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Vote-rigging scandal emerges in Manitoba

From Tory blue to NDP orange and back again, with scarcely a red Liberal in sight – that's been the alternating pattern in Manitoba elections since the 1950s. Manitobans seem to prefer stability in their governments but punish a government when it overstays its welcome. Both parties have gotten the boot for stoking the public's ire: the NDP for boosting auto insurance rates in 1988 and the Tories in 1999 for a vote-rigging scheme. From Hudson Bay to the Red River, CBC Archives goes to the polls.

Trying to fix the outcome of a vote is a serious accusation in any democracy. And following the 1995 election, Manitoba Tories were facing allegations of just that. A five-month investigation by Elections Manitoba cleared the party of any wrongdoing, but in 1998 the accusations surfaced again when witnesses were willing to talk. By 1999, an election year, a judicial inquiry finds that high-ranking Tories broke the law - and, as the CBC reports, they'll get away with it.

"In all my years on the bench, I never encountered as many liars in one proceeding as I did during this inquiry," says Judge Alfred Monnin in his damning final report. But it's too late to charge anyone in the plan, which aimed to siphon off votes from the NDP by paying independent aboriginal candidates to run. The inquiry's judge concludes that Premier Gary Filmon was never aware of the scheme, but voters aren't so sure. 
• Implicated in the scheme were:
• Taras Sokolyk, Gary Filmon's chief of staff, who admitted he used $4,000 in party funds for it.
• Allan Aitken, a campaign manager who passed the money to three independent candidates.
• Gordon McFarlane and Julian Benson, who helped cover up the plan.
• Robert Kozminski and Arne Thorsteinson, Tory fundraisers who wrote personal cheques to support the aboriginal candidates.

• The charges of vote-rigging were found invalid by an Elections Manitoba investigation in October 1995. But they resurfaced in June 1998 when Daryl Sutherland, one of the independent aboriginal candidates, came forward to say he had been paid $5,000 to run. Sutherland also said he had never been interviewed by Elections Manitoba.
• Though the NDP called for a judicial inquiry, Filmon dismissed their questions as "sleaze-mongering" and declined to demand further investigation.

• Shortly after Sutherland's revelation, Elections Manitoba said it would reopen its investigation. But the opposition continued to demand a judicial inquiry, and on June 25, 1998, Filmon announced that one would be forthcoming. The inquiry, conducted by Judge Alfred Monnin, began that September.

• The three aboriginal candidates involved in the scheme ran under the banner of the Independent Native Voice, which was not registered with Elections Manitoba. They were not originally affiliated with the First Peoples' Party, discussed in the previous clip, but two of them were later endorsed by the FPP.
• After a lengthy investigation, CBC reporter Curt Petrovich broke the vote-splitting story on June 22, 1998. He won a 1999 Michener Award for public service journalism for his efforts.

• "A vote-rigging plot constitutes an unconscionable debasement of the citizen's right to vote," said Monnin in his final report. "To reduce the voting rights of individuals is a violation of our democratic system."
• After Monnin's report came out, Filmon met with native leaders to apologize for the scheme.
• Despite the vote-rigging effort, the NDP won the seats in question in 1995, though the Tories won the election.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: March 29, 1999
Guest(s): Paul Walsh
Reporter: Reg Sherren
Duration: 2:36

Last updated: March 19, 2014

Page consulted on March 19, 2014

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