Awaiting SCC ruling, MP and challenger still at odds
Published Wednesday, July 11, 2012 8:39AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 11, 2012 1:07PM EDT
Their dispute is now being considered by justices of the highest court in the land, but Conservative MP Ted Opitz and the man he edged out to represent the southern Ontario riding of Etobicoke Centre are still arguing.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Canada reserved judgment on Opitz's appeal of a lower court decision that had overturned the election results in his Toronto-area riding.
Now awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court justices, the first-time MP told CTV's Canada AM he's confident it will come soon. And until then, he's proud to represent his constituents in Ottawa.
"I am the MP. I was elected, it was confirmed on a recount and it was certified by Elections Canada," he said Wednesday.
Asked about the allegations of irregularities that have seen legal challenges escalate all the way to the top court, Opitz conceded, "There were errors, for sure, which were picked up by the court. That's why we're here."
He later added, "There were some minor irregularities, but our position is not enough to overturn an election."
Opitz won his seat by a margin of just 26 votes ahead of Liberal incumbent Borys Wrzesnewskyj.
Wrzesnewskyj challenged the win, alleging election day irregularities.
When the Ontario Superior Court ruled on the case earlier this year, Justice Thomas Lederer threw out 79 votes due to technical irregularities. The election result was overturned, but Opitz filed his own appeal that is now being weighed by the SCC.
"This has to do simply with mistakes made by Elections Canada officials," Opitz said. "There is no other element involved in this which was brought up by Justice Lederer and of course the Supreme Court confirmed that yesterday."
In a separate appearance on Canada AM, Wrzesnewskyj made it clear he continues to believe otherwise.
"This business that the Conservatives are spinning out there, that these were mere clerical errors, that's not what the finding of the court was," Wrzesnewskyj said in an interview from Ottawa.
"These are serious issues."
Citing a series of alleged election campaign irregularities, including the probe of so-called "robocall" campaigns aimed at misleading voters, Wrzesnewskyj said he'd had enough when he learned of a poll that had been shut down at a seniors' home on voting day.
"And I thought, my goodness, that was it," he said. "The system had been abused. And the working assumption that there are certain types of activities that do not take place in Canada during elections because all Canadians are honest, clearly that didn't hold."
Answering Wrzesnewskyj's allegations, Opitz said he "ran a fair, honourable and honest campaign," and any suggestion of attempts to keep seniors from voting "are just baseless smears."
Last week Elections Canada revealed that 44 of the votes rejected by Lederer were cast by people who were legitimate voters and were on the national voters list, though they may not have lived in the riding when they voted.
In most cases, Elections Canada found paperwork was not filled out properly for voters who needed someone to vouch for their identity, or who were left off the voter list.
While Justice Lederer stressed in his Ontario Superior Court decision that the irregularities were the result of clerical errors, not fraud, Wrzesnewskyj says there's more at stake.
"It's the confidence that Canadians have in the integrity of the electoral processes. That's the big picture here, we need to re-establish that."
The series of challenges are unique in Canada's electoral history.
Since 1949, only five other election results have been nullified by the courts.
None of the five decisions were appealed. Instead byelections were called to determine the will of the people.
Opitz's appeal marks the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on an election result, meaning its ruling will likely influence how other ballot box disputes are challenged in the future.
Opitz says the SCC "is the appropriate place to decide this. There's seven people that sat up on the bench yesterday that are the cream of the Canadian legal crop. They've heard all arguments and they were ably argued by both sides. They're now going to take away those arguments and consider them."
With files from CTVNews.ca Staff