Toronto

Ontario PCs face lawsuit over election of party president

The man who lost his bid to become president of Doug Ford's Ontario Progressive Conservative party is suing over a claim that party brass broke their own election rules to thwart his candidacy.

Jim Karahalios claims Progressive Conservatives 'deliberately breached' rules to prevent him from winning

Jim Karahalios filed a lawsuit alleging that the Ontario PC party allowed "ballot stuffing" at its November 2018 convention that tipped the election for party president in favour of his sole opponent by just 56 votes. (submitted)

The husband of one of Premier Doug Ford's MPPs is suing the Ontario Progressive Conservative party, claiming that officials rigged the election for party president, deliberately breaking their own rules to thwart his candidacy. 

Jim Karahalios filed a lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court this week, alleging that the party allowed "ballot stuffing" that tipped the November 2018 election in favour of his sole opponent and the eventual winner, Brian Patterson. 

The party president is an elected, volunteer position that leads governance and operations for the Ontario PCs.  Karahalios' wife Belinda is the PC MPP for Cambridge. 

The lawsuit alleges that two senior Ford advisors told Karahalios last year that the premier's office wanted Patterson to become the party president. 

The lawsuit alleges the number of ballots cast in the election during the party's convention in Toronto exceeded the number of eligible voters by at least 115. The lawsuit says Patterson won the election by a margin of just 56 votes. 

Lawyers for Karahalios argue party officials took steps to undermine his campaign and favour that of his opponent.  

Brian Patterson, left, was elected president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party in November 2018, after a public endorsement by Premier Doug Ford. (forthemembers.ca )

"The party and its agents deliberately and materially breached the rules in order to prevent Karahalios from winning the election," his lawyers Scott Hutchison and Mark Strychar-Bodnar say in the statement of claim filed in court.  

None of the allegations made by Karahalios has been proven in court.  The PC Party has not yet filed its statement of defence. 

"Our party does not comment on ongoing legal matters," said PC spokesman Marcus Mattinson in an email to CBC News on Friday. "We remain confident in the integrity of the results of the executive election during the 2018 convention." 

Contained in the lawsuit is an allegation that a scrutineer saw ballots given to Ford's wife and daughters and his then-chief of staff Dean French even though they were not eligible to vote. The lawsuit also alleges that Ford's then-principal secretary Jenni Byrne told Karahaios that the premier's office wanted Patterson to win. 

Belinda Karahalios is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Cambridge. (Submitted photo)

Ford's press secretary on Friday declined to comment on any specific claims in the lawsuit, saying the party's email from its spokesman stands. 

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract by the PC party, arguing that a commitment to follow the rules for a free, fair and democratic election was part of the contract that Karahalios signed to run. The lawsuit asks for $100,000 in damages but does not specifically ask the court to overturn or nullify the election result. 

Karahalios was a fierce critic of former PC leader Patrick Brown over alleged irregularities in candidate nominations ahead of the last provincial election. In 2017, when Brown was leader and Brown's ally Rick Dykstra was party president, the party stripped Karahalios of his membership and sued him over making the allegations.

After Brown resigned in early 2018, several of those nominations were overturned, Ford reinstated Karahalios' membership, and approved Belinda Karahalios as the candidate in Cambridge. 

About the Author

Mike Crawley

Provincial Affairs Reporter

Mike Crawley is provincial affairs reporter in Ontario for CBC News. He has won awards for his reporting on the eHealth spending scandal and flaws in Ontario's welfare-payment computer system. Before joining the CBC in 2005, Mike filed stories from 19 countries in Africa as a freelance journalist and worked as a newspaper reporter in B.C.