By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — A judge rejected a court challenge Friday of the vote that made Heather Stefanson leader of Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives and the province’s premier.
Shelly Glover, who came up just short with 49 per cent of the ballots on Oct. 30, alleged there were several problems with the way the race was run and wanted the court to toss out the results.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice James Edmond ruled that while there may have been some problems, Glover did not produce evidence of any irregularities that could have altered the outcome.
“I am not satisfied that any of the alleged irregularities, on their own or in their totality, affected the election result,” Edmond said.
Outside court, Glover, a former Conservative member of Parliament, said she was disappointed and is thinking of leaving the party.
“I care about members and I care about democracy and … I don’t think the party actually presented options that made sure that those two things are protected,” she said.
Glover said she hadn’t decided whether to appeal. Her lawyer, Dave Hill, said it would be a difficult case to appeal.
George Orle, who chaired the Tory leadership election committee, welcomed the ruling and said it should clear the air over the complaints from Glover’s campaign.
“They knew what the rules were … they signed on to those rules.”
Glover’s lawyers had pointed to daily spreadsheets the party gave to both campaigns as mail-in ballots were coming through in the latter part of October. The sheets were meant to keep track of which party members had voted.
The last spreadsheet, after the voting deadline passed, had about 500 fewer votes than the official results announced some 16 hours later. The party’s lawyer said the spreadsheet was not an official document and had no impact on the votes counted.
Glover’s lawyers alleged other irregularities. They said unsealed ballot boxes were removed from the counting room after the vote. They also said the party did not write down the number of ballots placed in each ballot box before counting began, so that the numbers could be used to match the number of votes counted from each box.
Edmond sided with the party’s lawyers, who said that in the end, any problems did not affect the counting.
Scrutineers from both campaigns oversaw all ballots, both while they were deemed valid after arriving in the mail, and again as they were counted on Oct. 30. The ballots were counted at 18 tables, and each table produced a tally sheet. None of Glover’s scrutineers have challenged the counts written on the sheets.
Both campaigns also had the ability to challenge any ballots that might have not been filled out properly at a resolution desk. After the count, the ballot boxes remained under the control of an outside accounting firm and a security company, Edmond said.
“Based on all of the evidence presented, I am satisfied that the ballot verification process, the resolution desk process, and the security used to secure the ballots ensured the election was proper, fair, and conducted in accordance with the (party constitution and leadership election rules).”