Judge invalidates Conservative win in one Canadian seat

Fri May 18, 2012 4:53pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A judge declared null and void on Friday the result in one Toronto district in last year's Canadian federal election due to voting irregularities, taking the seat away from the governing Conservatives.

The Conservative candidate had edged out the Liberal incumbent by 26 votes of the 52,000 cast. The Liberal, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, had contended that Elections Canada, the agency that runs elections, was unable to produce registration certificates to back up the right to vote for a number of people who cast ballots.

The Conservatives, with 164 members, will still have a healthy majority in the 308-seat House of Commons. The Toronto seat will likely be filled through a by-election although the Conservative candidate, Ted Opitz, has the right to appeal the judge's decision.

Liberal leader Bob Rae immediately sought to link the irregularities in Toronto to allegations of Conservative dirty tricks in other districts. Those allegations are now under investigation by Elections Canada.

"It has become clear to many Canadians that our democracy was tested and perhaps undermined during the last election," he said in a statement.

Elections Canada is investigating automated phone calls made to voters in a district in Guelph, Ontario, apparently to direct non-Conservative voters to a non-existent polling station. The Conservatives say that appeared to be the work of a rogue campaign worker, and deny any party involvement in any foul play there or in other districts. The Liberals, the second biggest opposition party, won the contest in Guelph.

Opitz, who has served in Parliament for the past year, said the case was about the operations of Elections Canada and the judge agreed Opitz and his team had followed the rules.

"This is not about me. It is about 52,000 people who followed the rules, cast their ballots and today had their democratic decision thrown into doubt," he said.

The case is Wrzesnewskyj v. Attorney General(Canada), 2012 ONSC 2873.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway)