OTTAWA - A defeated Liberal MP isn't content to revel in a court ruling that overturned the election results in his Toronto riding on technical, procedural grounds.
Borys Wrzesnewskyj is now asking Elections Canada to investigate more serious allegations of voter suppression and ballot box stuffing by the victorious Conservative campaign team in Etobicoke Centre.
"We believed that in Canada these sorts of things don't happen. They're un-Canadian," Wrzesnewskyj told a news conference Thursday.
"But what appears clear is someone has figured out the weak links in the system and bad political actors have come into play."
In an Ontario Superior Court ruling last week, Justice Thomas Lederer specifically stressed that voting irregularities in the riding were the result of clerical errors by well-meaning Elections Canada officials, not the product of fraud or intentional wrongdoing.
However, Wrzesnewskyj said that's only because he limited his case, on the judge's suggestion, to 10 polls where he was confident he could prove procedural irregularities resulted in more than 26 ineligible ballots being cast, thus potentially altering the outcome of last May's election.
Wrzesnewskyj lost by just 26 votes to Conservative Ted Opitz.
Lederer set aside 79 votes due to irregularities, primarily involving improperly filled-out paperwork for voters not on the list of electors or who needed someone to vouch for their identity.
The Conservatives have not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling, which, if allowed to stand, means a byelection will have to be called in Etobicoke Centre.
Wrzesnewskyj said he didn't pursue other more inflammatory allegations of criminality because he didn't want the case to drag on for years and couldn't afford to hire private investigators to prove his charges.
"In court, all we had to prove was ballots in the box that shouldn't have been there. The motives, the connections, that's something that investigators should be looking at because we can't have this sort of situation occur again."
Wrzesnewskyj revived allegations he initially filed with the court, claiming that Opitz's campaign manager created a disturbance during peak voting time at one poll, yelling about an illegal polling station at a Ukrainian seniors home. He said the ruckus, which resulted in an elderly woman with a walker being knocked down, prompted elections officials to shut down the station for a time and some voters left without casting ballots.
At another polling station, he said an Opitz campaign worker used a chair to obstruct voters who were trying to obtain their ballots and then "proceeded to harangue" the poll clerk until she broke down in tears. Again, he said the disruption caused some voters to leave without casting ballots.
Wrzesnewskyj's initial application to overturn the Etobicoke Centre result included affidavits from three local Elections Canada officials who described the allegedly disruptive incidents.
"Elections Canada officials have made these allegations .... These aren't my people," he said.
"It's time for investigators to do their work."
Elections Canada declined, as it typically does, to say if any investigation into Wrzesnewskyj's allegations is underway.
Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey scoffed at what he dubbed Wrzesnewskyj's attempt "to turn baseless smears into an art form."
"The judge was very clear in his ruling that Ted Opitz and the Conservative campaign followed the rules," DeLorey said.
"Mr. Wrzesnewskyj obviously put his best foot forward in court so for him to now resurrect outside of court what he abandoned in court tells you an awful lot about how solid these allegations are."
Wrzesnewskyj also called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to accept Lederer's ruling and get on with a byelection as quickly as possible.
"He can't delay. He has to be prime ministerial. It's not about partisan politics .... It's about something so fundamental, it's about Canadians' belief and confidence in our democracy."
The Real JayKP