WINNIPEG — A Manitoba judge has agreed to hear a court challenge of the vote that saw Heather Stefanson become leader of the provincial Progressive Conservatives and, with that, premier.
Justice James Edmond of Court of Queen's Bench ruled Friday the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. He scheduled a hearing for Dec. 23.
"I agree with the submissions of all the parties. This is a matter of urgency and public interest," Edmond told court.
"This application not only affects the parties and the intervener, but also affects the people of Manitoba, who have an interest in knowing whether the election of our new premier was flawed."
Shelly Glover, who came up short in the two-candidate race with 49 per cent of the vote, alleges there were irregularities when the ballots were counted on Oct. 30.
In an affidavit, the former Conservative member of Parliament says the total number of votes counted was 501 more that the total her team had been told hours earlier. She also alleges that, at one point, unsealed ballot boxes were moved out of the room where votes were being counted and into an adjacent room.
The Progressive Conservative party has not yet filed a response with the court, but has denied any unfairness. In a written statement earlier this month, it said ballots were at all times under the control of an independent security firm or independent auditors, and each campaign had scrutineers on hand.
While courts sometimes avoid intervening in internal party matters, all sides in this case agreed the court has jurisdiction. Edmond cited a 2020 Ontario Superior Court ruling that said the federal Tories did not follow proper procedure when they disqualified a leadership candidate.
"In this case, the relief sought by the applicant is based upon an alleged breach by the respondent of the applicant's contractual right to an election conducted in accordance with the rules and procedures and the (party's) constitution," Edmond said.
"In my view, the court has the jurisdiction to interpret the contract documents and determine (whether) the rights of the applicant and the respondent's members were breached or not."
Stefanson, who was sworn in as premier three days after the vote, has been granted intervener status in the case.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2021.
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said a 2020 Ontario Superior Court ruling concerned the Ontario Tories.