* Liberal had challenged victory by Conservative candidate
* Conservative won constituency by 26 votes
* Officials made errors; no fraud alleged before the court
* Conservative government retains substantial majority
* Liberal says people don't have confidence in system
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, Oct 25 The Supreme Court of Canada on
Thursday upheld the election of a Conservative member of
Parliament whose narrow victory was challenged by his Liberal
opponent on the grounds that election officials had mistakenly
allowed some people to vote.
The court ruled that administrative errors by Elections
Canada officials should not disenfranchise the 52,794 people who
voted in a west-end Toronto electoral district in the 2011
general election. Conservative candidate Ted Opitz won the
Etobicoke Centre constituency by 26 votes.
"It should be remembered that annulling an election would
disenfranchise not only those persons whose votes were
disqualified, but every elector who voted in the riding," the
court said in its 4-3 decision.
Liberal challenger Boris Wrzesnewskyj had said there were
enough irregularities that the result in the district should be
overturned, although he made no allegation of fraud or
corruption in court hearings. A n Ontario court agreed with him
and handed him the victory, but the Supreme Court overturned
that ruling on Thursday.
Wrzesnewskyj had pointed out that, for example, some voter
registration certificates were missing. The Supreme Court ruled
that there was no direct evidence that anybody who was not
entitled to vote ended up voting.
"The practical realities of election administration are such
that imperfections in the conduct of elections are inevitable,"
Marshall Rothstein and Michael Moldaver wrote for the majority.
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin led a dissent that
emphasized the importance of elections officials following all
"They are fundamental safeguards for the integrity of the
electoral system," she wrote.
Wrzesnewskyj told reporters he accepted the court's
decision, but he added: "People don't have confidence in the
integrity of the system."
Opitz welcomed the court's emphasis on voters. "Fifty-two
thousand people in Etobicoke Centre followed the rules, cast
their ballots and today had their democratic decision upheld,"
he said in a statement.
The Conservatives were reelected in May 2011 with a majority
of seats in the House of Commons. Including Opitz's seat, they
have 163 of the 308 seats in the House. The Liberals have 35.
The results in seven other voting districts are being
challenged separately in a lower court on the grounds that the
Conservatives made misleading phone calls to voters, similar
charges to those surrounding the U.S. presidential