Ottawa

Lalonde wins Orléans nomination as voters say they were turned away

Liberal MPP Marie-France Lalonde will leave the provincial legislature to become the party's federal candidate in the riding of Orléans, after beating two other candidates Thursday night at a contentious nomination meeting.

Expected to step down officially as MPP today

Marie-France Lalonde receives a hug after winning the federal Liberal nomination in the riding of Orléans on Sept. 19, 2019. Her win means she will resign her seat at Queen's Park, dropping the provincial Liberal caucus to five. (Angie Bonenfant/Radio-Canada)

Liberal MPP Marie-France Lalonde will resign from the provincial legislature to become her party's federal candidate in the riding of Orléans, after beating two other candidates Thursday night at a contentious nomination meeting.

Lalonde, who has represented Orléans provincially since 2014, asked Liberals to put their differences aside after her win over accountant Khatera Akbari and lawyer Jean-Claude Dubuisson was made official.

"We'll come together now to make sure we keep the riding [Liberal] red," said Lalonde. "For me, that's the important thing."

Her victory means Ontario's provincial Liberal caucus will soon drop to five, three seats short of official party status.

Mujtaba Meerzada said he was turned away from voting in Orléans because the spelling of his last name didn't match what was listed in the voting system, even though his address and date of birth did. 0:37

Voters turned away

More than 2,000 people turned out to vote at the Shenkman Centre. The nomination process lasted several hours longer than anticipated as dozens of voters reported they never had a chance to cast a ballot. 

Dozens of Akbari's supporters claimed they were disqualified for discrepancies with identification listed in the voting system.

Mohammed Rahman, Anwar Khan and Fakruz Zaman all told similar stories of being turned away because information in the database, like their date of birth, was either missing or inaccurate.

My right was taken from me.- Anwar Khan, would-be voter

"I have a lot of friends here who could not go to vote, too, because the date of birth is not good. That's not right," said Zaman.

He said in his case, his name and address matched what was in the database, so the rationale for turning him away didn't make sense.

Khan also faced a similar problem.

"I couldn't vote, so that means my right was taken from me" said Khan. "This is not a third-world country." 

All three said they want the issue looked into, adding the party should be concerned longtime Liberals might be deterred from voting if it's left unresolved.

Riding association president Khatera Akbari, centre, says many of her supporters left 'frustrated and disappointed' following the Liberal party's nomination meeting in the federal riding of Orléans on Sept. 19, 2019. (Angie Bonenfant/Radio-Canada)

'I'm not sure what happened'

Akbari, who is also the riding association president, said she would look into what went wrong.

"I'm not sure what happened," Akbari told Radio-Canada, "I'll have to do some research to find out. I know there were many, many people who were frustrated and disappointed."

Akbari said while she was unhappy with the loss, she's committed to supporting Lalonde, having canvassed with her during her provincial campaigns.

Lalonde will now begin going door-to-door as the official candidate, more than a week after the start of the federal campaign.

She is running to replace Liberal MP Andrew Leslie, who decided not to run again earlier this year. 

Lalonde is expected to formally resign from the Ontario legislature Friday. She is the second Liberal MPP from Ottawa to leave Queen's Park this year, after former Ottawa-Vanier MPP Nathalie des Rosiers announced in May she would be taking a position at the University of Toronto.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford will now have to call provincial byelections for the two ridings.

Marie-France Lalonde's departure from Queen's Park means there are now two vacant provincial ridings in Ottawa, and Premier Doug Ford will have to call byelections for both. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

History of contentious nominations

Orléans has a history of contentious federal nominations, including the last one in 2014, when former Liberal leadership hopeful David Bertschi was prevented from running against Leslie because of an ongoing debt associated with his leadership contest. 

Leslie was acclaimed, and Bertschi sued. The party settled the lawsuit, which also named campaign executives and leader Justin Trudeau.

Bertschi is now running as the Conservative candidate in Orléans. 

The New Democratic Party will be represented by Jacqueline Wiens, the Green Party by Michelle Petersen and the People's Party of Canada by Roger Saint-Fleur. 

With files from Radio-Canada's Angie Bonenfant and The Canadian Press

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