MONTREAL — On Oct. 19, Raouf Rayes will oversee the federal election in the riding where his son is running as a candidate.
Raouf Rayes is the father of Alain Rayes, the mayor of Victoriaville and Conservative candidate in the riding of Richmond–Arthabaska. He is also assistant returning officer for the electoral district.
This is the third time he has occupied this role in a federal election.
"The Assistant Returning Officer has the responsibility of assisting the Returning Officer in managing the office and preparing the running of voting day," a spokesperson for Elections Canada said in an email.
He specified that all final decisions are nonetheless made by the returning officer.
Alain Rayes does not see any ethical problems with this situation.
"There is no conflict of interest,” he said. “You're talking about someone who has been there over the past three elections.
“He is simply continuing the work he's been doing since before I even thought of entering federal politics.
"He is not campaigning at all. He is not involved in any way whatsoever."
The Conservative candidate said this has been a difficult situation on a personal
level. "He has to remain completely neutral. This means he couldn’t be in attendance when I announced [my candidacy], launched my campaign or opened my office," Alan Rayes said.
He added that the returning officer for the riding, Jacques Alie, informed all his opponents of the situation; this was confirmed by Elections Canada.
But Elections Canada spokesperson Pierre Pilon said that the organization does not comment on individual cases.
In the event of a challenge, the local returning officer is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the process, he said. The Commissioner of Elections Canada would ultimately be the one to decide, if an opponent or citizen lodged a complaint.
On Thursday, Le Huffington Post Québec reported that Alain Rayes is still receiving his full mayoral salary even as he spends most of his days campaigning. The mayor-candidate feels this information is being leaked to the press out of "petty partisanship."
"When you're in the lead, you become a target for your opponents, who will try anything to throw you off,” he said. “But that's all they have left to try and find fault with me."
Rayes is a star candidate for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. The riding of Richmond–Arthabaska had been represented by Bloc Québécois MP André Bellavance since 2004. Last year, however, after disagreements with new party leader Mario Beaulieu, Bellavance left the party to sit as an independent and announced that he wouldn’t run again. The Conservatives have high hopes in the riding. Former Progressive Conservative MP, and later Conservative party adviser, André Bachand held this seat from 1997 to 2003.
— With files from Althia Raj
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