A judge is set to rule this afternoon on whether Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative party must throw out the results of the vote that named Heather Stefanson its leader, making her the province’s premier.
Stefanson’s only rival in the leadership race, former member of Parliament Shelly Glover, launched a court challenge against that result, arguing that there were irregularities in voting that affected the outcome of the race.
In a hearing last week, her lawyers asked the court to declare the result invalid and order a new vote.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice James Edmond reserved his decision.
Lawyers for everyone involved in the case — Glover, Stefanson and the PC party — are expected back in court at 1 p.m. CT today to hear Edmond’s decision.
Matter of public interest: judge
Edmond is not conducting a review or judicial recount of the PC leadership race, which came after Brian Pallister announced his resignation in August. Stefanson was named the winner on Oct. 30 by a margin of just 363 votes.
Instead, the judge said he will determine whether there were any breaches of the party’s constitution or the rules and procedures established for the leadership race.
“This is a matter of urgency and public interest,” Edmond said in November, declaring the case affects not only Glover, the PCs and Stefanson, but also “the people of Manitoba, who have an interest in knowing whether the election of our new premier is flawed.”
However, even if it decides to order a new vote, the court does not have the power to remove Stefanson from office.
“The premier of Manitoba is the person who can command the control of the legislative assembly, so the court will not order that the lieutenant-governor swear in Ms. Glover,” University of Manitoba assistant professor of law Gerard Kennedy said in an interview earlier this month.
“Of that, I’m quite confident.”
During last Friday’s day-long hearing, Glover’s lawyer Dave Hill cited tally sheets that weren’t signed by everyone at the counting table on Oct. 30.
He also pointed to a spreadsheet containing a list of voters sent out to both campaigns, which he argued both camps knew was inaccurate.
Hill argued the party wasn’t able to say how the final vote was tallied or demonstrate the ballots had been protected.
However, lawyers for the PC party and Stefanson both argued every ballot that made it into a ballot box was approved by scrutineers from both Glover’s and Stefanson’s campaigns, and said there was no credible evidence of invalid ballots.
“The election was fundamentally fair. Ms. Stefanson won, and there is no basis in law or in fact to challenge or upset that result,” said Harvey Schachter, a lawyer representing the PC party.
The Dec. 10 hearing was recorded. Parts of it can be watched here on CBC Manitoba’s website.