Looking for answers – potential nominee denied opportunity to run

Lorraine Gilmore Peters was told she is not qualified to run in the nomination for the Saint Croix Progressive Conservative Riding Association, but claims she was not given a reason as to why.

Lorraine Gilmore Peters grew up in St. Stephen, and is connected to this community. She and her husband are financially invested as well, owning Kings Court. Her connection is one of the main reasons she decided to throw her hat into the ring and run for the nomination for the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick (PCNB) for the Saint Croix riding. On paper, she could even be called an almost ideal candidate, but, the Saint Croix Progressive Conservative Riding Association (SCPCRA) doesn’t seem to think so, and refuses to say exactly why.

“I guess the best way to tell a story is from the very beginning,” said Gilmore Peters. “I’m born and raised in St. Stephen, and very connected to the community. We believe in the community. It’s where I’m from. My oldest son was born in the Charlotte County Hospital. The picture of me painted that I’m not from there or live there, and that is not true. I definitely have an investment there.”

Gilmore Peters said her cousin, Leland McGaw, held the riding for 20 years for the PC’s, and was also the chairman of NB Power. The popular MLA supported people of the riding above all else, and Gilmore Peters wants to carry on in that tradition. and she doesn’t understand why the party will not accept her application for the nomination to run for the St. Croix riding.

“I had been planning on getting into politics,” said Gilmore Peters. “It was a riding I care about. The situation wasn’t ideal, with Greg Thompson passing away. But, it was a great opening for me. I called PC NB on the first week of December, and immediately got a call back from the president, Rick LaFrance. I had a 90 minute meeting. It was all very nice. They gave me an application package and check-listed everything I would have to do before the application would be received. I left there happy.”

Applying for the nomination

The next step in the process was an Internet scrub. Gilmore Peters said they comb through all of a potential candidate’s social media accounts. She was asked to provide user names and passwords for all of her social media accounts. She provided this information on December 16. Two days later, she said she received a call from Rick LaFrance, telling her everything looked good and the last step in the process would be a panel interview. She attended that interview the following day.

“I had a 90-minute interview with Rick LaFrance, Francois Robichaud, and another PC female, but I can’t remember her name. They actually started to laugh and tell me one of the things they are going to use against Rod Cumberland, who’s going to be running for (the People’s) Alliance.”

Gilmore Peters’ happiness wasn’t to last very long. After doing everything asked of her, including receiving 25 signatures from current PCNB members, filling out the application, answering all of the questions, having a criminal background check performed, getting three character witnesses, and getting PCNB members to sign her papers, she was suddenly informed that she would not be permitted to run for the party. She found all of this to be quite strange, considering that during her interview she was given the impression that she could run.

And then, it got confusing

“They’re divulging information about how they are going to go after Rod,” said Gilmore Peters. “And then he says, ‘you’re doing great, by the way’. I leave that interview and figure I’m good to go. But, 24 hours later I get a very abrupt, intimidating call from Rick. He said, ‘I’m calling to simply tell you you’re not permitted to run’. I was shocked. I asked, do I have the right to know why. He said ‘no, you do not. Goodbye’. I’ve never received a follow-up email, a registered letter, or anything to formally close the loop. It was just the very intimidating phone call saying I did not have the right to run.”

LaFrance did not respond to the Courier’s request for comment.

The story just gets stranger from there. Less than a minute after receiving the call, Gilmore Peters received a call from Southwest NB MP, John Williamson. She said he had previously invited her to have coffee so they could get to know one another, but she wasn’t sure why he was calling at this point. She told him what she had just been told, and he said he wanted to look into the matter. He never called her back, but did send an email shortly before Christmas, telling her to forget about the whole thing. The Courier reached out to Williamson, but were informed he was unavailable for comment.

Cleveland Allaby, Chair of the Search Committee for the SCPCRA, said this vetting process is not unique to the PC party, and that it goes across all parties. He noted anyone who is interested in running is encouraged to apply, and then their application is reviewed. He also added that with social media coming into play, there is more to look at than simply the application itself.

“We took a good hard look at that and other things, from criminal records to bankruptcy to litigation,” said Allaby. “This is up to the party to determine. Apparently, they determined that the person in question wouldn’t be a suitable candidate, and they denied her application. As to reasons why Lorraine would have been declined as an applicant to become a nominate, I have no idea why. I have been accused of spinning things by some. I just don’t understand that at all. I would encourage you to talk to Lorraine and anyone else who forms part of the story.”

Gilmore Peters said she has been told by many people that someone in an “influential position” within the PC party who did not want her to win the riding. This was not news that was new to her. She said early on, she had reached out to an old family friend who told her she would support her in her endeavor to run for the party nomination. Suddenly, the family friend changed her mind.

“She said, ‘of course I’ll support you. I’ll come out to the convention and vote for you,” said Gilmore Peters. “A few days later, she called me back, very agitated. She said, ‘it seems I’m not voting for anyone. I’m staying neutral. I’m not even going to the convention. I’m staying out of it entirely’. It was evident she had been told not to support me.”

Did the riding president resign over this incident?

And not to disappoint, the rumour mill has its own addition; that former riding President Vern Card resigned because of this incident, rumors which he states are not true. He stated via email saying statements made in a CBC article were “erroneous”.

“Although that situation was concerning,” stated Card regarding the refusal of Gilmore Peters, “It was small compared to the overall environment. This environment prompted the resignation,” he went on to say.

Gilmore Peters feels part of the problem is the fact she is a woman. It does however have to be noted, the candidate who has officially been announced as the candidate for the PC party in the riding is Kathy Bockus, a woman. Gilmore Peters said the Blaine Higgs caucus does not have many women, and she wanted to see that change. She claims messaged Sherry Wilson, MLA for Moncton Southwest, Minister of Service New Brunswick, and Minister responsible for Women’s Equality.

“I reached out to her not because she has anything to do with the vetting of the candidates, but because I wanted to appeal to her as the minister of equality, and ask her to help me find some answers. She already knew what we would be talking about. When she called, she said, ‘I only have five minutes’. She told me that nobody knows why I’m not permitted to run.” Gilmore Peters said Wilson went on to comment, ‘We have a third-party company that handles the vetting process.”

Not a team player, finished with PC party

Gilmore Peters said she asked Wilson three questions. First, she asked where the third party was during her first meeting. She then asked where the vetting company was when she had her final interview. Finally, she asked where all of her private and sensitive information went. Wilson told her she would ask more questions, but never got back to her. So, Gilmore Peters messaged LaFrance and told him Wilson had told her about the third-party company, something that he denied emphatically. Gilmore Peters says she again contacted Wilson, who she claims proceeded to lash out at her because she was offended that Gilmore Peters was insinuating Wilson was lying. Then, Wilson proceeded to blame her Executive Assistant (EA), claiming the EA told her that PCNB said there is a third-party company involved in the vetting process. Wilson apparently went on to say Gilmore Peters is not a team player, and Wilson didn‘t care for the way she was behaving.

“I’m not a team player at all times, when someone is being denied their rights, when someone is doing something that is just not right,” said Gilmore Peters. “So, that closed the loop. Where I’m at now is it is very important to me that people understand that the time has expired for PCNB to say anything to me.

“During this process, I’ve decided that they don’t meet my criteria. What drew me to them from an outsider looking in is not what I have discovered when I got some access to the inside. I can tell you, I will do what they were unwilling to do. I will tell them the reasons why they don’t meet my criteria. They do not stand for women’s equality. They do not stand for fair representation of their constituents because they have not allowed the democratic process to unfold. Their process as to how they select candidates is worrisome. Finally, I cannot buy into that intimidation of lies and innuendos.”

Gilmore Peters said she is glad to have found out the party doesn’t stand for the things she stands for. She feels the constituents are being left out, and that they deserve to have as many people at the convention who want to be there and run in an “open and fair democratic process”. Her opinion is the people in the riding have been left out, and feels the Premier doesn’t seem to care about this riding at all.

In addition to Card resigning, Gilmore Peters said she’s heard at least one board member has also resigned. She said the riding is falling apart, and neither the Premier nor any of his people have provided anyone with any answers. She considers this to be a “total disregard of the people in the riding”, which for her is a big part of the overall issue.

The next step for Gilmore Peters

Gilmore Peters said her next step is to continue doing what she has been doing for several years, which is working on confidence-based programs for women to help them achieve their goals in life. She wants to be a part of removing the barriers that women getting into politics face. She said many women receiving the same type of intimidating call that she received would immediately drop out of the race and just walk away.

Allaby said he has no hesitation in suggesting women for the PC party. He remarked he supports women in politics, and doesn’t look at gender, but at the person who is running, their qualifications, backgrounds, etc. He said the inference that the party wasn’t supporting women bothers him greatly, considering the only other applicant in the riding is a woman.

“The only other officially approved applicant (for SCPCRA) is Kathy Bockus,” said Allaby. “I just didn’t understand the comment at all. A lot of what I’m hearing is not fact-based, coming from Lorraine and some of the other people who are commenting on this. I just can’t speak to it other than to say it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. The St. Croix Riding has done nothing but to facilitate the best candidate in this riding. We stand by the process and the people who are involved in it. We have a person who has offered up and who has been accepted who would make a fine member. There is no hesitation in my mind in saying that.”

Gilmore Peters said she has experienced this type of steamrolling in the business world, and most people who are intimidated in such a fashion often leave the situation rather than fight it. But she says she will continue to fight, just not as a political candidate – at least not for now.

“You have to put yourself out there in a very personal and vulnerable way. Then they can come back and say you can’t run and we don’t have to tell you why. I believe they are doing this to women without ground. If they had a reason that made me an unsavory candidate, why not just tell me? What is wrong with just telling me? It’s because they’re hiding something. Somebody, for their own personal political gain, does not want me to win that nomination. I think they thought I could beat the other candidate, so they made sure I didn’t make it to the nomination convention.”

During an interview on December 12, Jennifer Urquhart and Allaby were present, and everyone was asking questions about her views. Before Gilmore Peters could formulate answers to their questions, she said Allaby would jump in and answer it himself. He implied there are a few reasons why Gilmore Peters would be disqualified, and added that he alluded to the fact that she already knows why she was disqualified. During another interview meeting, Gilmore Peters said Allaby interrupted every time she tried to respond.

“The other thing he said in this interview is ‘obviously, Lorraine knows why’. But, Lorraine does not know why. He should either tell me or shut up. He’s not going to be permitted to try and damage my reputation by saying things that are unsubstantiated,” said Gilmore Peters.

Allaby said he “takes a little bit of an exception” to the comment, because he states this is not exactly what was said. He said Gilmore Peters was part of the interview, and he wasn’t, so he is not in a position to make comments about what might or might not be a reason to disqualify her from becoming a nominate.

“I wasn’t in the room. The only people who might know are Lorraine or PCNB. Most other parties don’t tell you. You make the application and it is determined whether you are an acceptable candidate. It’s not new. It’s not news. Whatever the issue is, you won’t want it to become a campaign issue. You want it to be taken care of at this stage. That’s the reason it’s done,” said Allaby.

Gilmore Peters said the time has expired for any explanations from the PC party. She still plans to involve herself in politics, but she has to decide just how.

“I’d say down the road, politics is still my thing, because I have a lot to offer. That’s been the ride so far. I am a positive, moving forward person. I will use this for somebody’s benefit if not my own.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca