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Liberals pick candidate for O'Toole byelection who first tried running for Conservatives

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OTTAWA -

A man who initially sought the Conservative nomination for a Greater Toronto Area riding has instead become the Liberal candidate in an upcoming byelection.

The Liberal party announced Thursday that Robert Rock, a councillor in Scugog, Ont., will be its candidate in the election to replace former Tory leader Erin O'Toole in Durham.

Rock says he decided to run for the Liberals because the Conservative party no longer speaks to his values, and he believes they will cut services and bring American-style politics to Canada if they are elected.

"While Pierre Poilievre's Conservatives are pushing cuts to vital services that support the middle class and importing far-right American politics here to Canada, I will work to deliver a strong economy and better future for the families here in Durham," Rock said in a statement Thursday.

He said that in addition to being a supporter of previous "versions" of the Conservative party, he has also previously supported candidates from the NDP.

Rock's nomination for the Liberals was uncontested.

He had praised Poilievre's leadership less than a year ago when expressing interest in the Tory nomination contest that lawyer Jamil Jivani ultimately won.

In May, Rock said in the Port Perry Star newspaper that he was a believer in the Conservative party led by Poilievre.

"I understand very clearly the policies that the Conservative Party of Canada is putting forward and I stand behind those. This is why I'm confident to be able to put my name forward, because I believe in the platform that the party is calling for," Rock told the newspaper, describing himself as a fiscal conservative.

Rock purchased a party membership in April after Poilievre became leader, but failed to meet the requirements to run under its banner, said a Conservative party spokesperson.

"Mr. Rock indicated to the party he wanted to run as a Conservative and is obviously upset he didn't meet the requirements to seek the nomination and wouldn't have been permitted to run," Sarah Fischer said in a statement Thursday.

Fischer did not specify what criteria he had not met. Standard requirements typically include submitting certain documents and collecting a minimum number of signatures within a specific time frame.

The Durham riding, which includes part of the city of Oshawa, Ont., has been held by the Conservatives since 2004.

The byelection must be called by the end of the month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2024.

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