Heather Leung, an elusive former Conservative Party candidate, may start to make more media appearances after the federal party cut ties with her in recent days.
Leung’s campaign so far has evaded news coverage, with most outlets unable to reach the former Conservative in recent months. The party commonly told media that Leung was out door-knocking and unavailable for comments.
But now that the party and Leung have split, her campaign manager, Travis Trost, indicated something else may have been up.
“I’ll be very candid: One of the big issues between us and national was about Heather talking to the press, or even me talking to the press. And one of the things I want to do is at least give her a chance to (speak),” Trost said, adding that it would be up to Leung to decide whether she wants to speak to the media now that she’s campaigning – to some degree – as an independent.
Asked whether Leung was directed not to speak to media by the Conservative Party, Trost said he would speak more on that at another time.
“What I'm going to say at this point is that it would have been really, really helpful if national had been more willing to let Heather deal with a bunch of issues. She’s a nice lady,” Trost said.
“In terms of dealing with you guys, it would have been a lot better, in June after the nomination, just to let her briefly talk to you. And then we can at least have a collegial relationship and not the sense that we’re not willing to talk to anybody in the media.”
A Conservative Party spokesperson has not responded to questions about the party’s policy around candidates speaking to media or about Leung’s ongoing use of the Conservative logo on campaign signs.
Leung will still be campaigning, despite the Conservatives removing her from caucus – and her campaign signs will continue to bear the party’s logo, though a website appearing to represent Leung now labels her an independent.
When the Now visited Leung’s campaign office Sunday afternoon, it was plastered with the same signs bearing the Conservative logo. Two people were inside the campaign office, but they said Leung was not there.
Trost said he wouldn’t go into hypotheticals, however, when asked whether the campaign would print new signs with the Conservative logo if more signs were needed.
The Conservatives cut Leung loose after a December 2013 Burnaby Now video resurfaced. In the video, Leung made homophobic comments as an organizer against LGBTQ-inclusive policies at the Burnaby school district.
“Because these homosexual people, they cannot produce the next generation. They recruit more people and more people into their camp,” Leung said in the video.
Trost said the situation was complicated because Elections Canada regulations mean Leung’s name must appear on the ballot, and it must appear with the Conservative Party label.
That’s because the period is over in which parties can shake up their roster, including adding or removing candidates.
“So I admit, this is one of the weirdest things I could imagine. You’ve got to understand: This is really bizarre. … If we’re putting up signs, and it says Heather and Conservative, that’s what people are going to see on the ballot,” Trost said. “What is she supposed to do for the next two or three weeks? She’s still a candidate … there will be people who want to support her.”
Trost said Leung was coming up with a news release to further explain the situation.
Leung hasn’t been the only Burnaby Conservative to evade media – in 2015, Burnaby candidates were scarcely available when requested by media.
Leung, an occupational therapist, ran under the Burnaby First Coalition banner for city council last fall and has also run unsuccessfully for school board in the past.