Links between the University of Guelph vote and Helena Guergis

Patrick Ross challenged my blog post about the voter disruption tactics engaged by the Tories at the University of Guelph yesterday. I thought I’d reproduce his remarks from the comments section. Patrick wrote:

“Here are a few facts that your readers would likely benefit from. According to the letter Arthur Hamilton, counsel for the Tory candidate, wrote to Pierre Boutet at Elections Canada:

-Hamilton contacted Boutet to complain about the exclusion of a Tory scrutineer at the polling station — this alone is a violation of the Elections Act — only to be notified that no polling station had been authorized at the University of Guelph.

-Moreover, no polling or voter registration had been authorized at York University.

-Partisan literature from candidates were present at the polling station. This, again, is a violation of the Elections Act.

“So what we have here is a minimum of two violations of the Elections Act. I reserve the possibility that the polling stations in question had, indeed, been authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer and that this had not been communicated to Mr Boutet.

“But the other two examples, if true, are clear violations of the Elections Act. It seems that those on Twitter currently carping on this story aren’t bothering to comment on the violations. Perhaps you’re willing?”

As always, Patrick, I’m happy to rise to the challenge.

Elections Canada has held three previous advance polls at the university without any problems so I find the allegation that no polling or voter registration had been authorized by Elections Canada rather improbable, particularly given that the poll was manned by an Elections Canada returning officer. Frankly, Mr. Hamilton’s allegations are incongruent with the statements made by the media spokesperson for Elections Canada itself.

As for partisan literature ‘at’ the polling station, Elections Canada indicated that there was partisan material outside the polling station (ie in the lineups) and that their officials put a stop to it because the Elections Act prohibits such activity in the ‘vicinity of’ a polling station.

I don’t know about a Tory ‘scrutineer’ being denied entry. Scrutineers need to be registered, have a letter from the candidate’s official agent authorizing them to be there on the candidate’s behalf, and produce proper photograph ID. If a scrutineer was asked to leave, it’s most likely because one of those criteria wasn’t met. I’ve been a scrutineer: it happens. It does not invalidate the entire poll.

If I had to rely on the stories so far, it looks like Mr. Hamilton immediately reported to Mr. Sona, Marty Burke’s director of communications that the poll was ‘unauthorized’ and  ‘illegal.’ Mr. Sona then barged into the voting centre alleging an ‘illegal vote’ and causing a scene. Mr. Hamilton’s letter, unfortunately, does not set out the facts of that incident at all. However Mr. Sona’s grab for the ballot box and the stories which indicate that the person with him was on his cellphone at the time (not allowed in the voting centre) are themselves Election Act violations.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about this as the story gets picked up in the media. And I’ve posted Mr. Hamilton’s letter on my previous post. While you say he is counsel for the local candidate, that letter indicates that he is also challenging the vote at York University, which suggests to me that he had a broader agenda (and clientele) than simply Mr. Burke, the local candidate.

Update: As I suspected, Arthur Hamilton is the lawyer for the Conservative Party of Canada, In fact, he is the lawyer who communicated on behalf of the PMO with Helena Guergis:  

“Hamilton raised allegations of ‘Jaffer and Guergis on tape, partying with hookers and doing cocaine” and that “not only does Helena tolerate Jaffer hanging out with, with escorts, and prostitutes, but there’s apparently video of her snorting cocaine off the breasts of a prostitute.”

As we’ve learned in the news overnight as well, those allegations were without merit.

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Peggy’s regular blog posts on writing and getting published will resume on May 3rd, after the Canadian election.

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6 Responses to Links between the University of Guelph vote and Helena Guergis

  1. Patrick Ross says:

    You’ve made a worthy attempt at this, but a few further details have emerged:

    First off, Elections Canada has stated that the polling station was not properly authorized. There was no miscommunication with Mr Boutet.

    Elections Canada has not clarified why the Tory scrutineer was denied the opportunity to participate. It seems too early to rule your suggestion out as a possibility, but also seems too early to reach that conclusion outright.

    Last but not least, the allegation is not that partisan literature was circulating in the lineups, but rather that it was located in the vicinity of the ballot box itself.

    There are still some very serious questions here, as well as Elections Canada now sewing some serious doubt about whether it’s personell are actually in the business of enforcing the Elections Act at all.

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    • Peggy Blair says:

      Patrick, as always, I appreciate your comments.

      As you likely have heard, Elections Canada has just ruled the votes valid.

      And the connection between Guergis and the U. Guelph situation is that Hamilton is the Party’s lawyer, not the lawyer for the local candidate in that riding, as your earlier post had implied. Can you show me a section of the Elections Act that requires that a special ballot conducted by Elections Canada be pre-authorized by the Chief Electoral Officer? I’m open to persuasion, but I haven’t seen that kind of requirement myself. And presumably, if this wasn’t discretionary, Elections Canada would not have just upheld the validity of the vote, which it says was conducted according to the rules.

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      • Patrick Ross says:

        Any special vote that takes place outside of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer has to be expressly authorized by the CEO.

        Not only has Elections Canada suspended the special balloting at the University of Guelph on this grounds, they’ve instructed no further such balloting be conducted.

        In my view, this is a mistake. These polls should be conducted, but they should be conducted within the law. This requires the authorization of the Chief Electoral Officer.

        The troubling aspect of this ruling is that we very clearly have people running Elections Canada who have gotten into the practice of making the rules up as they go along.

        The Tory volunteer was actually correct that the polling station was not in compliance with the law. That being said, he handled it very poorly.

        This is before we even address the much bigger question at hand: the alleged electioneering in the polling station, as well as the blatant denial of fairness of process regarding the exclusion of the Tory scrutineer.

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        • Peggy Blair says:

          Not quite sure what you mean by ‘outside’ the office of the CEO, Patrick?

          Section 168(1) pf the Elections Act enables the RO to set up the advance poll; s. 168(2) requires, in fact, that he establish where it’s going to be and then inform the CEO what he’s done. Seems to me it was the notice requirement that was the issue this time around. The Tory volunteer certainly did handle things poorly, but Elections Canada has said the rules were followed, which to me means that they haven’t placed any weight whatsoever on the allegation that a Tory scrutineer was wrongly excluded.

          I found it interesting that, according to Mr. Hamilton’s letter, the person complaining about being excluded as a scrutineer said he wasn’t allowed in the voting area but on the other hand, that he saw partisan materials in the voting station. Either he was allowed in and saw them or was excluded and didn’t but it seems to me you have to pick which horse to ride.

          Glad we can have this discussion in a reasonable fashion: it’s important.

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          • Patrick Ross says:

            This isn’t an advance poll we’re talking about. It’s a special poll. There’s a difference.

            Typically, special polls are to take place in the CEO’s office, unless specifically authorized by the CEO. Special polls at hospitals, nursing homes, work camps, aboriginal reserves, etc, all authorized by Chief Electoral Officer.

            This poll did not have the necessary authorization.

            Advance polls are a different matter. The dates and locations for them are established very quickly. Because they’re not a special poll, they do not actually require authorization.

            One caveat: the CEO can mandate a change of location for those polls if they deem it necessary.

            Even that would be of secondary concern if it weren’t for the allegations of electioneering in the polling area — proximate to the ballot box — and the exclusion of the Tory scrutineer

            Frankly, we haven’t seen any sign that Elections Canada has actually made an effort to address that issue. We haven’t heard an explanation yet for why the scrutineer was excluded.

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            • Peggy Blair says:

              I take your point. Hamilton’s letter referred to the poll that was held as an ‘advance’ poll, as did the media. As for the rest of it, there aren’t enough facts out there to even know if a Tory scrutineer was excluded.

              There was obviously a scrutineer for the Conservative Party present when the ballot box was opened because Hamilton’s letter recites the serial number which the RO announces to the scrutineers durinng the pre-ballot confirmation process.

              As for partisan materials, Patrick, I’ve been a scrutineer and DRO many times over the decades. If someone brings it in, the DRO asks them to remove it or to leave the area. Same as if they haul out their cellphones these days. I understand the elections officers did so when they learned there was material in the lineup.

              There are allegations like this in every election campaign involving all the parties: if the Tories continued to share your concerns, I’m sure they’d still be expressing them. Cheers, Peggy

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