A woman who had been fighting to overturn the election of Conservative MP Joe Daniel is dropping her case after the party's lawyer found she doesn't live in the riding and therefore isn't eligible to challenge the election result in court.
Leeanne Bielli is one of nine Canadians who brought a challenge to the Federal Court over the 2011 election results. The challengers are asking for a judicial review in seven ridings won by Conservative candidates. The challenge is backed by the Council of Canadians, a frequent critic of the Conservative government.
The challengers say there's a pattern of robocalls and other tactics used to suppress the vote, and therefore the election result in those ridings is invalid.
In a notice of motion filed Oct. 18, Daniel says Bielli doesn't live in the riding and is therefore not eligible to take the case to court. He says she's on the voter list for Toronto's Don Valley West, the riding next door.
"Ms. Bielli has no standing … to contest the election in the electoral district of Don Valley East," the notice of motion says.
"As such, the application herein is frivolous and vexatious or not made in good faith, and must be dismissed."
A lawyer for the Council of Canadians says in a response to the motion that Bielli won't fight the motion to dismiss.
"Ms. Bielli informs me that at the time of swearing her affidavit, and until our call [on Oct. 18], she had the honest belief that she resided in the riding of Don Valley East," Steven Shrybman wrote in the letter.
"Ms. Bielli stands by her account of having received a misleading call about the location of her polling station. However she acknowledges that she was in error about her riding and sincerely apologizes to the court and to the respondents for her error."
Stands by report of misleading call
The letter also says that Bielli won't be filing an application to fight the election result in Don Valley West, where the Conservative candidate John Carmichael won by a smaller margin than Daniel did in Don Valley East.
Shrybman will oppose having to pay costs.
An affidavit filed in support of Daniel's motion notes that public records show Bielli has lived in Don Valley West since a few months before the May 2, 2011, election, and that she still lives there.
The applicants brought their case last March, shortly after media reports of widespread allegations of misleading calls that appeared to direct Conservative non-supporters to the wrong polling station.
The Elections Canada website has a postal code search in the middle of its homepage for voters who want to find their riding and polling station. There's also an option to search by address.
Garry Neil, executive director for the Council of Canadians, said that Bielli's error about her riding shouldn't detract from what she's reporting.
"The fact is, whatever else happens here, this woman, who was an eligible elector, received a fraudulent telephone call claiming to be from Elections Canada, claiming that the location of her polling station had changed. That is fact," Neil said.
No one confirmed residency
Neil said it appears no one thought to verify the ridings throughout the court process. The Council of Canadians put out a call on its website last spring for Canadians to challenge the election results. Voters can challenge an election result only in their own riding.
Losing one of the applicants won't fundamentally affect the remaining six challenges, Neil said.
"The issues are still there, the evidence is still very strong, in our opinion, and points to widespread voter suppression efforts that were targeted on non-supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada," he said.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said the Council of Canadians is challenging the election results simply because it doesn't like them.
"The Council of Canadians case is based on the flimsiest of evidence, clearly thrown together without any real care or concern for the facts, made up for politics," Fred DeLorey said in an emailed statement.
The ridings being challenged are:
- Don Valley East and Nipissing-Timiskaming in Ontario.
- Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre in Manitoba.
- Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar in Saskatchewan.
- Vancouver Island North in B.C.
The Conservative MPs lost a previous motion to dismiss the challenge, as well as a motion to have the applicants put up a total of $260,000 extra in security deposits. They withdrew another motion to dismiss.
The court ruled there was no basis to conclude an increase in security deposit was warranted and ordered the MPs to pay costs of the motion because it unnecessarily delayed proceedings.