Former Grit MP Kania, who was also a top Liberal organizer, eyeing Conservative nomination in Brampton South

By Abbas Rana  

Lawyer Andrew Kania served as a senior campaign aide to Stéphane Dion’s successful leadership campaign in 2006, and Michael Ignatieff’s in 2008.

A former Brampton Liberal MP, who was the outreach director for the successful Liberal leadership campaigns of Stéphane Dion in 2006 and Michael Ignatieff in 2008, is seeking the Conservative Party’s nomination in Brampton South, Ont.

Andrew Kania did not respond to interview requests last week, but the Brampton South Conservative riding association president Parminder Grewal confirmed to The Hill Times that the former Liberal MP has expressed interest in running for his party’s nomination. Mr. Grewal declined to offer his own reaction about Mr. Kania joining the Conservative Party, but said he had received mixed reactions from riding association members. Mr. Grewal said if Mr. Kania wins the nomination, the riding association would provide its full support to him in the October election.

“It’s a bit of a mixed response from some of the people I’ve been in touch with,” said Mr. Grewal. “The people, in general, I’m not too sure how the response is or will be, but we’ll find out I guess in the future when the campaign really kicks in for the nomination process.”

As of last week, the party had not announced when the nomination will take place.

Besides Mr. Kania, Mr. Grewal said, at least four other candidates have reached out to him to inform him they are planning on seeking the party’s nod for the October election. Other candidates include Hardeep Grewal, a real estate agent; Raman Brar, president of a trucking company; Bhavesh Bhatt, a real estate agent; and Manmohan Khroud, also a real estate agent.

Meanwhile, on his Facebook page, Mr. Kania has been encouraging his supporters to join the Conservative Party and donate money. Also, he’s been posting videos of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.), and the Conservative Party’s campaign messages such as, “Liberal debt. Liberal entitlement on full display,” with pictures of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.), and Finance Minister Bill Morneau (Toronto Centre, Ont.).

Mr. Kania who represented the riding of Brampton West as a federal Liberal MP from 2008-2011, was one of the most senior organizers of Mr. Dion’s successful 2006 leadership campaign, serving as the outreach director and Ontario co-chair of the campaign. Later, he also served as the national outreach director for Michael Igantieff’s successful 2008 leadership campaign.

Mr. Kania was elected to the House in the 2008 federal election in the riding of Brampton West when he won by a razor-thin margin of only 133 votes over Conservative candidate Kyle Seeback. As an MP, he served as a member of the House Public Safety and National Security Committee, and the Scrutiny of Regulations Committee. In 2011, Mr. Seeback unseated Mr. Kania by a margin of about 10 per cent, or by 6,192 votes.

Former Liberal MP Andrew Kania is encouraging supporters to join and donate money to the Conservative Party. He’s seeking the Conservative Party nomination in Brampton South. Photograph courtesy of Facebook

In the 2015 election cycle, Mr. Kania sought the Liberal nomination in Brampton West, but later withdrew his candidacy for unknown reasons. Consequently, Kamal Khera was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate, unopposed. Ms. Khera went on to win the riding in 2015.

“Dear Friends. I wish to inform you that on Nov. 20, 2014, I formally advised the Liberal Party of Canada that I was no longer a candidate for the Liberal nomination in Brampton West,” wrote Mr. Kania in his Facebook post on Nov. 25, 2014. “I wish to thank all of my supporters for their hard work and friendship. I remain committed to public service and I will always be here to help you, as may be needed. Feel free to contact me anytime at my law firm, Kania Lawyers. Thank you, very sincerely, Andrew.”

In the Facebook post, he did not say why he was withdrawing from the nomination contest. A former Ontario Liberal MP told The Hill Times last week that Mr. Kania withdrew from the nomination in frustration because he felt the Liberal Party was not treating him fairly in the contest and did not want him as the candidate in the riding.

Following the 2013 redistribution of the electoral boundaries, which came into effect in the 2015 election, Mr. Seeback chose to run in Brampton South but lost the riding to rookie MP Sonia Sidhu by a margin of 17 per cent of the votes.

Last week, Mr. Seeback told The Hill Times he had no plans to run in the October election, and hoped that the best candidate wins the contest to represent the Conservative Party in Brampton South the upcoming election.

“I wish him [Mr. Kania] the best of luck,” said Mr. Seeback. “I wish everyone who is [running] for the nomination in Brampton South the best of luck, and I hope the best candidate wins.”

Mr. Seeback said the Brampton area has a significant Sikh population, and predicted that with Jagmeet Singh’s popularity in the area as the NDP leader, the NDP voter support would go up in October, which is good news for the Conservatives. He said he won the 2011 election with a double-digit margin because the Liberal support collapsed in Brampton, and nationally, and consequently the NDP vote went up which helped him win. Mr. Seeback said he expects the same thing to happen in the Brampton area because of Mr. Singh is leading the New Democrats in the next election.

According to Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey in 2011, one in five residents of Brampton are Sikh. The survey revealed that the total population of Brampton was 521,315, and 97,790 identified themselves with the Sikh faith. Of the total population, 263,385 are Christians, 63,390 are Hindu, 36,960 are Muslim, and 50,885 did not identify themselves with any religious faith.

Currently, all five MPs representing the Brampton-area ridings are Sikh, and all are Liberal.

Former Conservative MP Kyle Seeback, who ran unsuccessfully in Brampton South, Ont., in 2015 says he’s not running in the October election. He represented the riding of Brampton West from 2011 to 2015. The Hill Times file photograph

Ms. Sidhu, who won 52.1 per cent of the votes in 2015 over Mr. Seeback’s 35 per cent, in an emailed response to The Hill Times, said no matter who the Conservatives choose as their candidate, she’s looking forward to campaigning on the Liberal Party’s record of achievements. She also pledged to run a “clean, ethical, and positive campaign.”

“No matter who the Conservative Party nominates to run in Brampton South, my focus will be to highlight our record of achievement such as the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit, tax cuts for the vast majority of families, restoration of the retirement age to 65, job creation, which has led to the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, and other measures that support our middle class and those aspiring to join it,” wrote Ms. Sidhu in her response.

“Another initiative I would like to mention is the increase we have made to the Canada Student Grant. I am a strong advocate in pushing more co-op programs to help post-secondary students transition into the job market.”

Bryon Wilfert, the former Liberal MP for Richmond Hill, Ont., who was also a top Dion supporters in the 2006 leadership campaign and was a caucus colleague of Mr. Kania’s, said he has not spoken to his former colleague in years and did not know specifically why he left the Liberal Party. He said based on his experience, he has seen examples where politicians join other parties because they feel their parties have “left them” or their presence is not welcome under a certain leadership in their party anymore. Mr. Wilfert described Mr. Kania as a “solid fellow.”

“Sometimes people feel the political party, the political party they may be associated with, has left them rather than them leaving the party,” said Mr. Wilfert. “Andrew was a solid fellow that I worked with, or other colleagues worked with. He’s not the first and he certainly won’t be the last, people either cross the floor, as we know or people who decide later on in their life to run for other political parties. ”

The Hill Times

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