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This article was published 2/11/2021 (205 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While her opponent in the Progressive Conservative leadership race was being sworn in at the legislature as Manitoba’s first female premier Tuesday, Shelly Glover’s legal counsel was across the street applying to have the event nullified.
"They announced the wrong winner," Glover told the Free Press Tuesday after Heather Stefanson had been sworn in as Manitoba’s 24th premier.
"I should’ve been the premier-designate and they swore in the wrong person," said Glover, who insisted it’s not about who won or lost but democracy being in peril.
Glover’s application asks the Court of Queen’s Bench to declare Stefanson’s election invalid and the office of premier-designate declared vacant or an order be issued declaring Glover the duly elected premier-designate.
"We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t want the court to make a decision that there were irregularities in the voting, and irregularities mean the election has to be redone," lawyer Dave Hill said in an interview Tuesday.
The application includes an affidavit from Glover saying the number of certified voters determined at the end of Friday’s deadline for party members’ ballots to be received was 16,045 — less than the 16,546 ballots the PC party said were cast when it announced the results Saturday.
"We're asking that the court make a declaration that the results of the PC leadership vote are invalid, and asking for an order of the court that another vote be done." –Dave Hill
Stefanson was declared the winner and new PC party leader with 8,405 votes to Glover’s 8,042. The party said 17 ballots were disputed and 82 were spoiled.
"I just couldn’t believe it," said Glover. "It doesn’t add up. Where did they get those extra 501 votes?"
The former Winnipeg police sergeant and Conservative cabinet minister has not conceded defeat to Stefanson.
On Monday, Hill wrote to Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon asking her to delay Stefanson’s swearing in, alleging "irregularities" that affected the outcome of the leadership race. Filmon did not respond.
Elections Manitoba and political policy experts said Monday such leadership races are administered and overseen by the political party, not the courts.
Hill disagreed, citing a 2018 case in which the Ontario Superior Court was asked to extend the voting deadline in the provincial PC party leadership race.
"We’re asking that the court make a declaration that the results of the PC leadership vote are invalid, and asking for an order of the court that another vote be done," the lawyer said.
"We hope that after our election committee talks to Ms. Glover and her advisers and respond to her concerns that they will see that the process and the results were handled appropriately, accurately and without favour." –PC party statement
In that 2018 case, however, Ontario Court Superior Court Justice Todd Archibald dismissed an application to order the PC Party of Ontario to extend the voting deadline for its leader. The applicants didn’t avail themselves of the party’s internal dispute mechanisms before turning to the courts, the judge said.
"Organizations and associations have the freedom to set their own rules," the judge wrote in his decision. "If the deadlines and timelines set by an organization appear to be autocratic to its members, then that is an issue that should, firstly, be resolved through the organization’s constitution and rules and regulations.
"Asking our courts, however, to intervene in the process every time there is a grievance risks opening the door to an innumerable number of court challenges."
The application filed Tuesday won’t be scheduled until Thursday to set a date for when it will be reviewed by the Court of Queen’s Bench, Hill said.
"We’ll try to get it scheduled for a quick resolution. Nobody wants this to linger on," said Glover’s lawyer, who acknowledged even if a justice hears the case and makes a decision, the loser could appeal it and the case could linger.
The PC party issued a statement Tuesday saying its election process was run independently and without preference to either candidate.
"All ballots, from the time they were received to the time they were counted, were in the care and control of, initially, our independent security firm and, subsequently, our independent auditors," it said. "The counting was overseen by our auditors together with a scrutineer from each campaign.
"We hope that after our election committee talks to Ms. Glover and her advisers and respond to her concerns that they will see that the process and the results were handled appropriately, accurately and without favour."
The leadership race has been fraught with issues, Glover said.
"This party is a party I have loved for a very long time and I’m mourning the party," she said. "At this point, I’m very worried about what comes next."
Hill has no idea what steps to take if Glover’s application is successful, a re-vote is ordered and she is declared winner.
"It’s novel water," he said.
He couldn’t say what legal means are available to remove a premier from office over a party leadership conflict.
The Manitoba court application included an affidavit from Kevin Cook, a retired Winnipeg Police Service special constable who volunteered with Glover’s campaign and was a scrutineer during the vote count.
He claimed Glover was ahead by 500 ballots and he witnessed men taking unsecured ballot boxes out of the building through a side entrance, and Glover’s team weren’t allowed to witness the chain of custody.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.