Ontario PCs quash nomination disputes amid electoral mischief allegations

Justin Giovanetti - June 05, 2017

Patrick Brown has put a stop to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party’s disputed nominations by certifying all 64 candidates who have won local races so far, including those dogged by allegations of fraud and stuffed ballot boxes.

Local officials or candidates in at least three ridings across Ontario have filed appeals with the party over the past month alleging that races to nominate the Tory candidates for the next general election had been marred by alleged electoral mischief. Mr. Brown, however, told the party’s executive at a meeting on Saturday in Toronto that he would be certifying all candidates elected so far, quashing any appeals.

“We are moving forward with the 64 nominated candidates nominated to date … they are excellent representatives of the PC Party,” party president Rick Dykstra said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. “We are going to move forward as a family.”

Mr. Brown’s office at Queen’s Park said that he was not available for comment and referred all questions on his decision to the party. Mr. Brown has the authority to sign nomination papers and certify a candidate under the province’s electoral financing act, according to the party.

Robert Elliott, one of the party’s vice-presidents, announced after the decision that he was resigning his post after nine years on the party executive. In a message to his supporters, he said that he would remain a party member and would support “grassroots policy development and member-led riding associations.”

With 58 nominations left, the intervention by Mr. Brown in the races was said to be unprecedented by Emma McLennan, a local party official who wrote in a Facebook post to one of the party’s Ottawa ridings that “this decision by Brown has several, negative implications that damage the Party’s credibility. He condoned the voter fraud that occurred.”

Ms. McLennan is president of the PC riding association in Ottawa West-Nepean. She wrote to the party after the May 6 nomination vote in her riding alleging that there were irregularities with candidate Karma Macgregor’s win. According to Ms. McLennan, there were 28 more votes than registered voters at one of the ballot boxes and following the nomination meeting, 200 letters addressed to new members in the riding were returned by Canada Post as undeliverable.

Jeremy Roberts, the rival candidate in the riding, lost by only 15 votes. Following Mr. Brown’s decision, he said in a statement that he was “disappointed and disheartened” that his appeal had been denied. “My campaign attracted many young people with high energy who got involved in politics and the PC Party for the first time to support me. Seeing us lose through fraud and manipulation was a crushing experience for them,” he wrote.

Vikram Singh, a candidate in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, served the party with an appeal after he lost the May 7 nomination vote there. Following Mr. Brown’s decision over the weekend to nullify his appeal before it was heard, Mr. Singh told The Globe that he is “reviewing options going forward.” There was also an appeal from the PC riding association in Newmarket-Aurora.

The stream of appeals come just over a year before the Opposition Leader could unseat Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals in a general election, according to the polls.

After the first appeals emerged, Mr. Brown announced that future nomination meetings would be monitored by auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers. On Saturday, Mr. Brown and the party’s executive made more changes to future nomination meetings. They voted to send an executive as a neutral observer to work alongside the auditors at future nominations and to add a representative of the executive to the party’s appeals panel. The new process would make future nominations more transparent and fair, according to Mr. Dykstra.