Complaints filed over election

Candidate accused of parking outside polling station with name on the vehicle

  • Nov. 24, 2011 12:00 p.m.

The ballots may have long been counted, but complaints are rolling into City Hall about alleged contraventions of the Local Government Act.

Chief elections officer Marjorie Whalen confirmed this week that several complaints have been communicated by residents about various aspects of general voting day — be it from advertising or sign placement.

One circumstance involved automated phone calls from a candidate on voting day urging residents to get out and vote, which some residents complained contravened laws about advertising on election day.

But Whalen said campaigning is permitted on general voting day — including phone calls and door knocking — providing they are outside the 100-metre radius of a polling station.

That’s what got Brigid Kemp, a former candidate, concerned. She says she witnessed a candidate’s vehicle parked outside the polling station with a name on the back.

“I can understand you make mistakes that you forget. We all make mistakes. I just think people need to know that there’s certain things you can do and can’t do,” she said. “These rules are in place for a particular reason, so we can have an honest and above-board election. … It needs to be done fairly and equally for everybody.”

Whalen said she instructed Kemp to contact the RCMP. Kemp said she had already lodged a complaint with police.

According to the act, anyone seeking charges in relation to an election offence is also required to provide evidence to support the allegation.

“I’ve been there and seen that these things are taken seriously and goes to the courts sometimes. I’m not sure for this particular offence,” Whalen said, adding without actual proof like photos of the offending vehicles, the case was “weak.”

“We had a map and we showed them. A 100 metres from the front door. We did a radius. It’s just common sense. You don’t want to be raising eyebrows of those who pay attention to such things,” she said. “I instructed them to err on the side of caution, but at some point, they decided to beg for forgiveness later.”

According to the Local Government Act, no one is permitted to “display or distribute a sign, a document or other material regarding a candidate” within 100 metres of a building where voting transpires.

The act also states that individuals and organizations that campaign near a voting place may be subject to penalties including fines up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to one year, be prohibited from holding elected office in a local government for up to six years and be prohibited from voting in a local government election for six years.

“There was some common sense that should have been applied. Everyone knew. They were all told, it’s very plain in the legislation and the information they were provided, you’re not to be anywhere near there, and people were,” Whalen said.

“They’re definitely allowed to be there to vote. They were allowed to come and vote, and some of them may have possibly lingered a bit. But it raised eyebrows.”

The act also states that individuals and organizations are not guilty of an election offence if they “exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.”