Friday, May 18, 2012

Rematch in Etobicoke Centre

Despite all the close votes over the years, this is a first:

Election result in Toronto riding thrown out by judge

Conservative MP Ted Opitz's 2011 federal election win last year in Etobicoke Centre was declared null and void today in a challenge by former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Opitz won the May 2011 election by 26 votes, but Wrzesnewskyj challenged the results over voting irregularities.

Justice Thomas Lederer's decision Friday in Toronto, if appealed, would be immediately heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Wrzesnewskyj's lawyer argued up to 181 ballots were in dispute.

We can safely assume this will be appealed, but if the ruling is upheld, Harper would have 6 months to call a by-election - and you can make the case he'd be morally obliged to call it ASAP, given the circumstances. While the stakes won't be as high as in Kitchener-Waterloo, a Wrzesnewskyj-Opitz rematch would still be must-see TV.

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  • Though maybe a first federally, it has happened before. For instance, a provincial by-election was forced when 35 ballots were called into question in the case of a 7 vote margin in New Brunswick in 1997.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 3:06 PM  

  • Not the first federally, Maurizio Bevilacqua ran in a by-election after the 1988 results in his riding were thrown out.

    It will be interesting to see what the NDP do, they were a distant third last May but it was their increase in support that likely cost Borys the election. Will they put up a strong campaign here, which would likely lead to the Conservatives winning, or will they try and let the Liberals defeat the Conservatives? What's better a Liberal win or a Conservative win for Mulcair?

    By Blogger Jordan, at 3:49 PM  

  • @Jordan

    Tough call. On the one hand I'm sure Mulclair doesn't want to see any wind in the sails of the LPC since I imagine he wants Ontario to view the next federal election as a choice between the NDP and the CPoC.

    On the otherhand it is the CPoC that he's trying to beat so I imagine he would rather not see their current reversal of fortunes interrupted with news of a CPoC victory in the region he's priming with the Dutch Disease narrative.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:20 PM  

  • @nbpolitico

    so it looks like the by-election re-affirmed the general election vote basically. Kennedy, the Liberal, actually upped his margin over the NDP candidate from 7 votes to 450 in the by-election.

    Interestingly it appears that the number of votes cast went up slightly in the by-election from the general election (surprisingly to me at least)

    1995 Gen election = 6498
    1997 By-election = 6745

    Do you have insights into they dynamics of the by-election in that race?

    By Anonymous Rob C, at 4:27 PM  

  • I haven't reviewed the previous cases yet, but let's remember that this riding was already subject to a Judicial Recount which (in effect) *certified* every vote as valid.

    Further, the time to notice other irregularities was when the Scrutineers made their reports to the campaigns, not several months after the fact when the unofficial polls give some different results.

    Then, the Elections Act makes clear that an election is not to be thrown out because of failures of the forms which are prescribed by the Act or by the Chief Electoral Officer. The entire basis for this Judge's decision is incorrect in law. For good or bad, the time to challenge whether a voter is eligible to vote is at the time the ballot is being cast, not afterwards.

    Regardless of which candidate you support, this judgement is a terrible blow to the democratic process in Canada.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:19 PM  

  • a terrible blow to the democratic process in Canada

    I agree with Anonymous; fully expect to wake up tomorrow to the sound of jackboots stomping up and down Cowan Avenue, carting off Muslims and homosexuals and infertile women. Ye gods, tell me it's not true -- give me a sign that Ted Opitz and Borys Wrzesnewskyj shall not re-fight their year-old battle to become MP of Etobicoke Centre! A by-election can only mean (you guessed it) a terrible blow to democracy in Canada!

    Not first-past-the-post, granting unchallanged majority rule with anywhere from only 49 (or hell, should 60 go unchallenged in rule?) to 34% of voter support. Not voter-supported parties locked out of Parliament. Not an unelected Senate. Not an unelected Prime Minister with executive powers unheard of in most democratic countries. Not a province without a signature on the Constitution. Not a Cabinet made up of MP's while other "equal" ridings must make do with backbenchers. Not a staunch federal refusal to invest in a bilingual population able to freely exchange and discuss with each other. Not a dearth of female representation in Executive Office. Not a lack of aboriginal represention in ANY Office. This by-election, which will arouse only the interest of diehard politicos tearing themselves away from Xtube, is the travesty which we will all remember, for time immemorial, as a terrible blow to democracy in Canada.

    And we wonder why normal people are disinterested in and disenchanted with elections and politics and civic engagement. Zeus Almighty.

    I'd suggest a drinking game the next time someone panics and cries Shark! over the death of democracy, but I hate to steal other people's material. How about a REAL, yet useful, blow to democracy, and we start publicly hanging people who mention the words "blow to democracy"? Not out of spite or anger, but simply as a community service.

    By Blogger Joseph Kerr, at 8:53 PM  

  • You gotta admire the sheer gall of Wrzesnewskyj in this case. If history is anything to go by, those 181 allegedly improper votes were probably his supporters, that his campaign bused to the polls!

    By Anonymous Formerly of Etobicoke, at 2:49 AM  

  • Anon 5:19 - How could a campaign dispute a person voting twice if there are 2 lists and each list does not have them crossed off? This is essentially what happened in some of those cases. In order for a scrutineer to stop this, they would have needed to have access to a list who has voted on mail in ballots and every list, which is not provided by elections canada for removal from the said polling location.

    By Blogger ktrrtk, at 10:45 AM  

  • "What's better a Liberal win or a Conservative win for Mulcair?"

    Oh I think he will stick with what is best for the NDP and go after the liberal vote. The NDP and the CPC have been partners on this issue for a long time:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17 AM  

  • "What's better a Liberal win or a Conservative win for Mulcair?"

    Either way, one thing is for sure - it will be a terrible blow to democracy in Canada. Ha ha ha ho ho ho hee hee hee hee.

    By Blogger Joseph Kerr, at 1:28 PM  

  • ROFL @ Harper having morals.

    By Blogger Hishighness, at 1:39 PM  

  • "Anon 5:19 - How could a campaign dispute a person voting twice if there are 2 lists and each list does not have them crossed off? This is essentially what happened in some of those cases. In order for a scrutineer to stop this, they would have needed to have access to a list who has voted on mail in ballots and every list, which is not provided by elections canada for removal from the said polling location."

    Elections Canada makes exactly those lists available to each candidate's campaign.

    Recall that to vote by Special Ballot, you must register to do so at least several days prior to Election Day. Those who have so registered are "struck" from the list of those eligible to vote at the regular polling place on E-Day, and each list is provided to the campaigns.

    The legislative framework is clear: the time to challenge eligibility to vote is prior to the ballot being cast. Otherwise you'd have any close election tossed out because someone was recorded as having voted twice (happens all the time, but it's almost always a clerical error), or someone was recorded as having voted who swears they did not vote.

    Once the ballots are cast, if there was fraud or wilful misconduct, or certain other "irregularities", the results can be thrown out by a judge, but not simply because some form wasn't filled out correctly - or at all.

    This is clear from the procedures for a Judicial Recount as well, which provides a Certified result.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:44 PM  

  • @Rob C

    It was a very interesting by-election. In the general, the PC candidate had lost by 7 votes, due to vote-splitting with the right-wing COR Party which received 592 votes. In the by-election, the Liberals won by 312 votes with COR not on the ballot, so one could argue there was a swing of 897 votes to the Liberals.

    Anecdotally, it is said that this swing was due to many of the voters viewing the PC candidate as a sore loser for pushing it through the courts for so long.

    This is a similar result to what happened in the York North by-election of Maurizio Bevilacqua referenced above - the protesting candidate was defeated by a much larger margin.

    Not a good sign for Borys.

    By Blogger nbpolitico, at 10:13 AM  

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