Judge greenlights lawsuit by disqualified Conservative leadership candidate

 

OTTAWA -- An Ontario court says a lawsuit launched by a would-be Conservative leadership candidate who is seeking to get into the race can go ahead.

Jim Karahalios was disqualified from the contest in March, over allegations he made about a rival campaign.

He filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn that decision, and the party tried to get it dismissed.

In a decision released Monday, the judge said the matter can be litigated and will be heard May 15.

The Conservative leadership race is in a holding pattern, with the organizing committee having put off a decision until May 1 on when the vote can proceed.

Members were supposed to elect a new leader on June 27 but the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the party's plan.

There are currently four candidates on the ballot, all who met the entry threshold of presenting the party with $300,000 and 3,000 signatures of supporters.

Karahalios, a long-time Ontario Progressive Conservative activist, has claimed he jumped that hurdle as well.

A few weeks before the cut-off for candidates, his campaign sent around an email accusing rival Erin O'Toole's campaign chair of promoting the implementation of Islamic religious law, known as Shariah, in Canada. Walied Soliman, a prominent Toronto lawyer, has worked on the legalities of finance arrangements that satisfy Islamic restrictions on charging interest.

Accusing someone of supporting Shariah law is often taken to be an anti-Muslim slur; complaints against Karahalios were subsequently filed with the party, starting a process that led to his dismissal from the race.

Among other things, he has contended the organizing committing had no grounds to kick him out and were biased in favour of O'Toole.

The party had tried to get the case thrown out on the grounds the leadership rules amount to a private contract that Karahalios broke, and he can't sue.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell disagreed that that's such an unquestionable conclusion that there's no point in hearing the case in court.

"It is not plain and obvious that the terms of the leadership rules are a contract that precludes Mr. Karahalios' cause(s) of action," he wrote. 

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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