Federal Election 2011

Green Candidate Burson Not Allowed to Run in Hamilton Centre

By RTH Staff
Published April 14, 2011

this blog entry has been updated

Green Party candidate Karen Burson will not be allowed to run for this federal election in the Hamilton Centre riding.

According to a press statement issued today by Norman Kearney, Burson's campaign manager, Returning Officer James Winn rejected Burson's candidacy application on Friday, May 8 because her nomination form EC20010 referenced an engagement letter signed by an auditor that was different from the engagement letter that was submitted with Burson's nomination.

The statement says Winn also rejected the second engagement letter because the signature was rendered in typeface rather than hand-written, and rejected the endorsement letter provided with Burson's nomination forms for reasons that were unclear.

The campaign team attempted to fax the corrected documents to Winn on Monday, May 11 - the deadline for nomination - but the fax would not go through.

Raise the Hammer has asked Burson's campaign for further details and is attempting to contact Winn. More to come as we learn more about this.

The role of a returning officer is to administer the Canada Elections Act and to manage the election process in their riding. The returning officer's decision on matters of nomination are final.

Returning officers are appointed for ten-year terms by the Chief Electoral Officer. Winn was appointed returning officer for Hamilton Centre on Dec. 1, 2010.

Here is the full text of the press statement from Burson's campaign:

Karen Burson will not be allowed to run in the 41st General Election. We are at a complete loss to explain why James Winn, the Returning Officer, rejected Karen's application on Friday, April 8th. We made every effort to satisfy his arbitrary requests by the deadline on Monday, April 10th but he was uncooperative.

We complained to the Chief Electoral Officer and were referred to the Electoral Events Sector. We have since been advised that the Returning Officer has final authority over registering nominated candidates. There does not appear to be a relevant appeals process in the Canada Elections Act.

Because Mr. Winn chose to exclude Karen from the election, voters in Hamilton Centre will not have a Green choice on their ballots this May. But the voters of Hamilton deserve choice. Big media owners denied Canadians choice when they excluded Elizabeth May from the debates. Now Mr. Winn has denied Hamiltonians choice by excluding Karen from the election.

Mr. Winn's shocking decision is a personal loss for Karen who hoped only for an opportunity to hold public office and serve the residents of Hamilton Centre. It is also a loss for the Green Party of Canada. But most of all it is a loss for the voters of Hamilton Centre. Karen is intelligent, outgoing, and funny, and she gushes with enthusiasm for this City and its people. She deserved to be on the ballot, but because of the absolute authority of one man she will not be.

The Canada Elections Act requires the following documents for registration of a nominated candidate:

1) Form EC20010;

2) A deposit of $1,000;

3) An engagement letter signed by the auditor consenting to act in that capacity; and

4) An endorsement letter signed by the leader or designate.

When Karen and I met with Mr. Winn on Friday we had 1) and 2) in our possession. 3) and 4) had been shipped by courier to Mr. Winn from the Green Party of Canada and he had them in his personal possession. We also had in our possession:

5) A second engagement letter signed by a different auditor.

Mr. Winn rejected 3) because 1) referenced 5). He would not allow us to substitute 3) for 5). He also rejected 5) because the signature by the auditor was made in typeface, not handwritten, despite this being a best practice accepted by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. He also demanded that 5) be dated, even though the first page stated in bold that the auditing services would be provided for the election to be held on May 2, 2011.

Mr. Winn returned 3) and 4) to us, said that they were unacceptable, and told us that he required a proper endorsement letter. He offered no explanation for why the endorsement letter was unacceptable. Karen attempted to leave her nomination papers with Mr. Winn but he told her that to do so would be "premature."

On Monday, our auditor made repeated attempts before and after the deadline to fax a third endorsement letter signed by hand to Mr. Winn, which he told them would be acceptable, but the fax could not complete.

Checks and balances are a fundamental principle of democracy. That none exist to limit the authority of the Returning Officer is disturbing.


Update: Norman Kearney has replied to RTH to provide additional details on why there were two letters of engagement:

It is standard practice for the Green Party of Canada to send both a letter of engagement from an auditor and an endorsement letter from the Leader. The auditor's letter is sent as a backup in the event that the campaign cannot find a local auditor. Because we did have a local auditor, we did not need the letter from the Party.

But when Mr. Winn did not accept our letter we asked if he would accept the Party's letter instead, and we would fill out a copy of page 1 of form EC20010, which had been provided with the Party's letter and had the fields for the auditor completed, to reflect the change.

For reasons that are unclear to us, that was also unacceptable.

Kearney also explained that the original copies of the nomination papers are not currently available to view, as they "remain in the custody of the returning officer".

41 Comments

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 16:07:51

Much as I would of liked a chance to vote for the Greens this election, it seems pretty obvious why her papers were rejected, if the letter didn't match up to the nomination form. Still sad though.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 16:18:04

It sounds to me like this James Winn person made up his own rules. It would be interesting to see if there were any inconsistencies in any of the other candidates. I don't want to jump to conclusions before more details are know, but... if there is ANY wrong doing of any sort, I hope this guys pays for it BIG time. I know it probably won't do anything, but I've emailed Elections Canada to express my disgust.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 17:27:08

The Spec couldn't get a hold of Winn either. Why is anyone allowed to not have to be answerable to anyone? Especially over something as important as an election.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 17:38:30

"We have since been advised that the Returning Officer has final authority over registering nominated candidates."

I think this is probably false: if Mr. Winn was truly acting beyond the scope of his authority, and if you had the financial resources to press the issue, the court system would have final authority (all the way up to the Supreme Court, except when overruled by a Parliament invoking s. 33 of the Charter).

Also, it's unclear who in fact advised you. I certainly wouldn't take the Chief Electoral Officer's word on this: I'd take the word of someone at least at arm's length from Elections Canada. Preferably a lawyer.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-14 17:44:29

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By tron (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 17:57:52

Guess it's time to register for http://www.votepair.ca/ ...

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By sad (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 19:21:53

What an utter disappointment. I don't even know who to vote for if not Green! What kind of democracy is this?

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 19:25:40

This story smells awful to me. By my count there were at least three infractions, forms 3, 4, and 5 all had errors. You can call this nitpicking, but come on. It's Elections Canada. I would expect nitpicking.

Then they blame Winn for what are clearly their own errors, characterizing this as a personal decision, and then making a totally unsubstantiated claim about no checks and balances. And yet the entire basis of their claim seems to be that he should have accepted their forms because they abide by CA best practices, and that he was in some way responsible for rejecting the endorsement letter, and that the alternate auditor form should have been accepted because it had the date of the election, not the date required by the Elections Act.

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By simonge (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 20:16:22

Surely, part of Mr. Winn's responsibility is to help things go right. It doesn't seem like he helped the process very much. Surely he's more than a gatekeeper. I just left a message at his office and would encourage others to do the same. I also agree, that there should be some judicial review of this administrative decision.

Mr. James Winn Returning Officer, Hamilton North 1 866 583 5151

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By Fightforwhatsright (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 20:28:18

Is this the same James Winn from the Hamilton Fire Department that denied a retail permit to sell fireworks for Diwali celebrated by local Hindus and Sikhs? The same one that provided permits for Catholic and Jewish festivals, but said it was unsafe for Hindus and Sikhs to have fireworks for their festivals? I agree with Bob Lee, this story does smell awful. But not for the same reasons. I quickly looked through the nominated candidates in Hamilton, and this Green Party candidate was the only one who isn't white. Is there any other candidate in Hamilton that made an application to their local returning officer who was not approved as a candidate?

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By voting green?? (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 20:28:48

Well it looks like a write in for me if it is not accepted, well I do not accept their reason for Karen Burson not being on the ballot so we are even!

One wonders with such a control freak as our PM that there is not some fix to not cheat but exploit any reson to deny other party candidates into the arena.

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By Kermit (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 20:36:45

Too bad. I think she was going to win.

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By Goin'Downtown (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 20:50:38

I saw this article in today's Spec and went to email it to a Green friend out west, but it's absolutely buried at the Spec online. One has to use the search tool to find it, so essentially you have to know it's there - unlike the other "local" articles. This is insane, in addition to the debate debacle. how democratic is this? I can't vote for my preferred party, and we have a candidate? Procedural errors caused this? all her info was there. What about all the other zillion procedural errors that take place throughout Elections Canada? I like the pairvote idea; thanks so much, @tron.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 21:13:24 in reply to Comment 62290

After reading Mr. Kearney's addendum, I'm more suspicious of Winn's motives.

I presume it's impossible for a single invalid application to invalidate /all future ones/, legally-speaking -- especially since I doubt that Winn actually has "absolute authority" to do this (i.e., his authority likely only extends to those things he has authority over in the first place, and invalidating applications for this reason might be beyond the purview of his office).

If I'm reading Kearney right, since Winn refused to accept revised (and valid) versions of the application, my only advice at this point would be to find a lawyer to take on the case, and seek a court order placing Ms. Burson on the ballot.

Seriously, remedying these sorts of issues in our electoral process (due to malfeasance or not) is one of the most important functions of our courts.

So, Mr. Kearney: I suggest that the only point you should be pressing is that, if true, Mr. Winn rejected (or claimed he would reject) applications which were both /complete/ and /valid/. Everything else is beside the point, including whether prior applications were invalid.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-14 21:44:02

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By arienc (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 22:07:22

A suggestion for those who were planning to vote Green in this riding, but cannot - why not consider contributing to the party the same amount that your vote would have provided in public funds.

If one makes a contribution of $2.80, they would receive a subsidy of $2.10, equal to the subsidy that the party would have received from your vote. At the end of the day the cost to you is $0.70 - a little more than a stamp.

If half of last year's 3,625 voters in Hamilton Centre did so, that would raise another $5K to direct towards a riding where there is greater hope of actually electing a Green MP.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 22:12:55 in reply to Comment 62306

Interesting I heard the same comment last night (before the s..t hit the fan... A lot of people i know consider it (hamilton center) a safe non conservative seat so would vote for the greens to keep their funding if nothing else .... Whole thing stinks ...

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2011 at 22:22:20

This town sure has some funny standards when it comes to which election-filing errors are considered unforgivable, and which get virtually ignored.

Winn has a lot of explaining to do.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 22:57:10

Well theres lots of funny stuff going here .... I was told by a shop keeper i know and respect 'well you should conservative to stop these mindless elections' ie I should vote conservative to stop democracy .... I told her ... the longest running minority government was the one that just fell.

There seems two options here (if you were going to vote green)

1/ a mass write in ballot for Burson ... Does any one know if write in ballots are counted officially

2/ mass shift to the other 'green' PARTY and people vote for Baldasaro.

Baldasaro would if nothing else be entertaining in parliament ... and would get a fair amount of floor time as 'official' party ... we could do a lot worse ... by the time he was done every one would know the riding Hamilton Center. It might even become a tourist attraction ...

Comment edited by rednic on 2011-04-14 22:57:31

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 14, 2011 at 23:03:27

Geez, if Elections Canada was always this thorough they could have saved Joanna Chapman a lot of time and money....

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 00:03:26 in reply to Comment 62306

The very first Green party member to get elected, right here in the Hammer. Maybe in the 141st election but not likely in the 41st. This decision is going to no affect on the outcome of the election. I wager dollars to donuts that she will not have this problem next election, assuming of course that she can get through the disappointment and run at a future date.

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By denmark (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 00:06:52

You all see the vote brou-ha coming out of UofG?
CPC's clamping down there too.
Watch for more 'voter suppression' around about, especially against the GREENS, the ONLY party that offers Canadians a feasible option that bucks off the Harpie status quo.
Watch your backs kids, the goons are coming ...

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 09:36:21

I can't believe that Guelph news. Crazy.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 11:54:59 in reply to Comment 62307

It's the lead story on their Elections page, but for some reason the link to the Elections section has been removed from the spec's homepage and news page. Hopefully it's just a glitch and will be restored.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted April 15, 2011 at 14:03:14 in reply to Comment 62337

http://www.guelphmercury.com/news/local/...

I'm happy that Elections Canada made this decision. However, if the allegations that CPC candidate Burke's comm. director tried to interfere with a ballot box are true that is very serious. Either way I suspect the validity this poll will end up before the courts.

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By noonespecial (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 18:48:26 in reply to Comment 62315

1. There is no such thing as a 'write in' ballot. Ballots that are marked in such a way to be anything other than an obvious vote for one candidate are rejected. There is no way to officially differentiate rejected ballots between, for example, blank ballots, ballots with two 'x's for different people, or 'write in' votes for Karen.

Deputy Returning Officers (DROs) have 'final' say over how a ballot is counted or rejected. Party nominated scrutineers can be present while the votes are counted at each poll. This is the only way 'write in' votes for Karen could be counted, unofficially, of course. Considering there are about 240 polls in the riding, it'd be difficult to get enough scrutineers (not sure if the Green party could nominate scrutineers in a riding they're not running in) even if we could get the word out to spoil the ballot with a 'write in' for Karen.

That said, votes cast early by special ballot ARE write-in only ballots (since regular ballots haven't been printed yet.) I don't mean the advance polls which I believe use the regular ballots, I mean special ballot. Basically, you are asked to print a candidates name on a piece of paper. If the name on the ballot is not obviously one of the official candidates, it is just rejected and again there is no official record of why a ballot was rejected. Ballots cast for Donald Duck (or a scribble) would be treated the same way as those for Karen. No one apart from a DRO or scrutineer would know the difference and even then only unofficially.

2. I don't think we'd be doing ourselves any favours by voting for Baldasaro en mass.

Not that I have any better idea of who to vote for now.. maybe votepair.ca

Maybe we make up our own ballots and send them to the Spec/CHML and/or Jim Winns.

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By noonespecial (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 18:58:07 in reply to Comment 62350

If it's true that someone grabbed the ballot box, the Deputy Returning Officer should, and could, have arrested them.

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By Goin'Downtown (registered) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 22:14:52

Received this email message earlier this evening from Norman Kearney:

"Karen is among friends this weekend at the Green Party of Ontario’s AGM in Muskoka. We have received an overwhelming amount of letters expressing outrage and sorrow. Rest assured, your thoughts and feelings will not go unanswered. We are preparing our next steps and we promise to defend your democratic rights.

This is a difficult time for everyone, and it is truly unthinkable that this happening in Canada. In spite of this tragedy, we take great solace in the fact that many people from within the Greens and from without are coming together to demand justice for Karen and the voters of Hamilton Centre.

We are grateful for your letters of support, and we will keep you updated as we challenge this injustice."

I'm optimistic that this is far from over.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 15, 2011 at 23:55:08 in reply to Comment 62359

For what it's worth, I wrote a letter to David Christopherson, who -- despite the conflict of interest on the issue -- has a duty to act in the interests of his constituents.

Even though he's sure to win the riding anyway, the last thing Christopherson needs is an unnecessary by-election due solely to a returning officer bungling the duties of his office (by, say, rejecting valid applications for inclusion on a ballot) and a royally pissed-off 8.9% of his voting constituents.

I sincerely hope that others will write similar letters.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-15 23:59:01

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 04:15:08 in reply to Comment 62308

For reference. Canada Elections Act, s. 71:

"Correction or replacement

(3) A nomination paper that a returning officer has refused to accept may be replaced by another nomination paper or may be corrected if the new or corrected nomination paper is filed with the returning officer by the close of nominations."

If such a correction or replacement was in fact refused by Winn before the close of nominations, heads need to roll. Seriously.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-16 04:18:18

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By noonespecial (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 13:44:09 in reply to Comment 62361

Good idea. I just sent him one too.

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By Frog in a blender (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 15:33:17 in reply to Comment 62299

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By Frog in a blender (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 15:34:35 in reply to Comment 62304

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By Frog in a blender (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 15:35:58 in reply to Comment 62320

insult spam deleted

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By Frog in a blender (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 15:37:55 in reply to Comment 62313

insult spam deleted

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By Frog in a blender (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 15:42:02 in reply to Comment 62359

insult spam deleted

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By alpinist (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 16:08:05 in reply to Comment 62374

this actually makes sense. Rushed job makes sloppy work.

On the one hand I can't believe the way people are wide-eyedly accepting a very mixed up story. But then this follows pretty closely to the Green party line of being against the establishment, ideology, and rationality. We don't bring anything new to the table but we're going to change everything. Hate the status quo but don't know anything about it? Vote for us.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 16, 2011 at 16:14:50 in reply to Comment 62377

Yes... because people often accept nominations when they don't want to run.

That makes much more sense.

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By Frog in a blender (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2011 at 08:00:49 in reply to Comment 62380

insult spam deleted

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By Oops (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2011 at 16:56:17 in reply to Comment 62315

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By SmugChristopehrson (anonymous) | Posted April 17, 2011 at 18:40:38

Not so sure he will win; was canvassing today for his party and lots of dejected voters out there. Christopherson is a spent force. Will this be the election to topple him? who knows.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 18, 2011 at 02:20:48 in reply to Comment 62388

I guess you'd be fine with scrapping s. 3 of the Charter, then. I mean, only the winners of elections deserve democratic rights, right?

Also, not all of us vote green. Your presumtion to the contrary is cute, though.

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By unbiased comments (anonymous) | Posted April 20, 2011 at 16:26:00 in reply to Comment 62378

rules ... including manuals ... I would never take anyones word i would check for myself, you can as well...http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=pub/ecdocs&document=index&lang=e http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&lang=e

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