mike Hillman quit as membership chair for the Liberal Party of Canada in B.C. over the flap regarding the nomination process in Steveston-Richmond East.
Also on the same day, Peter Xie resigned as president of the party’s association in the riding.
Outside the Hamilton Community Centre where Yuan’s supporters held a mock vote in protest of the former candidate’s disqualification, Xie said in an interview that many are telling him that they will no longer vote Liberal in the October 19 federal election.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle,” Xie told the Straight about Liberal chances of capturing Steveston-Richmond East.
As for himself, Xie said that he’s taking a break, and has not decided yet whether he will be campaigning for the party.
Moments earlier inside the community centre, an employee pleaded with Yuan’s supporters occupying the hallway to clear some space. According to the staff member, the room where the Liberal Party acclamation was being held was reserved for 50 people.
Yuan herself didn’t enter the meeting room, and was busy fielding questions from mostly Chinese-language media representatives.
The room was soon vacated with people who participated in the acclamation leaving through another door, avoiding Yuan’s supporters in the hallway.
Inside, Peschisolido, a former MP who represented the Canadian Alliance and the Liberal Party, stood in a nearly empty room, looking unruffled by the ruckus outside.
“We have a lot of work to do,” the lawyer told the Straight and the Richmond Review.
According to Peschisolido, the protest by Yuan’s supporters is actually a “good sign”, indicating there is a lot of interest in the riding.
“People are going to be voting on issues such as the economy, the environment, social policies, pensions, tax reform, and local issues as well,” Peschisolido said.
Among the local issues, the former MP cited the controversial plan to develop a pipeline that will deliver jet fuel to the Vancouver International Airport. He said that people are interested to know “why the federal government is completely abdicating” its role in the pipeline project, which he noted poses a risk to residents as well as marine life in the Fraser River.
Peschisolido noted that there are 120,000 voters in the riding, and the campaign will be a daunting task: “You need to reach out to all of them, and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Peschisolido has only kind words for Yuan: “She is a good person. I consider her a friend.”