Robert Benzie - June 14, 2017
A defeated Progressive Conservative nomination candidate has filed a lawsuit against the party alleging fraud at a selection meeting last month in Hamilton.
Vikram Singh, a lawyer and a runner-up in the four-contestant PC nomination in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, has gone to court seeking to overturn the election won by Ben Levitt on May 7.
Singh has named Tory leader Patrick Brown, party president Rick Dykstra, PC executive director Bob Stanley, and staffer Logan Bugeja in the suit filed Tuesday with the Ontario Court of Justice in Hamilton.
He is seeking “an order quashing the June 3 decision by Patrick Brown, leader of the PC Party to terminate (his) internal appeal of the nomination proceedings.”
Claiming party brass showed “bad faith” and contravened the PC constitution, Singh is demanding that he be declared the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas nominee for the June 7, 2018 provincial election, or that another nomination meeting be held.
His allegations, which have not been proven in court, include the claim that there was a “wrongful insertion of false ballots” at the six-hour candidate election and that problems at the meeting’s credentials desk hurt his candidacy.
“Singh was the true winner of the nomination contest . . . if . . . not for the wrongful electoral irregularities,” his suit alleges.
Jeff Peller, another runner-up in the May 7 vote, who is not part of the suit, has also expressed concern about what he called “a sideshow masquerading as a democratic process.”
At Queen’s Park, Brown, who has certified all nominated Tory candidates, said he couldn’t comment on the case, which will be heard in Hamilton June 20, because it is before the courts.
“The fact that so many people are coming forward in nomination — the fact that so many new members are coming in — there will be times when there is acrimony, but there is certainly excitement in our nominations,” the Tory leader said.
Given the divisions over the “hotly contested nominations . . . , I have gone one step further than political parties have before, after hearing concerns that people were becoming overly competitive and overly aggressive. I actually went to the extent of bringing in PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers).”
Auditors at PwC have found no issues in the nominations they’ve observed since being hired in early May.
Brown also said he fully supports Levitt. “I think he’s a great candidate and he’ll make a great MPP.”
As first disclosed by the Star, a Progressive Conservative vice-president quit in protest from the party executive two weeks ago after officials papered over a questionable nomination in Ottawa West-Nepean amid allegations of ballot-stuffing there.
Robert Elliott resigned as the Tories’ third vice-president and policy chair after the June 3 meeting where Brown was given the authority to sign off on all of the contentious candidates.
Elliott, a nine-year party vice-president and the chief returning officer for the 2015 leadership contest, took a stand after a May 6 nomination race in Ottawa.
In that nomination, Karma Macgregor won by 15 votes over runner-up Jeremy Roberts, even though there were 28 more ballots in the boxes than had registered.
Roberts’ appeal of the result was rejected by the party executive. Macgregor, a long-time party activist and the mother of Brown’s deputy chief of staff, has not returned messages from the Star.
There were similar problems at the PC nomination in Newmarket-Aurora.
Dykstra said the party couldn’t comment.
“We can’t respond to a matter before the court,” the PC president said in an email Wednesday to the Star.
However, in an internal email earlier this month, Dykstra said the party had to “move forward.”
“Unfortunately, there is no procedural answer that will satisfy everyone. Replacing one appellant with another is not productive. There could be endless appeals,” he wrote.