By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative party filed court documents Tuesday in defence of the party’s Oct. 30 leadership vote that saw Heather Stefanson win and become premier.
It is the first time the Tories have provided a detailed response to allegations from rival candidate Shelly Glover, who came up short with 49 per cent of the ballots. Glover is asking a Court of Queen’s Bench judge to order a new vote due to what she alleges were irregularities.
In an affidavit filed earlier, Glover said the party gave her campaign team a spreadsheet early in the morning on the day of the vote — after the deadline had passed for mail-in ballots to be received — which said 16,045 votes had been taken in and were to be counted.
When the results were announced late in the afternoon, the ballots totalled 16,546, with Stefanson winning 51 per cent.
One of the people acting as a vote scrutineer for Glover’s team, in another affidavit, said he saw unsecured ballot boxes being moved out of the room where votes were counted.
Affidavits filed by lawyers for the party Tuesday said the Tories followed proper procedures.
Party president Tom Wiebe said the spreadsheet that was given to the campaign teams in the early morning was not a final count.
“That spreadsheet was, to the knowledge of both campaign teams, understood not to be a definitive listing of the number of ballots to be counted,” Wiebe’s affidavit reads.
“I know this to be true because when I was present — Oct. 25 to 29, 2021 — during the process of verifying ballots, I listened to both campaign teams complain that the spreadsheet was not accurate.”
The spreadsheet had been used and regularly updated for weeks to keep track of who had voted, Wiebe said, and had flaws due to electronic data transfer from the party’s internal computer system. Despite the flaws, the spreadsheet continued to be used by both teams in the final days of voting as a partial guide as to which party members had yet to mail in their ballots, he added.
An affidavit from George Orle, chair of the Tory leadership election committee, says the Glover and Stefanson campaign teams had scrutineers who were able to oversee every ballot counted.
The Tories also provided the court with a copy of tally sheets from each table where votes were counted. The sheets were signed by scrutineers from the campaigns.
In another affidavit, a partner at the chartered professional accounting firm that helped conduct the vote says ballot boxes were only removed after the counting was complete. The ballots were then taken to a vehicle, guarded by a security firm, and later taken back to a secure room in the accounting firm’s offices, the affidavit states.
Both sides are to be in court on Dec. 10 to make their arguments.