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Wilson still wants to be Liberal candidate

Party says he is not welcome back and is looking for another candidate

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Now that Elections Canada has cleared Member of Parliament Blair Wilson from all but three allegations of improper campaign financing during the 2006 election, it is not clear what the politician’s next steps will be.

In a press conference in West Vancouver on Sunday, July 20, Wilson said he would like to rejoin the National Liberal Caucus and run in the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky riding again in the next election. And while the Liberal party made it clear it is not interested in having Wilson back, the local MP still says he intends to return to the party.

“I think now is the time for the Liberal Party and the leader of the Liberal party to do the right thing and have me rejoin the party and carry the flag next election as the Liberal candidate in this riding,” said Wilson on July 23.

“In light of the information that Elections Canada has cleared me and my father-in-law has withdrawn his allegations, the right thing to do is for the good Liberals to get behind me and unite for the Liberal cause and be focused on winning the next election.”

Elections Canada’s findings, which Wilson called for last year, show that the MP did not commit 21 of the 24 anonymous allegations of financial misconduct presented in the media and on the Internet last year.

He did, however, fail to comply with a section of the Canadian Elections Act when he incurred expenses before appointing an official agent on Nov. 29, 2005. The first official agent then left the campaign on Dec. 8 and a new official agent was appointed on Dec. 20.

“This was something I shouldn’t have done, but it was crucial to get the campaign up and running as quickly as possible, and I jumped the gun,” admitted Wilson during the press conference.

Wilson also did not report 144 printed umbrellas, valued at around $711, which he accepted as a campaign contribution. And he paid $9,000 out of his own pocket, rather than campaign funds, to print brochures, business cards and Christmas cards.

Elections Canada accepted Wilson’s explanations for these three misconducts and issued a “Notice of Compliance” confirming the accuracy of the information he provided.

“In essence, all three of these actions were procedural errors that had no material impact on my campaign. Even with the two amounts noted in the Compliance Agreement, my total campaign spending in 2006 was still below the legal cap of just over $92,000,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s father-in-law, Bill Lougheed, also reduced his $250,000 lawsuit against him and his wife to $11,000, of which $5,000 is supposedly a Liberal party campaign donation and not a loan and is therefore not repayable under federal law.

Ken Halliday, president of the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Liberal Riding Association, said the riding is standing behind the Liberal party decision last December that Wilson would not represent the party in the future. The decision was made based on the fact that Wilson had failed on several occasions to disclose key information on his application forms in 2004, 2006 and the current nomination process.

He added that he believes this is the first time this riding has not allowed a former member to run again.

“I am not aware in our local riding, the Liberal Party has ever said that you can’t run, as they did this time,” said Halliday.

Wilson has been sitting as an independent MP since last October, when he resigned from the Liberal party following the allegations.

When asked this week whether he would run as an independent in the next election, Wilson told Pique Newsmagazine “in politics, anything can happen, and it usually does.”

Over the last four months, the Liberal riding association has been searching for candidates to replace Wilson during the next federal election, which is currently slated for Oct. 19 2009 unless there is an early dissolution of Parliament on a vote of confidence.

So far, four people from the area have filed or intend to file application forms, which will then be reviewed by the Liberals’ green light committee.

Halliday was not able to say at this point who those candidates were. However, Ian Sutherland, the mayor of Squamish, has earlier said the Liberal party approached him as a possible candidate, and he will step down from his mayoral duties following the municipal elections in November.

“I do not know how long it takes the green light committee to do their investigation, etcetera, but I certainly will be asking them to get on with it so the whole process can become more public,” said Halliday.

“The sooner they (the candidates) can become more public with their intentions, the better… We are keen to get the selection underway out in the public so lots of people can know who is interested in the job, etcetera.”

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