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County warden furious with Leitch endorsement letter

Morgan Ian Adams

COLLINGWOOD - A candidate for the Simcoe-Grey Conservative nomination says an endorsement letter that went out 'penned' by Simcoe County's warden was a result of a "big miscommunication."

Cal Patterson, who is also mayor of Wasaga Beach, said he was "furious" when a letter enthusiastically endorsing Dr. Kellie Leitch showed up at his door late last week - signed by him.

On Monday, Patterson was disavowing the letter as never having written or read it.

"It's very careless, selfish... somebody in her campaign must have written it and passed it by (Leitch)," he told QMI Agency on Monday afternoon. "I was shocked when I got it.

"As soon as I saw it, I e-mailed her and told her she did not have my permission to do this."

Patterson said it's inappropriate that anything would go out using his name and political titles as endorsing anyone, and "that's why I've asked her to withdraw it."

In the letter, dated Jan. 7, Patterson is quoted as "proudly supporting" Leitch, noting the orthopaedic surgeon at Sick Kids is "an accomplished and respected professional.

"She believes in volunteerism and has been actively involved in many important causes," he wrote

Patterson also points out in the letter that Leitch lives in Creemore - she has been criticized as a 'parachute' candidate - and his letter was accompanied by a list of endorsements from local municipal officials and long-time Conservatives, as well as plugs from 50 Conservative Members of Parliament and senators.

Leitch told QMI the letter was a result of "one hand not talking to the other.

"It's completely regrettable and I take full responsibility," she said, Monday night. "In an nomination campaign, miscommunications can happen over the course of the campaign, and there are lots of volunteers trying to do the best for the candidate they like.

"This was regrettable, and a complete miscommunication on our behalf," she said. "What's done is done... and I hope we can move on."

Leitch had been considered the front runner since announcing her candidacy in September. While former Collingwood mayor Chris Carrier was first in announcing his candidacy for the Conservative nomination in August, Leitch's candidacy had been widely speculated since she showed up to the local Conservative riding association's annual general meeting last April.

A third candidate for the Conservative nomination, Paul Throop, came forward in November.

Her appearance at the AGM caused a ripple with the riding executive, given there was still a chance at that time the sitting Member of Parliament, Helena Guergis, would be allowed to return to the Conservative fold - and it prompted the executive to send a letter to the National Council of the Conservative Party in May demanding to know why Guergis wasn't being allowed to come back and whether Leitch was being touted as a 'star candidate' for the riding.

Leitch has deep connections within the Conservative Party, having worked on the federal and provincial leadership campaigns, respectively, of Conservative power couple Jim Flaherty and Christine Elliott.

Patterson told QMI, and a local radio station, he was furious.

"Once I got the letter, I sent her an email and said how disappointed and how furious I was about the whole thing, that I knew nothing about it," he said in an interview on 97.7 The Beach. "I would not have approved any of the content of it, and I'm going to make this well known to everybody."

Patterson said he had received an apology from Leitch, and has asked her to retract it. Otherwise, he said, he would be writing a letter himself.

"This was a letter that should never have gone out, and certainly I don't support it in any way, but it's out there," he said.

On the radio, he told people who had received the letter to "throw it in the garbage."

"I'm so frustrated with the whole thing that I'm not supporting anybody at this point," he said. "I have enough headaches and things on my plate.

"Shame on me for getting involved at all."

Patterson acknowledged he had provided Leitch support at several events, but that was as a private individual, and not as a public official.

He also expressed his disappointment that a quote attributed to him, using his political titles, was posted on Leitch's website under a list of individuals endorsing her.

"I clearly told them (Leitch's campaign staff) not to use that stuff," he said, when he was read the quote by QMI.

"I'm not supporting her now, and I'm ticked off."

Patterson's quote on the website was removed Monday night.

This isn't the first endorsement faux pas for Leitch in this campaign; last week it was noted several of the endorsements on her website from MPs and senators were duplicated - word for word.

She's also not the only candidate in this campaign with over-active letter writers; Carrier's website contains a letter to 'open-minded Conservatives' in the riding, written by John Hanlon, that trumpets a "local media" had touted the former mayor as "Simcoe-Grey's favourite son." However, as it turned out, the only reference to Carrier being Simcoe-Grey's "favourite son" is an article on a local lifestyle website - and written by Hanlon.

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