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Guergis will hang on for interim

Morgan Ian Adams

SIMCOE-GREY - Just as the local Conservative electoral district association determines its candidate options, Simcoe-Grey's Member of Parliament says she hopes to be back in the Conservative fold in the near future.

"Since all of the charges are spurious and bizarre, I hope justice will be done quickly and I will be free to stand as the Conservative candidate in Simcoe-Grey," Guergis said Wednesday, in response to a series of questions emailed to the MP on Tuesday.

On Saturday, the Conservative EDA for Simcoe-Grey is holding its annual general meeting in New Lowell, and one of the topics that could be on the agenda is the status of the candidate and the implications for the association.

The meeting is closed to outsiders, including the media.

Guergis resigned as Minister of State for the Status of Women on April 9, and was subsequently suspended from the Conservative caucus after as-yet unspecified allegations were presented to Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Harper has referred those allegations to the RCMP.

The NDP have also formally asked the Ethics Commissioner to review a letter Guergis wrote to Simcoe County last September touting a company that at the time was involved with Guergis' husband, Rahim Jaffer.

Jaffer and his business partner Patrick Glemaud made an appearance before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on Wednesday to answer questions about his alleged efforts to use his political connections to advance the interests of his alternative energy technology firm.

With Guergis sitting as an Independent in the interim, there have been questions of whether she is still the Conservative's candidate in the riding.

Paul Shaw, the vice-president of the Conservative's electoral district association in Simcoe-Grey, indicated in an interview with the Enterprise-Bulletin that Guergis is still the "confirmed candidate" for the Conservatives in Simcoe-Grey.

Shaw said that last year, the Conservative Party's national office had sent out a survey to members with a sitting Member of Parliament to determine the satisfaction level.

If an MP didn't meet a certain threshold, he said, then local EDAs would have been notified to start a candidate selection process.

In Simcoe-Grey, he noted, Guergis "passed with flying colours."

However, he acknowledged, "things may have changed with many people."

And, said Shaw, the Prime Minister would still have to sign Guergis' nomination papers.

There had been some confusion in the wake of Harper banishing Guergis from the Conservative caucus.

If a snap election was called - either by the Prime Minister going to the Governor-General, or the opposition forcing a vote of non-confidence - it's still difficult to say whether Guergis would be the Conservative candidate, or whether the EDA would have to turn to someone else.

However, said Shaw, given there's little appetite for an election, in all likelihood the EDA won't have to face that possibility.

It all depends on the timing.

For one thing, he said, it depends on how long it takes for the RCMP to probe the allegations - whether the police even take that step.

"That may take some length of time; at some point I would think she would either be back in caucus," said Shaw, or out of the party, depending on the outcome of an investigation.

He also suggested that given what's happened these last couple of months, and the controversy that has swirled around Guergis and her husband, the MP could also ask the EDA to open up the nomination process in order to get a vote of confidence from local Conservatives.

"She could open it up under the circumstances, and ask to be reaffirmed," said Shaw, a process that could potentially "reinvigorate our association" by going through a democratic process.

Guergis said the decision to hold a nomination meeting is that of the EDA.

"That is not a decision for me to make," she said.

But if the investigation process takes any great length of time, and Guergis remains out of caucus, Shaw acknowledged that at some point, the national office could instruct the EDA to begin the process of candidate selection.

If there were a snap election - always a possibility in a minority parliament - and Guergis had not been returned to caucus, "we'd have to have a fairly expedited process," he said.

He expected all the options to be presented to the membership at Saturday's AGM, and likely followed up in a letter to members from the EDA president.

At this point, Shaw says he's unsure of how the controversy has affected local Conservative fortunes, regardless of who the candidate may be.

"I'm hearing a mixed reaction, and we'll probably continue to have a mixed reaction until there's a resolution," he said. "People sometimes make up their mind to vote on a single issue; it depends what their mindset is when they're in the polling booth.

"People can formulate some pretty hard and fast opinions," he said. "Politics is politics - you just never know."

Guergis said she is prepared to wait for three to six months, remaining an Independent member of parliament for the short and medium term.

However, "if the situation extends over several months, I will consider my options at that time," she said.

The MP also noted local voters have shown their support.

"I thank the many constituents who have called, wrote and kept my family and I in their prayers," she said. "It is an honor and a privilege to serve my community."

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