One of the candidates vying to seize the reins of Ontario’s Opposition alleged Thursday that party “elites” were handpicking those who would be able to cast a ballot in the leadership election.
With the vote deadline less than a day away, former Toronto city councillor Doug Ford said key documents required to participate were sent by email to specific members while ignoring others, including his own mother, awaiting the same information.
“The political elites, they distribute PIN numbers to a special group, and I don’t know who picks this group, and then Mr. and Mrs. Smith … they don’t get to vote,” Ford told The Canadian Press.
“Something is wrong. I’ll let you come to your own conclusion,” he said. “This is not a transparent election.”
Party executives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday but have previously said they were aware of concerns over delays in getting party members the documents they need to vote.
Ford and the other candidates — former Progressive Conservative legislator Christine Elliott, Toronto lawyer and businesswoman Caroline Mulroney and parental rights activist Tanya Granic Allen — have all raised the alarm in recent days over the voting process.
Ford, Mulroney and Granic Allen have all pushed for the party to extend the leadership race by a week in order to ensure all members can participate.
The party ruled against prolonging the race late Wednesday, saying that would contravene its constitution, and instead decided to push back the registration deadline to Thursday night and let members vote until noon Friday.
Ford said he believes the legitimacy of the race has been compromised, but demurred when asked if he would dispute the results.
“Let’s see what happens on Saturday, we’ll have to see how many people are allowed to vote,” he said.
Mulroney said she believes the election will produce a fair result but vowed to look into the PIN distribution issues if she wins. Granic Allen said she would continue to call for the voting deadline to be postponed.
The rules of the leadership race include provisions for filing complaints and appealing decisions, but those wishing to contest the results could also turn to the courts.
“You would have to show that it affected the vote enough to have changed the result,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch.
It’s incredibly rare for the courts to overturn the results of an election, however, and it would be more effective to seek an injunction before the votes are tallied, he said.
“If you have real proof that things are not working the way that all the rules say they should be or worse, actually rigged in some way, then it’s much better to go before a judge now rather then put the judge in a position of overturning what thousands of people said they want on Saturday,” said Conacher, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa.
It also appears more legitimate when the complaint comes before the results are announced, he said.
“The reason you’re going to go afterwards is because you lost and right away people in the party are going to be spinning it as sour grapes and going into court with that frame as well to contest whatever challenges you’re making,” he said.
Asked about the prospect of a court challenge, Tory legislator Todd Smith said he hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
“I hope that doesn’t happen. However, it may,” he said.
“I think what I would like to see on Saturday is no matter who wins is that the other campaigns unite behind our leader and we start to focus on Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals. It’s been five or six weeks now where we’ve been pointing the guns inwards, I think right now it’s important that we focus on defeating the Liberals on June 7.”
The party said nearly 77,000 members had registered to vote and more than 44,000 had cast a ballot as of Wednesday evening.