OTTAWA — If Eve Adams becomes the federal Liberal candidate in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, local MPP Mike Colle says it will be over his dead body.
Colle, who’s represented the riding provincially for the Liberals for 20 years, says the Conservative defector can’t be allowed to simply parachute into a party and a constituency to which she has no ties.
“I just find the whole thing preposterous,” Colle said in an interview Tuesday.
“I mean, that a Harper Tory from Mississauga all of a sudden is going to run here in the middle of Toronto with no connections and no awareness? You know, it’s a real insult to the local Liberals in this community.”
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau stunned many in his party on Monday when he announced that Adams, a lifelong Conservative who currently represents the riding of Mississauga-Brampton South, was crossing the floor to sit as a Liberal.
Adams said she hopes to carry the Liberal banner in a Toronto-area riding during the coming election, scheduled for October. She didn’t identify the riding but is expected to seek the Liberal nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence, currently held by Finance Minister Joe Oliver.
Conservatives continued Tuesday to characterize Adams’ defection as pure opportunism sparked by the governing party’s decision late last month to bar her from running anywhere.
“It just seems very crass and opportunistic to me,” said Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
It struck a lot of Liberals the same way.
Colle posted on Facebook his personal reaction to the prospect of Adams as the federal Liberal candidate in his riding: “Over my dead body.”
He said he’s spoken to many local Liberals.
“They’re just saying, ‘Where the hell did this come from?’ … They’re just flabbergasted, basically,'” he said.
Colle said he sees no evidence that Adams has “any connection with what we Liberals stand for” or any awareness of the local issues in the riding. Consequently, he predicted her chances of winning the nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence are “slim to none.”
Lawyer Marco Mendicino is already campaigning for the Liberal nomination in the riding. Insiders say Joe Volpe, the former Liberal cabinet minister who held the riding until 2011, is pondering whether he or his son, Flavio, should enter the race.
Volpe did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
But in an email late Tuesday, Mendicino said he’s looking forward to a “fair and open race” and emphazied that he’s a longtime Liberal who lives in the riding.
“I live here with my wife and our two girls. I know the people, the neighbourhoods and the issues.”
Adams’ defection to the Liberals is fully supported by her fiance, Dimitri Soudas, long considered one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s fiercest loyalists and an architect of the Tories’ re-election strategy for 2015.
He lost his job as the Conservative party’s executive director last year for allegedly meddling in the Tory nomination contest in Oakville North-Burlington, where Adams had hoped to run in 2015.
Adams and her opponent were forced to withdraw from that contest last summer, amid allegations of misconduct on both sides.
Privately, some Liberals wonder why Trudeau would welcome two Tories with reputations for playing brass-knuckle politics when he blocked longtime Liberal Christine Innes from running in Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina over allegations of bullying and intimidation by her campaign — specifically by her husband, former MP Tony Ianno.
Innes and Ianno have filed a $3-million defamation suit against Trudeau and David MacNaughton, co-chair of the Liberal campaign team in Ontario.