APTN says the NWT’s Conservative candidate in this month’s federal election refuses to speak to reporters as “the team has instructed me not to do interviews.”
The quote was attributed to Conservative candidate Lea Mollison in an APTN report published on Friday. Mollison did not sit for an interview with APTN, has not responded to multiple interview requests from Cabin Radio, and has declined to attend candidate debates led by Cabin Radio and NNSL.
“I felt horrible about not being able to do the interview and I was really looking forward to us speaking,” APTN reports Mollison telling reporter Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs.
“But the team has instructed me not to do interviews so therefore I must respectfully decline.”
That disclosure marks the first time Mollison has attempted to explain her silence in the campaign.
The composition of her team is not clear. Matthew Lakusta, president of the NWT Conservative Party, has repeatedly referred to Mollison having a team beyond the local party. Lakusta has stressed that Conservatives in the NWT want Mollison and her team to do more to engage with reporters and voters in the territory.
Mollison’s official agent is listed on the Elections Canada website as James Rhodes.
A LinkedIn profile lists a tax lawyer named James Rhodes, of Kitchener, Ontario, as the official agent of both Mollison and the Conservative candidate in Kitchener Centre (Mary Henein Thorn, whose website states she has lived in Kitchener Centre for more than four decades).
A man named James Rhodes ran for mayor of Kitchener in 2014 but ultimately withdrew from the race.
Reached by Facebook Messenger after this article was first published, Rhodes declined to say why Mollison had been instructed not to speak to reporters.
“That would be a question for the candidate or the party, not the official agent,” he wrote.
Asked to provide contact details for members of Mollison’s team who might be able to answer that question, Rhodes declined.
“I am sorry and I appreciate you reaching out to me, but it’s not my role,” he said.
No other members of Mollison’s campaign team are publicly identified on Elections Canada’s website, the Conservative Party’s website, or the Mollison campaign’s nascent social media channels.
It’s not clear why a campaign team might instruct a candidate to decline interviews, though Mollison’s residency of Thunder Bay – and her having not visited the Northwest Territories to date – are unusual in an NWT election. Local Conservatives say they could not find anyone else who wanted to run.
Polling day is September 20 with advance polls now open. Mollison is joined on the ballot by Liberal Michael McLeod, New Democrat Kelvin Kotchilea, Green Roland Laufer, and independent Jane Groenewegen.