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Judge dismisses injunction to extend Ontario PC race, new leader to be announced Saturday

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne

TORONTO, March 9, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The Progressive Conservative Party will announce its new leader Saturday as planned after a judge refused to grant an injunction extending the race another week because thousands of voters have not yet received the PIN# needed to cast their electronic vote.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Todd Archibald released a written decision about 7:45 p.m. Friday dismissing the application.

Lawyer Jeffrey Radnoff, argued for the extension this morning on behalf of six party members who filed sworn affidavits stating they hadn’t yet received the code they needed for online personal verification, the CBC reported. The personal verification was required to be completed in order to then receive a second PIN that was needed to vote for the preferred candidates.

And there are “thousands” more waiting to receive a party letter with the “unique verification PIN,” Radnoff wrote in a court document, the CBC reported.

Radnoff told CBC News he was not acting for any of the leadership contenders. That was echoed by lawyer and former MP John Nunziata, who told CBC Thursday he asked Radnoff to take the case after he was contacted by multiple people in the party.

However, Christopher Arsenault, whose name is on the application, reportedly donated $1200 to Doug Ford’s campaign, Crawley tweeted.

https://twitter.com/CBCQueensPark/status/972120594752794626

Radnoff also argued that if the deadline were not extended, the new leader could be considered “illegitimate” and the party embroiled in further court action before the June 7 general election, CBC’s Mike Crawley tweeted from the courtroom.

PC Party lawyer Gina Brannan argued the voting process should be contested through the party’s internal processes, not in court. “There’s some sort of mischief afoot,” she said. 

Brannan also contended the party would suffer “irreparable harm” by a delay with the provincial election just three months away, reported Crawley.

Lawyer Daniel Santoro, representing Tanya Granic Allen’s campaign, told the court that “115 party members contacted her campaign yesterday (and more today) saying they were not being allowed to vote,” Crawley tweeted.

The noon deadline for voting came and went with the lawyers still in court.

Ontario PC party officials subsequently reported only 64,053 members had voted by that deadline, Crawley reported.

Chair of the leadership organizing committee, Hartley Lefton, testified that 71,402 out of the party's 190,000 members were verified to vote by the Thursday deadline, Global News reported. 

That leaves about 40 percent of the PC Party’s members disenfranchised, Crawley pointed out.

The last-ditch court effort came amidst repeated calls this week by three of the four leadership candidates — Doug Ford, Granic Allen and Caroline Mulroney — to extend the race, with Christine Elliott the sole exception.

Ford was particularly scathing that a “select group” had received the initial personal verification code by email, rather than by mail, which was how all other party members were supposed to have received it. He accused party brass in a March 8 email of “corruption” and creating a “two-tier” system.

CBC’s Crawley had reported March 7 party officials confirmed that verification codes were emailed, rather than mailed, “to a select group: MPPs, candidates, riding association presidents and members of the leadership organization committee.”

Meanwhile, the CBC reported Friday that all four campaigns rejected a suggestion this week by the leadership committee to email the personal verification codes to members.

“BREAKING: I’ve confirmed from two sources that the Ontario PC Party proposed sending verification codes by email to all members who hadn’t received theirs, and all 4 campaigns declined. Party now asking campaigns to ‘cease misrepresenting the facts’,” Crawley tweeted.

Geoff Ritchie, the party’s chief election officer, sent the campaigns an email Friday saying he presented them with “options” last week, which included emailing verification codes, reported Crawley.

Granic Allen, endorsed by Campaign Life Coalition, asserted in a Thursday email the leadership committee had made “several disastrous errors” that are “endangering the fragile state of the already-battered state of our post-Patrick Brown party.”

That included experimenting with an “untested online system” and “botching the mailing of [verification] letters to eligible PC voters.”

 The leadership committee also opted to end the race by the earlier date of March 10, rather than a March 24, which was considered, leading to a “scenario of missteps, mishaps, and mistakes,” Granic Allen wrote.

Granic Allen immediately tweeted out her disappointment on the judge's decision.

Only my team intervened on the injunction motion. Disappointed Party Exec didn't do the right thing to let 1000s vote. #PCPOldr #onpoli

https://twitter.com/TGranicAllen/status/972275130645794823

The 11th-hour attempt to extend the race caps off six weeks of political turmoil for the PC Party precipitated by the resignation of Patrick Brown on January 25 amid allegations of sexual misconduct which he strenuously denied.

Since then, Ontario’s integrity commissioner announced he is investigating Brown’s financial dealings, based on a complaint by MPP Randy Hillier.

In a strange twist, Brown entered the race himself but withdrew after 10 days, citing the need to focus on clearing his name.

Pundits say Brown’s supporters are critical to deciding the race’s outcome.

The new leader will be announced at Saturday’s convention in Markham.

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