New Brunswick

Saint John Harbour recount finds numbers correct — so far

A vote recount for the close riding of Saint John Harbour has found the Elections New Brunswick tabulation machine totals are correct, so far.

Recount requested by PC candidate Barry Ogden, who lost by 10 votes to Liberal Gerry Lowe, to resume Thursday

PC candidate Barry Ogden, left, was present as the recount got underway for Saint John Harbour, but Gerry Lowe, who won the riding for the Liberals, was not taking part. (CBC)

A vote recount for the close riding of Saint John Harbour Wednesday found the Elections New Brunswick tabulation machine totals for the special ballots are correct.

The recount of the advance polls and ordinary polls is not yet complete. The process is scheduled to resume Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Saint John Law Courts building.

Progressive Conservative candidate Barry Ogden, who lost to Liberal candidate Gerry Lowe by 10 votes, according to Elections New Brunswick, requested the judicial recount on Monday.

Recounts are granted, upon request, in any race decided by 25 votes or less.

Saint John Harbour's 10-vote margin was the closest race in last week's provincial election and is at the centre of the fight for power between the province's two main parties.

PC allegations that at least 40 people in the riding were documented as voting more than once is expected to be dealt with in a separate proceeding at a future date.

"This is going to be a long, tiresome day," remarked presiding Justice Hugh McLellan, who took the unusual step of allowing participants to have coffee in the courtroom and for members of the media to photograph and film the process, which began around 10:30 a.m..

Ogden, his lawyers, Lowe's counsel, political party representatives and Elections New Brunswick officials huddled around two rectangular tables in the Court of Queen's Bench courtroom, surrounded by dozens of white boxes piled four or five high as a representative for NDP Leader and candidate Jennifer McKenzie observed.

Each box was filled with special ballots from across the province, which are any votes other than the advance polls or ordinary polls. That includes, for example, people who are housebound, in hospitals or long-term care facilities, people who voted at a returning office and people who cast their vote outside their riding.

Justice Hugh McLellan, centre, presides, over the vote recount for the riding of Saint John Harbour. At left, PC candidate Barry Ogden, who lost to Liberal Gerry Lowe by 10 votes and requested the recount, keeps a close eye. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Officials took turns methodically going through the paper ballots by hand and counting aloud, under the watchful eye of McLellan.

They realized partway through the recount that one of the special ballot boxes was missing. It had been left behind in Fredericton by mistake, so Elections New Brunswick's director of operations, Craig Astle, had to drive it over.

By about 3 p.m., officials finished tallying the 1,087 special ballots and agreed the tabulation results were correct — 403 votes for Ogden and 436 for Lowe.

Saint John Harbour PC riding association president Peter Josselyn declined to comment, citing the ongoing process.

Although Lowe was not present, he did post about the recount on Facebook.

"We fully expected a request for recount; however, the alleged mistakes/irregularities have absolutely nothing to do with me, my workers, supporters or volunteers," he wrote.

Dozens of sealed white boxes filled with special ballots from across the province were piled around the Saint John courtroom Wednesday during the recount. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

The special ballot boxes were resealed and shipped to the Moncton courthouse for the Memramcook-Tantramar recount, which also started Wednesday and is expected to continue into Thursday.

Memramcook-Tantramar was the second tightest race in the province. Green Party candidate Megan Mitton defeated Liberal candidate Bernard LeBlanc by 11 votes, according to Elections New Brunswick results.

The special ballot boxes will later be shipped to the Fredericton courthouse for the Oromocto-Lincoln-Fredericton recount, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Liberal candidate John Fife, who lost to PC candidate Mary Wilson by 93 votes, requested the recount based on a large discrepancy between the election results and the support he and other canvassers with his campaign were expecting from voters in Oromocto, near Base Gagetown.

Chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth (in green) participated in the Saint John Harbour recount Wednesday, but declined to comment, citing the ongoing court process. (Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon/CBC)

Chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth has declined to comment on the recounts.

"As these matters are currently before the courts, Elections New Brunswick will have no further comment," she said in a statement.

Any changes as a result of the recounts could have a major impact on the balance of power in the province, as neither the PCs nor the Liberals currently have enough seats to form a majority government.

Blaine Higgs's Progressive Conservatives won 22 seats, one more than Brian Gallant's Liberals, but three short of a majority in the 49-seat legislature.

The legislature is scheduled to reconvene on Oct. 23.