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Some Pictou County Conservatives upset by national campaign choosing new nominee

Wes Surrett has announced his intention to run for the Conservative nomination in Central Nova.
Wes Surrett previously sought Conservative nomination in Central Nova. - Contributed

Former Central Nova nomination candidate says Canyon’s appointment was a surprise

PICTOU, N.S. —

Wes Surrett feels a bit left out of the loop. And he's not alone as far as Pictou County Conservatives are concerned when it comes to the appointment of George Canyon as their candidate.

Surrett, who is general manager of Pictou Lodge, was one of three other candidates who lost to Roger MacKay in the nomination vote held on May 25 for the right to represent the Conservative Party in Central Nova for the October 2019 election.

He watched this week as MacKay stepped down and then George Canyon was announced to replace him.

“It’s a bizarre situation.”

He said the Aug. 19 announcement that MacKay was withdrawing caught him completely off guard. He figured that since he had finished second place in the nomination process he might be considered as a possible candidate and began to talk with his family about whether it was something he should pursue again.

He then found out on Aug. 20 that Canyon was being appointed by the national campaign to fill the vacancy.

“I’d like to tell you I knew what the party was thinking, but I have not had the courtesy of a phone call or an email,” he said.

“I get why they are doing it. It was a big splash. No other candidate’s going to get that kind of attention. I just would have appreciated the courtesy of some kind of communication.”

Surrett believes that Canyon will make a strong candidate for the Conservative Party with both name recognition, good looks and a brand that falls in line with the federal party.

“I guess at the end of the day the party does have the right to put a candidate in place,” Surrett said. “They obviously felt that was the best chance to win this riding.”

As someone who invested time and money into running for the nomination, he said he wishes he had at least been informed more.

“I get why they are doing it. It was a big splash. No other candidate’s going to get that kind of attention. I just would have appreciated the courtesy of some kind of communication.”

Central Nova Conservative Association President Ryan Sharpe told The News on Aug. 21 that Canyon’s appointment is being made by the national campaign team rather than by a vote on the local level.

Sharpe said it’s all happened very quickly.

“I wasn’t really expecting George Canyon would be our candidate when we started this week, but here we are,” he said.

To give a better understanding, Sharpe explained that after Roger MacKay had stepped down, someone reached out to George Canyon because they had heard he was interested in running.

Jim Ryan, is on the board of directors for the Central Nova Conservative Association and confirmed that the board was not involved in the decision to have George Canyon appointed.

"Apparently it is the prerogative of the national office to appoint a candidate should the nominated candidate step down," Ryan said. "I think there are questions about how it was handled within the party.”

Ryan said he did express his views directly to the national party.

“There were candidates who spent a lot of time and effort in signing up members and working on behalf of the party in essence to promote the Conservative Party in the riding. I think things could have been handled better.”

Those concerns aside, he believes the party is ready to move forward with Canyon as the new candidate.

“George is well known. I think it is the hope that his name recognition and his connections to the community will be helpful in winning the seat back for the Conservative Party,” Ryan said.

New Glasgow resident Bob Curley is a card-carrying Conservative who voted at the nomination meeting in which Roger MacKay was selected. He is frustrated to see the way the national party has stepped in to choose the candidate without local input.

Curley was on the executive of the local association in 1983 when Elmer MacKay famously gave up his seat to allow Brian Mulroney to run. He said when that happened, the local party board members were well advised ahead of time what was happening.

“It was left with us to agree upon,” he said. “The process had a process.”

He said there was even a nomination meeting for Mulroney in which 3,000 people packed the Trenton rink.

That process didn’t happen this time.

“It makes you wonder why,” he said.

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