For anyone following this party from since their Reform days, the control of everything from the nomination process to messaging, would come as no surprise.
The Reform movement was supposed to be populist but there were many complaints that it was being controlled by what became known as the 'Calgary clique'
The "clique" which was being criticized in 1990 consisted of Manning and four of his staff members. One of the key members was thirty-two-year-old Stephen Harper, a founding member of the party, its Chief Policy Officer, and the man who became known as Manning's chief political lieutenant. Though only a staff member, he often made speeches and was one of the two people, the other being [Stan] Waters, whom Manning trusted to speak for the party .... The charges of elitism and control of the party by a Manning clique struck a very sour note in an otherwise spectacular rise in party fortunes. (1)Now conservative campaign workers and candidates are complaining of an 'Ottawa elite'.
While the cushy front-row seats at Harper's stop at Performance Marine were reserved for MPs, candidates and other loyalists (the media were relegated to the back of the backshop), it's interesting to know local Conservatives are frustrated by their inability to penetrate Harper's bubble when comes to local nominations.Some things never change.
Griping about excessive Harper-Ottawa control over nominations is an emerging pattern. It's been raised in Alberta and Okanagan-Coquihalla, where local party members went so far as to claim the process to replace Stockwell Day was "rigged". And while the concerns surrounding the process that selected Ian Shields as the Conservative candidate in Regina Wascana over two other candidates didn't signal anything untoward, they do paint a picture of a top-down process rather than a grassroots one.
1. Preston Manning and the Reform Party, By Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7 4, Pg. 215