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Local Liberals settle legal battle after Trudeau’s team steps in

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 7

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A legal battle among Liberals in a southern Ontario riding has been quickly settled at the urging of Justin Trudeau's team.

A $260,000 statement of claim against Rohit and Catherine Dhamija, filed earlier this month by a local Liberal association in the newly created riding of Oakville North–Burlington, has been abandoned, according to a statement from the federal party.

With the local association having agreed to "withdraw its claim," the Liberals can press forward with a nomination race in the riding, one which Mr. Dhamija is campaigning to win. It's the same riding where Conservatives are locked in a heated race marred by allegations of fraud and overspending.

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Party spokesman Jeremy Broadhurst confirmed the federal Liberal Party pushed for a resolution.

"The Party encouraged both sides of this dispute to work towards a mutual resolution, but party officials had no involvement in settlement discussions, which were handled at a local level," he said.

The original statement of claim had alleged that Mr. Dhamija, in his position as a Liberal riding president in the region, used party money to advance his own campaign for a nomination. His campaign website, which includes a photo of him with Mr. Trudeau, indicates he's seeking the nomination in Oakville North–Burlington.

In the statement, the riding association – whose lawyer, Russell Allegra, has so far declined requests for comment – said the association would withdraw its claim in exchange for Mr. Dhamija providing detailed financial reports of the former Halton Federal Liberal Association, a riding that's being redrawn, with part of it going into the newly formed Oakville North–Burlington.

"Should any other disputes or inquiries arise from these accounts they will be addressed through the financial management procedures of the Liberal Party of Canada," the statement says. The deal also includes an agreement to withdraw its claim against Catherine Dhamija "without reservation," saying the association alleges no wrongdoing on her part, according to the party statement.

Meanwhile, a Conservative nomination vote in the riding was suspended after allegations of fraud. Eve Adams, an MP representing a riding in Mississauga, is seeking the nomination in Oakville, where she and her fiancé, former Conservative Party executive director Dimitri Soudas, bought a home last year. The seat is a safer Conservative riding than the Mississauga seat, according to 2011 results.

Ms. Adams is being challenged by a local chiropractor, Natalia Lishchyna, and the campaigns have traded allegations of wrongdoing, prompting the party to call off a vote that had been scheduled for May 24 so it could sort out the claims, including claims that people were improperly added to a list that would have made them eligible to vote. Earlier allegations of interference led to Mr. Soudas resigning his post with the party.

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One poll has shown the riding is up for grabs between the Liberals and Conservatives in next year's federal election.

Josh Wingrove is a parilamentary reporter in Ottawa.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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