MONTREAL — The party’s evident support for Pascale Déry was not enough for her to win the Conservative nomination in Mount Royal.
Robert Libman will be the Conservative candidate in the Montreal riding in the federal election scheduled for Oct. 19.
At the April 26 nomination meeting held at the YM-YWHA, party officials announced that 1,668 ballots were cast. The breakdown was not disclosed, but Déry later told the media that it was “tight.”
The party said it now has 3,000 members in Mount Royal, an all-time high in this riding that has been Liberal for 75 years.
That record is thanks to the vigorous campaigns conducted by both Libman and Déry.
The result means Libman, 54, the former mayor of Côte St. Luc, will face off against the current mayor, Liberal candidate Anthony Housefather, 44.
Mount Royal, whose population is about 35 per cent Jewish, has been represented by Irwin Cotler since 1999.
This and the Liberals' nomination in Novermber were the first contested nominations by either party in the riding since the Liberals' last one in 1984.
Lawyer Neil Drabkin suddenly withdrew his nomination on April 22 at a closed-door meet-the-candidates meeting and threw his support behind Déry.
Drabkin, who served as chief of staff to two Harper cabinet ministers, entered the race just before the March 26 deadline. He said he had been asked to run by longtime riding members because they were concerned by what they saw as an unhealthy Ashkenazi-Sephardi split between Libman and Déry’s supporters.
He said his decision to support Déry was “a gesture I believed to be in the best interests of the party.”
A fourth would-be candidate, Suburban editor Beryl Wajsman, bowed out just before the deadline. He did not endorse anyone.
Libman, an architect, launched his campaign back in the summer. Déry, 38, a political newcomer with a 15-year career in television journalism, entered in January.
It was clear the Conservatives’ Quebec wing favoured Déry. Cabinet ministers Steven Blaney and Maxime Bernier and Senator Jacques Demers campaigned for her.
Young, attractive and francophone, she was a media personality they thought could change the Conservatives’ image in Quebec.
She clearly also enjoyed strong support from her Sephardi community, and momentum appeared to be on her side.
Libman was still perceived by some as an English-rights militant because of his leadership of the Equality Party in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel, the Conservatives’ Quebec lieutenant, after Libman’s victory, quickly tried to dispel that, saying his experience and wide recognition are assets.
The riding association’s nomination chair Gary Shapiro told The CJN that the drama surrounding this nomination speaks well for the Conservatives’ fortunes. That four people at some point sought to carry the party banner is a watershed in a riding where in the past “we had to twist somebody’s arm.”
The campaign unofficially began with Lebel disparaging Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as “not having the judgment to be prime minister.”
Libman said Housefather lacks his experience as a member of the National Assembly and of the Montreal executive committee. He is confident he has support “in all corners and layers of the riding,” not just Côte St. Luc.
Asked about any party bias, he said, “The party did not interfere or take sides, from my perspective.”
Libman stressed the need for unity and said “there is an important place for Pascale in the centre of the party.”
Déry, who made no concession remarks, told the media she thinks the assumption she was the party’s official pick can now be put to rest after the result.
She was indefinite about a future role in the party or election. “I just want to take some time off. It’s too soon to say what role I might have.”
Libman sounded confident. “In 1989, I won in the safest Liberal seat in the province [D’Arcy McGee]. This time I will win in what has been called the safest Liberal riding in Canada.”
While the Liberals’ popularity in Mount Royal has been dropping, especially in the last two elections, that trend may be reversing. The website threehundredeight.com, which tracks polling, estimated on April 24 that the Liberals will get 67 per cent of the vote and the Tories just 20 per cent in the election.