'I am the premier': Shelly Glover's legal challenge of PC election result rests on varying vote counts

Manitoba Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Shelly Glover is challenging the party's selection of Heather Stefanson as its new leader, saying the total number of votes disclosed by the party fluctuated on election day.

Lawsuit filed Tuesday claims vote totals fluctuated on day Manitoba party selected Heather Stefanson as leader

Shelly Glover, left, hugs Heather Stefanson after the Progressive Conservative Party selected the latter as its new leader on Saturday in Winnipeg. Glover is challenging the result in court. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Shelly Glover is challenging the party's selection of Heather Stefanson as its new leader, saying the total number of votes disclosed by the party fluctuated on election day.

"I am the premier, not her," Glover said when contacted by CBC on Tuesday afternoon. "I am sorry, but Manitobans chose me."

On Saturday, PC president Tom Wiebe announced Stefanson beat Glover by 363 votes in a leadership race conducted by mail-out ballots. Stefanson received 8,405 votes compared to 8,042 for Glover, Wiebe announced at Winnipeg's Victoria Inn shortly before 5 p.m.

Stefanson was sworn in as the province's 24th premier Tuesday.

Glover is asking Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench to declare the results invalid and to order a new election.

In an application filed Tuesday, Glover's legal counsel David Hill claims the election was rife with "substantial irregularities in the election, calculated to affect the result."

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In a sworn affidavit, Glover describes the vote count as one of the irregularities.

Heather Stefanson was sworn in as Manitoba's 24th premier by Lt.-Gov. of Manitoba Janice Filmon, left, on Tuesday. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press)

She claims at 12:27 a.m. on Saturday, the PC party provided her campaign with a spreadsheet declaring the party was counting 16,045 votes that day.

When Wiebe announced the results at 5 p.m., he said 82 ballots were spoiled, 17 were disputed and that Glover received 8,042 votes. If the total number of ballots was 16,045, that would have left another 7,904 votes for her opponent.

"Instantly, I thought I was the new leader and premier-designate," Glover said in an interview, and reiterated in her sworn affadavit.

However, Stefanson was declared the winner. 

Glover was baffled because she was told by Wiebe that Stefanson had won 8,405 votes. Combined with the spoiled and disputed ballots, along with Glover's total, that would mean 16,546 ballots had been counted, rather than 16,045.

"I was shocked. We were all shocked. I did my best to be diplomatic, but immediately started to question what the heck just happened, and where did those 501 extra votes come from," Glover said.

In a second affidavit, Glover scrutineer Kevin Cook, a former police officer, said scrutineers for both parties determined in the counting room that Glover was ahead by 500 votes and it was clear Glover had won the election.

"I noticed that members of Ms. Stefanson's team were visibly upset," Cook said in the affidavit.

Cook said he then observed men, supervised by Wiebe, remove boxes of counted ballots from the counting room on Saturday without explanation.

"None of the scrutineers from [Glover's] campaign were permitted to leave the ballroom to observe the chain of custody of the unsealed ballot boxes," he said, adding his team was informed it would learn of the final tally later.

'Really disappointing': Stefanson

At a Tuesday news conference following her swearing in, Stefanson called Glover's legal action "really disappointing."

"But I'm not going to [be] focused on that moving forward," she said. 

"Our focus absolutely has to be on governing, not getting involved in these other situations that are happening out there."

Stefanson said she knows there are members who voted for Glover and said she is focused on unifying the party, while listening to what Manitobans want.

In a statement to media Tuesday afternoon, the PC Party of Manitoba said its election process was run independently and without favouring either Stefanson or Glover.

The party's statement said all ballots were in the care of an independent security firm and auditors from the time they were received until the time they were counted. It said the counting was overseen by independent auditors and a scrutineer from each campaign.

Glover had previously raised concerns some members could not obtain ballots and had asked the party to extend the voting period beyond Friday.

Her campaign and Stefanson's campaign stated that as of Wednesday, no fewer than 1,200 party members did not have their ballots.

Concerns about missing ballots do not yet appear as part of Glover's legal challenge of the result.

Leadership selection committee chair George Orle said those concerns are not legitimate.

"Anything about envelopes going missing or not being distributed are false," Orle said at the party convention.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.