The post I put up yesterday to report on the Supreme Court's ruling regarding Etobicoke Centre has been updated a couple of times with links to media coverage. There's lots there if you want to dive in and get even more detail. Short version, as you've probably heard by now: in a 4 to 3 decision the majority ruled to overturn the lower court ruling and allow the original results of the election in Etobicoke Centre to stand. A slightly longer version follows.
Outside the courtroom, Borys Wrzesnewskyj may continue to say that there's evidence of "dirty tricks" in last year's federal election campaign in Etobicoke Centre but when he challenged the results in court, he made the decision to focus on procedural errors without offering any evidence of criminal intent. When a Federal Court threw out the result, and yesterday's Supreme Court ruling overturned that decision and reinstated it, those courts were ruling on strictly procedural matters. Perhaps the most succinct summary of the majority decision is still the one in the CBC story with which I led yesterday's post.
...the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the entitlement to vote cannot be annulled due to procedural errors and that there was a lack of evidence that most of the discarded ballots came from voters who were not qualified to vote.
The court found that it's not enough to point to paperwork that can't currently be produced, to errors in record-keeping or even to cases where people voted at the wrong polling station (though still in the correct riding). These are insufficient to deprive someone of his or her right to vote as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights.
Reviewing the disputed ballots in this context, the justices on the majority side reinstated more than enough to leave the remaining number in dispute below the original margin of victory. In so doing, they've certainly given the benefit of the doubt to those involved in the actual process by assuming good intentions on their part but the ruling seems intended to set the bar high — to force those who would challenge a result to demonstrate either an overwhelming degree of procedural irregularity or a willful attempt to subvert the democratic process.
I've seen it argued that by allowing some of those disputed votes to stand the court has been unfair to those who were turned away in the same election for lack of proper identification. But surely that's a separate fight.
By now it may have become apparent that I've been won over by the majority ruling and I'll tip my hat to Adam Goldenberg for the argument that really solidified it for me. But his piece is in the Ottawa Citizen and while I was able to read it the first time I clicked through, now it's behind the paywall. If they don't really want me to send them traffic, so be it. I'll paraphrase.
Attempts to disenfranchise voters are rampant in the U.S. and we've had a taste of that here in Canada with hints of more to come. If the Supreme Court had found it acceptable to disenfranchise Canadians for procedural reasons, it would hand a very useful precedent to those who believe the royal road to power lies in reducing the number of people who actually get to cast their ballots. Instead the majority decision holds that the fundamental right to vote trumps a lack of procedural entitlement to do so.
So a government here in Canada that wants to try to use procedure to lower the turnout does so with the knowledge that a legal challenge to its measures can use this decision as ammunition. In purely practical terms, if this is enough to make the Conservatives think twice about attempting to make it more difficult to vote then the worst I can say about it is that it's short term pain for long term gain. Of course, I'm not Borys Wrzesnewskyj and I didn't spend over $300,000 of my own money in mounting this challenge.
And so Etobicoke Centre drops off the list of "stories we're following".
As for the stories we're still following... it would seem Laura Payton at the CBC is trying to make me obsolete. Here's an offering from early this morning that provides a quick summary of the outstanding capers, complete with sub-headings. What Payton doesn't provide is the reason that the next court case of interest involves only six ridings instead of the original seven.
Someone on the CPC side decided to go back to square one and check the simple things. He struck pay dirt. It turns out the applicant challenging the result in Don Valley East didn't live there at the time of the election. She had moved a few months before — in February, 2011 — and didn't realize she had crossed riding boundaries. Since she no longer lives in that riding, she has no standing to challenge that result and would have to start over if she wanted to challenge in Don Vally West, where she now lives. So far she has no plans to do so though she stands by her claim that she received a phone call that misinformed her about her polling location.
Don Valley East is being dropped from the case. The Conservatives are arguing that the error regarding one riding somehow negates the cases in the other six but they would say that and it's an argument that's not going anywhere. IANAL but I feel pretty safe in saying that much. A key piece of evidence submitted by the applicants — the statistical study done by Frank Graves of EKOS Research — is being reworked to exclude that riding from its results and the rest of the applicants intend to carry on.
The only mention of Peter Penashue recently was this article in the Globe and Mail. It didn't really advance the story about Penashue's campaign financing but it did provide Tyler Sommers of Democracy Watch with an opportunity to repeat his pitch for tougher penalties for violations of election law and for more disclosure by Elections Canada.
The last I heard of Dean Del Mastro he'd decided that cleaning up the sorry state of media comment sections on the internet was something worth talking about. Perhaps that's because it has so little to do with his campaign financing. There's been no movement on that story.
As for Elections Canada, it's being reported that the Etobicoke Centre case was already enough to prompt a review and tightening up of procedures. And Marc Mayrand spoke up to offer some constructive criticism of legislation that the CPC is proposing on financing. There's no indication that he's been speaking to Tyler Sommers.
See you next week.