Borys Wrzesnewskyj: Defeated Liberal MP Seeks To Overturn Election Result In Etobicoke Centre Over Vote Trickery

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BORYS WRZESNEWSKYJ ETOBICOKE
Borys Wrzesnewskyj, a defeated Liberal MP, is seeking to invalidate the results of last May's election in his Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre, alleging serious voting irregularities. (CP) | CP

OTTAWA - A defeated Liberal MP is seeking to invalidate the results of last May's election in his Toronto riding, alleging serious voting irregularities.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj is not alleging the kind of dirty tricks that opposition parties are accusing the Conservatives of employing to suppress the vote in other ridings.

Quite the reverse; he's alleging that too many ineligible voters were allowed to cast ballots in Etobicoke Centre, in some cases more than once.

In a statement of particulars filed Feb. 17 with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Wrzesnewskyj argues that 218 voters were improperly allowed to cast ballots in 10 different polling divisions in his riding.

He alleges a variety of irregularities, including ballots cast by people who did not live in the riding and the possibility that at least some people voted multiple times.

Wrzesnewskyj lost by just 26 votes to Conservative Ted Opitz.

"These irregularities seriously call into question whether the democratic will of the qualified voting electorate was reflected in the result," Wrzesnewskyj argues in the statement.

"The irregularities cast a dark cloud over the integrity of Canada's federal election in Etobicoke Centre. These irregularities are in excess of the 26-vote plurality."

His application to invalidate the result is to be heard on April 23.

According to Elections Canada, this is the first time since 1988 that a court has agreed to hear an application contesting an election result.

Wrzesnewskyj's statement does not assign blame to any person or rival party for the irregularities he cites.

The allegations primarily involve problems with respect to voters whose names were not on the list of registered voters or who didn't have the proper identification when they showed up to vote; they were issued registration certificates or had another person vouch for their being qualified voters.

Voters issued registration certificates at a polling station are supposed to reside in the poll in which they are voting. But Wrzesnewskyj maintains at one polling station, 54 such voters didn't reside in the poll. Indeed, two of them listed addresses that were outside Etobicoke Centre altogether.

What's more, he alleges that 32 people who were given registration certificates at another polling station were actually already on the voters' list in other polling divisions within the riding.

And he claims voting records show at least three people appear to have voted twice — once as registered voters whose names were crossed off the regular voters' list and again after being issued registration certificates.

"On election day, polling divisions are prohibited from being operated in a manner where voters from multiple polling divisions are able to cast a ballot," the statement notes.

"To allow otherwise would obviously open the system to abuse where electors cast multiple ballots in multiple polling divisions in the same election."

The statement alleges further that some registration certificates and vouching forms were not filled out correctly by the district returning officers or polling clerks.

It says names and — or addresses — were not supplied, thereby leaving doubt as to whether the individuals had been properly identified as eligible voters.

In some cases, the documentation has gone missing entirely.

Wrzesnewskyj's statement notes that proof of identity is expressly required to minimize "the opportunity for electoral fraud" and protect the integrity of the electoral system.

In other cases, the statement maintains some people who vouched for the eligibility of others to vote did not live in the same polling division and/or vouched for more than one person, contrary to the Canada Elections Act.

Neither Elections Canada nor Opitz have yet filed responses to Wrzesnewskyj's statement of particulars.

However, Opitz's lawyer, Tom Barlow, stressed that nothing in the statement accuses the Conservative party or its Etobicoke Centre candidate of any sort of wrongdoing. Rather, the focus appears to be on the procedures followed by Elections Canada officials.

"It doesn't have anything to do with us," Barlow said. "It has to do really with what happened at the polling place, with the focus on the elections officials, in the sense of what the paperwork does or does not show."

In the 1988 case, Conservative Michael O'Brien was initially declared the winner in York North after a judicial recount gave him a 99-vote edge over Liberal Maurizio Bevilacqua. Bevilacqua appealed the recount and was subsequently declared the winner by 77 votes.

But O'Brien contested the result in court, citing irregularities. It was eventually declared invalid and a byelection was called to clarify the wishes of York North's voters. Bevilacqua won.

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