Heather Stefanson is expected to be sworn in as Manitoba’s first female premier Tuesday, despite an effort by her Progressive Conservative leadership opponent to delay the historic event.
The lawyer representing defeated leadership candidate Shelly Glover sent a letter by email to Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon Monday asking that she defer swearing in a new premier because of questions surrounding voting in last weekend's Progressive Conservative election.
"From the information given to me, there would appear to be substantial irregularities affecting the result in the counting of ballots," lawyer Dave Hill wrote, telling the Queen's representative in Manitoba that he will be "shortly seeking an order of the Court of Queen's Bench declaring that the election results are invalid and requiring a new vote."
Hill said he was not available to comment Monday, and Glover did not respond to a request for comment.
The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the legislature.
The lieutenant governor, whose primary responsibility is to ensure that a duly constituted government is always in place in Manitoba and to not get involved in politics, declined to comment.
"Please be advised that neither Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon or the Office of the Lieutenant Governor will be commenting on the recent leadership race," a statement issued Monday said.
The PC party announced the results of the leadership vote Saturday; Stefanson received 8,405 votes, Glover 8,042.
The former Winnipeg Police Service sergeant and federal heritage minister under prime minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives has not conceded victory to Stefanson. Glover said earlier her team was reviewing the results and wanted to know why if more than 25,000 members were eligible to vote, only 16,456 ballots were cast. Her campaign alleged that 1,200 eligible members didn't receive a ballot.
However, determining whether or not the election results are "invalid" is an issue for the party to address, not the courts or the lieutenant governor, said veteran political analyst Paul Thomas.
"It staged the leadership contest, it wrote the rules for that contest. It orchestrated the process of distributing ballots, collecting ballots and counting the ballots," he said.
"These are not matters that normally come before a court of law because there was no law that applied to those procedures," said Thomas, professor emeritus of political studies at the University of Manitoba.
"From the information given to me, there would appear to be substantial irregularities affecting the result in the counting of ballots." — Lawyer Dave Hill
"It is not a matter for the lieutenant governor because, faced with the request by the new head of the PC party to be sworn in as premier, the only task of a lieutenant governor is to ascertain whether Heather Stefanson has a sufficient number of supporters in cabinet, caucus and within the legislature to command the confidence of the legislature," Thomas said, adding Stefanson received the backing of a majority of the caucus.
Nor is it a matter for Elections Manitoba to investigate.
"Leadership contests are conducted by the party, not by Elections Manitoba," said spokeswoman Alison Mitchell. "Rules and manner of conduct for the contest are set by the party, ballots are issued by the party and votes are counted by the party," she said.
"It would not be appropriate or supported by legislation for Elections Manitoba to intervene in the conduct of the leadership vote," said Mitchell.
Elections Manitoba’s oversight for party leadership contests are set out in The Election Financing Act, which regulates contributions, financial reporting and financial disclosures of leadership contestants, she said.
The only avenue open to Glover is to go to the party, Thomas said.
"To the best of my knowledge, based on available public documents, there is no appeal mechanism set forth in those documents," he said. "She would have to go to the head of the committee that oversaw the contest and say, 'We need to do something to remove this stain that delegitimizes the outcome.'"
And the party said Monday it was standing by its declaration of Stefanson as the winner.
"The party announced the results of the count this weekend and has nothing new to add at this time," its spokesman said in an email.
Before the results of the vote were announced Saturday afternoon, George Orle, the head of the leadership election committee, defended the process. He explained at length the steps the party had taken and the distribution, accounting and security firms it hired took to ensure the vote was conducted in a fair and secure manner.
Thomas said Glover's appeal to the party might not make a difference.
"Even if Glover was able to get some portion of the outstanding 1,200 ballots claimed, she would need to get 65 per cent of the ballots to win," he said.
Interim Premier Kelvin Goertzen announced Monday that he has submitted his resignation, to take effect Tuesday when Stefanson takes over.
"I look forward to seeing Manitoba’s first female premier take the oath of office," Goertzen said in a press release. "My longtime friend and colleague Heather Stefanson will serve Manitobans well with her abundance of experience, intelligence and compassion. Manitobans have much reason for optimism."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.