Editorial

The campaigning is over, the ballots have been counted and Manitoba’s first female leader has been sworn into office. Yet, while Premier Heather Stefanson was celebrating the historic moment, her rival was busy disputing the results and mounting a court challenge. It’s a troubling post-election trend that, these days, is becoming increasingly familiar.

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This article was published 4/11/2021 (288 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The campaigning is over, the ballots have been counted and Manitoba’s first female leader has been sworn into office. Yet, while Premier Heather Stefanson was celebrating the historic moment, her rival was busy disputing the results and mounting a court challenge. It’s a troubling post-election trend that, these days, is becoming increasingly familiar.

On Tuesday, Progressive Conservative candidate Shelly Glover said, "I am the premier, not her," during an interview with CBC News. That same day, she filed documents asking Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench to declare the results invalid and order a new election.

Shelly Glover’s case centres on alleged irregularities in the vote count and claims that ballot boxes weren’t properly secured. (Winnipeg Free Press files)

Shelly Glover’s case centres on alleged irregularities in the vote count and claims that ballot boxes weren’t properly secured. (Winnipeg Free Press files)

Ms. Glover’s case centres on alleged irregularities in the vote count and claims that ballot boxes weren’t properly secured. The PC Party election committee has denied the allegations and maintains the electoral process was run fairly and that Ms. Stefanson won by a margin of 363 votes.

Despite meeting with party officials on Wednesday, the former candidate is pushing ahead with her legal battle. Ms. Glover’s lawyer asked the Court of Queen’s Bench for an expedited hearing and, on Thursday, a Nov. 19 date was set to decide whether the court has jurisdiction to hear alleged election irregularities in the PC leadership race.

It was a tight campaign marred by controversy. Days before the leadership convention, the party was scrambling to get ballots to more than 1,000 members who claimed not to have received theirs by mail. The party says it mailed out more than 25,000 ballots and set up pick-up and drop-off stations across the province to ensure members who wanted to could vote.

While it’s, perhaps, no surprise that the losing side is calling foul, the stolen-election rhetoric feeds into a disturbing trend.

Elections Manitoba doesn’t oversee internal party politics and so it will be up to legal challenges, including the possibility of a lawsuit against the PC Party, to decide whether Ms. Glover can provide sufficient evidence to support her claims of tampering. What’s happening outside of the proper legal channels, however, is nothing short of Trumpian.

Heather Stefanson hugs Shelly Glover after winning the PC Party leadership race. Glover is contesting the victory. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Heather Stefanson hugs Shelly Glover after winning the PC Party leadership race. Glover is contesting the victory. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press files)

In the days since Premier Stefanson was named the winner, her challenger has effectively prompted supporters to organize a change.org petition calling to overturn the results and a protest outside the Manitoba Progressive Conservative headquarters, where dozens gathered holding signs that read "Democracy Denied."

No one likes to lose, but alas, that’s the reality of the electoral process. There are winners and there are losers. Claiming, before and after the fact, that you were cheated out of a seat is a tactic popularized by Donald Trump during the 2020 United States presidential election and spurred on by conspiracy theorists.

It’s become normal for politicians and their supporters to rally around claims of voter fraud and election rigging to dispute results they don’t like. Asserting fraud doesn’t make it so, but it does degrade public faith in the democratic process.

Down south, election officials in dozens of states found no evidence of fraud or other irregularities following the 2020 race, according to The New York Times. Still, last month, the denialism was on full display during the California recall election, during which Republicans blamed voter fraud for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s win before the results were even in.

It’s to be hoped the U.S. penchant to falsely cry voter fraud isn’t crossing the border into Manitoba. If Ms. Glover’s allegations are substantiated in court, Tory brass need to be held accountable and members deserve a recall. If not, the candidate needs to apologize for her accusations and overblown reaction to a fair election. Both circumstances are a disappointing slap in the face to democracy.