Former Liberal MP demands immediate byelection
Former Liberal MP won court case to void May 2, 2011 result
A former Liberal MP who won a legal challenge to have the federal election result overturned in his Toronto riding is calling for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call an immediate byelection.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj stopped short of alleging widespread voter suppression, though he did say he thinks there were polling stations targeted for suppression.
"[Harper] can't delay...it's about something so fundamental. It's about Canadians' belief and confidence in our democracy," Wrzesnewskyj said.
Speaking to reporters at Liberal Party headquarters in Ottawa, Wrzesnewskyj said Canadians need their confidence in democracy returned.
In a particularly troublesome poll in Etobicoke Centre, Poll 31, Wrzesnewskyj said, turnout increased by 50 per cent and Conservative candidate Ted Opitz's vote increased by 80 per cent. Opitz was the election winner until an Ontario judge declared the result null and void.
"It was deeply suspicious. So we looked at that poll," Wrzesnewskyj said.
The poll had a much higher rate of people using registration certificates to swear they lived in the area and get on the voters' list in the poll, he said, about five times as many as the average in the rest of Canada. When his legal team looked at the registration certificantes, they found people from 14 different polling sites voting at Poll 31, plus some people who listed addresses from outside the riding.
"How does that happen? How does that happen in Canada?" Wrzesnewskyj said. "We were able to, in that poll, to show that there were ballots in the box that should never have been there."
There were altogether 177 missing registration certificates, which Wrzesnewskyj says his team believes never existed. At another polling site, one Elections Canada registration officer put a signature on 10 registration certificates where voters were supposed to leave their signatures. The official signed off on 86 registration certificates in all at other polling stations.
"Those were clearly cases of ballots in the box that shouldn't have been there."
"Something broke in the last federal election. Let's fix it," he said.
Wrzesnewskyj was defeated by Opitz in the May 2, 2011 federal election, but challenged the result in Ontario Superior Court citing voting irregularities at 10 polling stations.
Opitz won the riding by 26 votes, so the case required more than 26 votes be thrown out for it to be declared void. Justice Thomas Lederer set aside 79 ballots in his decision Friday in Toronto.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said in a statement that Wrzesnewskyj was resurrecting allegations outside of court that he had abandoned in court.
"Borys Wrzesnewskyj is attempting to turn baseless smears into an art form," Fred DeLorey said.
Monday deadline to file appeal
Opitz has until Monday to appeal to the Supreme Court or face a byelection. An appeal would proceed immediately to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"We're ready today," Wrzesnewskyj said, when asked if he'd be ready to go to the top court in June. "It's clear. We had a very lengthy process in [Ontario] Superior Court."
The former Liberal MP said people haven't gotten to the bottom of the story from the last federal election, suggesting there was widespread voter suppression in the lead-up to the May 2 ballot.
He compared a disturbance at a seniors' centre in his riding on election day to a scene in Guelph, Ont., when a campaign manager allegedly grabbed a ballot box.
He pointed to Opitz's campaign manager as one of the people who helped disrupt the vote at the seniors' centre.
Opitz released a statement Friday that said the judge found problems with the way Elections Canada ran the election in the riding.
"As the judge took care to point out in the decision, I and my campaign team followed the rules," Opitz said in a statement.
Wrzesnewskyj says for his Ukranian-born grandmother, it was a big deal to vote in Canada, and said it's possible somebody interfered with the right of other seniors to vote.
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