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Candidate withdraws from Liberal nomination for Ontario by-election

Juanita Nathan was competing for the Liberal nomination in the Markham Thornhill riding.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

A candidate pulled out of a Liberal nomination fight for a federal by-election in Ontario on Thursday, days after she said the race was set up to favour one of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's aides.

Juanita Nathan issued a statement saying her efforts to appeal to the party's leadership have fallen on deaf ears and that she won't try for the nomination in the Toronto-area riding of Markham Thornhill.

"Given that the nomination process in Markham-Thornhill is neither open nor fair, I am unable to validate the process as it stands," the statement said. "Therefore, I have no choice but to withdraw my candidacy."

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Nathan was competing for the party's nomination against Mary Ng, one of Trudeau's senior staffers.

Earlier this week she complained about the cutoff date to register new party members for a nomination vote that was to take place this Saturday.

She said more than 2,000 people she has registered as Liberals are considered ineligible because the party retroactively set the registration cut-off date for Feb. 14 – the day before she started entering names into the system.

Ng's campaign has said it learned of the deadline on Feb. 20, the same as everyone else, and also lost out on registering hundreds of supporters. Another candidate, Nadeem Qureshi, shared similar concerns with the Hill Times newspaper.

Trudeau was asked about the controversy earlier Thursday before Nathan's announcement, suggesting conflicts are part of an open nomination progress.

"People will try and speculate and create conflicts, but ultimately I have a tremendous amount of faith in the local Liberal membership," Trudeau told a B.C. news conference.

The seat became vacant when Immigration Minister John McCallum quit to become ambassador to China.

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Braeden Caley, a spokesman for the Liberal party, said all aspects of the nomination process have been in line with the national nomination rules.

"After the Hon. John McCallum's announcement that he was leaving Parliament, there was an additional five-week period for new supporters to register as Liberals and participate in an open nomination vote in addition to the eligible registered Liberals who have been involved for many months or years."

Nathan's statement added that Liberals in the riding have been "robbed of their ability to have a fair say in selecting a candidate of their choice to represent their party in the upcoming by-election."

Nathan's departure leaves three candidates vying for Saturday's nomination.

The by-election will be held April 3.

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