Lawyers will be in court Friday to try and obtain an injunction to extend voting for Ontario Progressive Conservative Party members who say they haven’t been given a fair opportunity to cast a ballot in the party’s leadership race.
“Legal counsel have been retained by disenfranchised @OntarioPCParty members to seek a court injunction to extend the leadership process to allow them to vote,” lawyer John Nunziata said in a tweet Thursday evening. He added that the application will be heard in Superior Court tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m.
The injunction is being filed on behalf of three party members who were upset about a decision not to extend the leadership process. Nunziata said he is not the one representing them, though they initially approached him to do so.
The move comes after the PC Party refused to extend the process for the leadership race, despite calls by most candidates to do so.
A two-step verification process was set up after the PC Party’s membership management system was hacked in November and now the party requires members to submit photo identification and wait to receive a code in the mail.
The member verification process was extended from Wednesday to Thursday night due to issues with members receiving PINs in the mail.
However some members have said they are still waiting for their packages and are currently unable to vote, prompting calls from three of the four candidates, including Ford, Caroline Mulroney, and Tanya Granic Allen, to extend the verification and voting periods by one week.
Christine Elliott was the only leadership candidate who did not put her support behind the proposal, which was rejected by the party on Wednesday night.
“While there were challenges with our mail delivery, and some members were unable to participate fully in this election, the metrics are very strong: nearly 70,000 members have verified their membership already, and well over 44,000 have already voted,” Hartley Lefton, chairman of the leadership organizing committee, said in a written statement released Wednesday.
“We are aware of calls from some candidates for an extension to the race. This is, in our view, not only a fundamental change in the rules at a late time in the campaign, but also contrary to our Party’s Constitution, which provides that in this case the vote must conclude no later than March 9.”
Speaking to CP24 on Thursday morning, Doug Ford called the decision “nonsense.”
“Constitution my backside… they’ve dropped the ball on this,” Ford said.
“There is going to be probably 130,000 people out of 195,000 people that aren’t able to vote and they just think that’s fine… I just want to get everyone the chance to vote. That’s it. I don’t care if they vote for me, for Caroline, for Christine, Tanya. I’d rather win or lose based on a fair race.”
He told CP24 his own mother has not yet received a mailer with her PIN number used to cast an online vote.
“My own mother can’t even vote for me because she hasn’t received her email,” Ford said. “We have a serious problem. This is scandalous as far as I am concerned.”
Candidate Granic Allen said she has been hearing the same concerns from people all over Ontario.
“One man (in Kitchener) was almost in tears telling me that if he doesn’t get his mail today he will be devastated, he really wants to vote.”
She insisted the party extend the voting period by one week.
“We want to make sure that everyone who has not yet received their voting materials has the opportunity to exercise their vote.”
On Thursday, Lefton reiterated in an email that there is no plan for any further extension.
The next leader will be chosen using a ranked ballot system and the winner must receive more than half of the total electoral votes.
In the last leadership race in 2015, the party set up physical polling places in each Ontario riding where members physically cast paper ballots.
The party decided to move to an online system this time around for openness and to provide secure, accessible documentation of the ballots.
The deadline for voting is at noon on March 9 and the winner will be announced on Saturday in Markham.
-With files from The Canadian Press