Tory MP asks Supreme Court to uphold Toronto riding result

Conservative MP Ted Opitz will appeal an Ontario Superior Court decision overturning the 2011 federal election result in Toronto's Etobicoke Centre.

Ontario Superior Court decision overturned 2011 federal election result in Etobicoke Centre

Conservative Ted Opitz, left, is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold his victory in the May 2011 election in Etobicoke Centre. Defeated Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj, right, challenged the results in court and won, forcing an automatic byelection in the Toronto riding unless Opitz appealed. (tedopitz.ca/Canadian Press)

Ted Opitz is appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold the 2011 federal election result in his Toronto riding.

On May 18, an Ontario Superior Court judge found sufficient voting irregularities to cast doubt on the credibility of last year's voting process in Etobicoke Centre and declared it null and void, leading to an automatic byelection unless the decision was appealed within eight days.

The margin of victory in the riding was only 26 votes. Justice Thomas Lederer set aside 79 ballots in his ruling.

Opitz was expected to appeal, and the Conservative MP issued a statement early Monday morning to make it official.

"This is the first time this section of the Elections Act has been considered by a court, and it is important that it be given the fullest consideration because of its significant impact on our democratic system," Opitz said in the press release, noting that the court made it very clear that there was no wrongdoing by any candidate.

There's an automatic right to appeal a lower court decision overturning an election result directly to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Etobicoke Centre decision was only the third time in Canadian history the courts have overturned an election result.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, the Liberal incumbent who was defeated in the vote, has called for an immediate by-election to be held. The former MP is alleging voter suppression tactics were used in the riding.

In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon on Monday, Wrzesnewskyj said he had hoped Prime Minister Stephen Harper would "rise to the occasion" and call a by-election.

"And it's an opportunity lost for the prime minister to show he's not just a tactician when it comes to partisan politics because that feeds into the cyncism that Canadians have about our political processes," Wrzesnewskyj said.

In the meantime, the former MP called for Opitz to step aside for now.

"At least Mr. Opitz should do the honourable thing and say, 'Until this gets resolved, we don't know who's the legitimate representative of Etobicoke Centre,' " Wrzesnewskyj said. "It sets a terrible precedent that in those circumstances a person is voting on legislation and in our House of Commons."

According to the Elections Act, this appeal will be expedited. If both sides agree to short filing deadlines, the Supreme Court could hear the case as early next month.

There are limited sittings available in June. If the case is not heard before the summer, there are no more hearing dates until October.

A date will be set after discussions between the lawyers for both sides and the court's registrar.

If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court's decision, the prime minister must call a byelection within six months of that ruling.