Toronto, July 10, 2012 - The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is intervening in Opitz, et al. v. Wrzesnewskyj, et al., a case being heard at the Supreme Court of Canada following a direct appeal from a decision by Justice Lederer of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Justice Lederer had ruled on an application under the Canada Elections Act, brought by Boris Wrzesnewskyj, a runner-up candidate in the riding of Etobicoke Centre. The application contested the May 2, 2011 election of Ted Opitz, who won by 26 votes. Justice Lederer found 79 ballots to be invalid due to irregularities that went directly to the qualification of voters to vote in the election. Since the number of invalidated votes exceeded the margin of victory, the judge voided the result. Mr. Opitz has appealed the decision, raising the question of the proper threshold required to overturn the result of an election where there are “irregularities that affected the result.”
The effect of the Court’s ruling on the issues involved in this appeal will have an impact far beyond the interests of the immediate parties to the appeal. As a non-partisan organization, and long-time defender of civil liberties and rights of democratic participation, CCLA has an interest in safeguarding electoral rights found in section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which are among the most fundamental rights of citizens.
CCLA is intervening in order to ensure that the right to participate meaningfully in the election process is protected with regard to the interpretation of the Canada Elections Act in the context of elections contested based on “irregularities.” This includes the right of all Canadians to be represented by the candidate duly elected by a majority of voters entitled to vote in a particular riding, and the entitlement of voters to certainty in the result of an election.
CCLA is arguing that, where there is a failure to follow the legislation, the effect of which, on a balance of probabilities, calls into question whether a candidate was elected by a majority of qualified voters in that riding, the seat must be vacated and a by-election must be held without delay. ”It is essential in our parliamentary democracy, and required by our constitution, that we have confidence and certainty in the integrity of our electoral system,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, CCLA’s General Counsel. CCLA is pleased that these issues will be considered by the courts and that the argument for protection of citizens’ electoral rights will be given due consideration.
(416) 363-0321 ex. 225