Second PC hopeful asks court to overturn Conservative nomination

Both Jeff Peller and Vikram Singh say there was ballot box stuffing, and have asked the court to overturn the party's decision to certify.

Both Jeff Peller and Vikram Singh allege ballot box stuffing at the Hamilton area nomination meeting

Jeff Peller is asking the court to overturn a decision certifying Ben Levitt as the Conservative provincial candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. He is the second challenger to do so. (Jeff Peller campaign)

Another challenger in the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas PC race is asking the court to overturn the party's selection of the riding's provincial election candidate and hold the nomination meeting again.

Jeff Peller — who vied for the spot along with Vikram Singh, Jobson Easow and eventual winner Ben Levitt — says party members stuffed the ballot box at a May 7 nomination meeting in Ancaster.

Singh has already filed for a judicial review of the nomination process, making many of the same allegations as Peller.

Ballots were marked as spoiled that weren't, Peller alleges in his request for a judicial review. Some ballots were counted in secret, he said, and there were more ballots in the box than there were ballots distributed to registered voters.

The party also created an environment, he claims, where "voter intimidation and harassment were real and imminent threats."

Ben Levitt, 25, is Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas's new provincial PC candidate. Two of his challengers have filed appeals alleging ballot box stuffing and voter fraud. (Adam Lawson)

Peller wants the party to admit the vote wasn't fair, quash party leader Patrick Brown's June 3 decision to name Levitt as the candidate, and hold a new nomination meeting overseen by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

In the short term, he wants the ballots preserved, and for PricewaterhouseCoopers to inspect and count them.

Peller is the second HWAD contender in as many months to ask the court to review what happened at the meeting.

Hamilton lawyer Singh has also alleged ballot box stuffing. He wants the court to overturn the decision and consider declaring him the winner. He'll appear in court again on Aug. 9.

Vikram Singh has also asked the court to overturn Levitt's certification as the winning candidate. (vsingh.ca)

Paul Ingrassia at Scarfone Hawkins LLP is representing Peller. 

Rick Dykstra, Ontario PC president, says the party won't comment on a matter before the courts. So far, 79 candidates have won nominations, he said.

But in an affidavit response to Singh, Dykstra said Brown doesn't have to choose the person who won the nomination meeting anyway.

Nomination meetings are a "concept" that offer the leader guide for who to name as a candidate, Dykstra said. But they have no legal force under the Elections Act.

"The nomination meeting is not determinative of who will ultimately be listed on the ballot," he said.

In the case of Singh, Dykstra said, Brown saw him as "unreliable" and not fitting the desired demographic.

PC leader Patrick Brown talks to Flamborough Chamber of Commerce president Kyle Hampson, left, and executive director Arend Kersten, right, at a chamber lunch last year. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

This is just the latest in a series of controversies around PC nomination meetings, which led Brown to appoint PricewaterhouseCoopers to oversee future meetings.

In Ottawa West-Nepean and Newmarket-Aurora, for example, candidates made allegations similar to Singh's. Brown's June 3 decision to certify all 64 nominated candidates wiped away those requests for review too.

And in June, Durham regional councillor Joe Neal filed a court challenge, saying the party wouldn't let him run. Neal dropped the challenge when he learned Brown wouldn't sign his nomination papers anyway, the Toronto Star reported. The party said it was because Neal ran for the Liberals in 1985, and also donated money to them.

Dykstra said last month that the party wants to move forward.

"Rather than constantly looking in the rear view mirror," he said, "we decided to simply move forward and get on with choosing the rest of our candidates using the new processes."

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC