Manitoba PCs say faulty info given to candidates didn’t make leadership election unfair

The Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba concedes it gave leadership candidates erroneous information before October’s election — but says the actual ballots were counted fairly and accurately.

In a 209-page submission to Manitoba’s Court of the Queen’s Bench, the PC Party seeks to dismiss candidate Shelly Glover’s application to declare the results of the Oct. 30 leadership race invalid and require the party to hold a new vote.

Glover lost that race by 363 votes to Heather Stefanson, who was sworn in as Manitoba’s premier three days later. Glover did not concede and is seeking to have the result tossed out on the basis the total vote count fluctuated on election day and that the party failed to secure ballots.

In its submission to the court, the party says it doesn’t matter Glover and Stefanson received erroneous estimations of the total vote count before the actual ballots were tallied under the watchful eye of scrutineers from both campaigns.

“At the end of the day, whatever deficiencies there may have been in keeping track of who voted, it remains true that the only ballots counted on election day were ones that were approved of and verified as valid by trusted scrutineers appointed by each of the candidates,” lawyers Neil Duboff, Harley Schachter and Kaitlyn Lewis argue in the submission.

The party says a spreadsheet provided to both candidates early in the morning of Oct. 30 was never approved as being part of the election process.

“While some of the information voluntarily shared with each of the candidates (and dealing with who had voted and how many ballots were received and processed by scrutineers on the validation floor and resolution desk) was in error, both in law and in fact these errors are of no moment,” the party’s lawyers argue.

“The evidence supports a finding that only ballots approved of by each of the candidates made their way into the ballot box.”

The party also rejects a number of other Glover arguments. One is her contention that a confidential “balloting process” document was part of the election process. Another is that the PC election should be judged under the standards laid out by the Manitoba Elections Act.

The PCs also reject Glover’s claim the accounting firm Scarrow & Donald failed to secure the election ballots.

“To impugn the professionalism that Scarrow & Donald brought to the task they were retained to accomplish is, on the state of the evidence, deserving of rebuke by this court,” the lawyers argue.

Ultimately, the PCs argue the election was conducted in accordance with the party’s constitution and leadership rules.

Dubofff, Schachter and Lewis suggest Glover filed her lawsuit because she was unhappy with the result.

“It may be that Ms. Glover’s campaign team and volunteers, in their exuberance for their candidate, had truly held the belief early on, when only 44 per cent of the votes were in, that she would not and could not lose,” they write.

“Such personal beliefs, no matter how fervently held, are not true when they are inconsistent with the facts. And the facts of this case are that Heather Stefanson got more votes than Shelly Glover did.”

Lawyers for Glover and the party are scheduled to argue the merits of their cases on Friday morning in a hearing before Justice James Edmond.

Both parties have agreed to have the proceedings recorded by two television cameras, but the hearing will not be broadcast live. Plans are in the works for an edited version to be made public at a later date.

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