Jim Lester 2nd candidate to turn to courts after N.L. election loss

·4 min read
Jim Lester lost the district of Mount Pearl North by 109 votes to Liberal Lucy Stoyles in the 2021 provincial election.  (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Jim Lester lost the district of Mount Pearl North by 109 votes to Liberal Lucy Stoyles in the 2021 provincial election. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Jim Lester lost the district of Mount Pearl North by 109 votes to Liberal Lucy Stoyles in the 2021 provincial election.
Jim Lester lost the district of Mount Pearl North by 109 votes to Liberal Lucy Stoyles in the 2021 provincial election. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

After losing his seat by 109 votes in last month's provincial election, PC candidate Jim Lester is turning to the courts in the hopes of having the results voided and a new election called in his former district, but he also wants a ruling on whether the vote adhered to Newfoundland and Labrador legislation.

"It's very important to have faith in the outcome of elections," Lester told reporters on Wednesday.

Liberal Lucy Stoyles won the district of Mount Pearl North with 2,428 votes, compared with 2,319 cast for Lester.

Lester is representing himself in his controverted election application, which cost more than $600 to file in Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

He's asking the courts to examine whether the campaign process was "in line with what's constitutionally and legally accepted" under the province's Elections Act.

Concerns with phone sign-up

"One of the biggest concerns that I have … is the sign-up of voters by phone," Lester said.

But, he said, he heard of other problems that plagued the 10-plus week campaign.

He said a senior told him they repeatedly called Elections NL when their ballot didn't arrive, despite registering several weeks ahead of time.

"What really affected our voters was the outbreak of the COVID virus," he added.

He said a lot of his supporters are working families, people who had a lot of "stress factors" that affected their ability to sign up for mail-in ballots.

None of Lester's accusations have been proven in court.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin filed court papers on April 1 for a recount in the district of St. John's East-Quidi Vidi, where she lost her seat to Liberal John Abbott by 53 votes.

NDP Leader Alison Coffin announced her court challenge of the election results in her former district on April 1.
NDP Leader Alison Coffin announced her court challenge of the election results in her former district on April 1.(Alison Coffin/Twitter)

Less than two weeks after that, Coffin and another applicant, filed a separate legal action demanding last month's election results be thrown out and a new vote ordered.

Alison Coffin and another applicant, a St. John's resident who claims he was denied the right to vote, jointly filed a court challenge Monday containing scathing accusations against Newfoundland and Labrador's elections agency, alleging widespread and illegal mishandling of the electoral process and demanding the province's Supreme Court void the election's outcome.

The 45-page application argues that the process employed by Elections NL discriminated against voters on the basis of ethnicity, age or disability, disproportionately excluding people without access to the internet and people in Indigenous communities.

NDP provincial president Kyle Rees clarified Monday afternoon the application will target the St. John's East-Quidi Vidi district.

"We are specifically bringing evidence related to that district, but there's no reason why the lessons that we learn from this district … can't be applied broadly across the province," said Rees, adding that a judge could overturn results in all 40 districts based on this application

'We will challenge' election in legislature: PC Party

In a statement released Wednesday, the PC Party said its executive met Monday for the first time since election results were announced March 27.

Interim PC Leader David Brazil says his party will not challenge the results of the election in court but will focus instead on moving on.
Interim PC Leader David Brazil says his party will not challenge the results of the election in court but will focus instead on moving on. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

While the party continued to take swipes at Premier Andrew Furey for calling an election when he did, accusing him of "gambling on a mid-winter election," the statement indicated the party won't pursue a legal challenge.

"We do not believe that the people of the province want to see another election at this time.… We will challenge the 2021 election in the legislature," reads the statement.

"Individuals may challenge the results of the election in court, and the court proceedings have begun in some cases. We will be keenly watching the ongoing legal challenges. However, we will not, as a party, be taking legal action at this time."

The PCs and Furey have at least one thing in common, and that is a wish to modernize the Elections Act.

"We will ensure that nothing like this ever happens again," said the PCs in a statement, echoing a comment Furey made on Monday.

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