The Liberal Party has brought Laura Huang’s surprising bid to run in next month’s federal election to a sudden end, adding another wrinkle to a nomination contest already marked by marital drama and tragedy.
The party has rejected Huang as a potential candidate in Toronto’s Don Valley North riding, currently held by her husband, rookie MP Geng Tan.
Huang entered the race for the constituency’s Liberal nomination after Tan unexpectedly announced he would not run again. That revelation came as news emerged of his dispute with a woman who said she’d been having an affair with Tan for years.
Ying (Stella) Yu also worked as his constituency assistant, claims she had his baby and wants him to support the child. The MPP has denied her allegations, saying only that he provided her with a sperm donation.
The nomination election is scheduled for Thursday.
Meanwhile, another politician running for the Liberals’ Don Valley North candidacy, ex-provincial cabinet minister David Caplan, died suddenly in a household “fire accident” in July.
Huang reacted angrily to the latest development, issuing a statement late Tuesday that said Liberal national campaign co-chair Nikki Hipkin informed her by letter last Friday she had been rejected, but gave no reason for the decision.
She said she had signed up 5,000 party members willing to support her as candidate, and urged backers to come to Thursday’s election and write her name onto their ballots.
“How can we have a fair, open and transparent nomination, when a secretive backroom committee can decide without reasons … who you can vote for in the upcoming nomination?” asked Huang. “As a party, we have been encouraging more women to run as candidates. That is the message from our feminist leader … It’s extremely heartbreaking when (a female candidate) is stopped from running by backroom games.”
Braeden Caley, a Liberal spokesman, said he could not comment on details of the nomination process for “reasons of confidentiality,” but noted that nomination contestants are screened based on criteria in section six of the party’s national candidate-selection rules.
The section lists a number of requirements that must be met before someone is approved, from being eligible to run for Parliament to not being involved in any “claim, litigation or dispute” likely to bring controversy or disrepute to the candidate or the party.
The leading contender for the nomination now appears to be Han Dong, a former Liberal member of the Ontario legislature.
Dong said he heard on the weekend that he and another candidate for the nomination, Bang Gu Jiang, had been greenlit by the Liberals’ screening committee, and that Huang had been turned down.
But he said he had no idea the reasons behind her disqualification.
“I’m just focused on winning the nomination and hopefully winning the election,” said Dong. “I’ve been an MPP before and I’m passionate about public service.”
Tan announced last December that he had been re-nominated to represent the party in the riding. He captured it in 2015, becoming the first Mandarin-speaking immigrant from mainland China elected to Parliament. But then on June 23, the MP revealed he would not run after all, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and pursue other careers.
Lawyers’ letters sent on Yu’s behalf and obtained by the National Post allege that he had fathered the woman’s child during a lengthy affair, but refused to support the baby and brushed off Yu’s ensuing depression and suicide attempts.
She alleged Huang had intervened to have her fired from his constituency office in 2016.
Tan rejected the allegations, telling the Post he had only provided the sperm donation. Yu said it was used for in-vitro fertilization, since conceiving naturally would be difficult for a woman in her 50s.
But the controversy was apparently no deterrent to Huang, who had publicly backed her husband and soon afterward announced she was running for the nomination he had given up for family reasons.
A federal government scientist, she said she balanced her career with extensive community work.
“I work persistently and tirelessly in the pursuit to improve opportunities for children and youth, and put great efforts to encourage new immigrants to participate in Canadian society and politics,” Huang’s website said.
Among those endorsing Dong are ex-provincial cabinet minister Michael Chan and fired China ambassador John McCallum, both prominent pro-China political figures.
Also in Dong’s camp is Wei Chengyi, honorary chair of the Beijing-leaning Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations, who shook hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at an event for “overseas Chinese” earlier this year. The news conference announcing his candidacy was in Wei’s office.
But Dong rejected any suggestion that he was the pro-Beijing candidate, noting that he is also being supported by Liberal MP Adam Vaughn and Gerry Phillips, the former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister he considers his political mentor.
“I see myself as a Canadian running for Canadian public office,” he said.
(Story modified at 7:10 to include comment from Liberal party; updated at 11:55 p.m. to include quotes from Huang statement.)