OTTAWA – The federal Liberals and the Conservatives have not sought to overturn the election of a controversial New Democrat in Quebec, despite alleging her nomination papers are riddled with irregularities.
Both parties are questioning how Ruth Ellen Brosseau became a candidate in the central Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinonge, which she won handily in Monday’s election.
Allegations began surfacing this week that Brosseau’s nomination papers contained invalid signatures. Her Conservative rival in the election even called for a byelection over the issue.
But the Conservative party has since ruled out mounting the court challenge necessary to nullify Brosseau’s election. The Liberals appear to be following suit.
While declaring Friday that they will file a complaint with Elections Canada, party officials made no mention of a legal case.
A complaint to Elections Canada could lead to an investigation to determine if electoral laws were broken. That process could lead to fines or even prison sentences, but only court challenges can overturn results.
The Liberals claim that there are problems with most of the signatures — as many as 80 — that the NDP collected in order to formalize Brosseau’s candidacy.
That makes her candidacy invalid, according to the head of the Liberal riding association in Berthier-Maskinonge.
“There is no nomination list,” said Liberal riding organizer Louis-Victor Sylvestre. “If there is no nomination list there is no candidate. It’s as simple as that.”
Liberals say they have affidavits from two citizens who testified they never signed Brosseau’s nomination papers, even though their names appear on the list.
Denis Coderre, a Liberal MP from Montreal, said six of the 11 pages of signatures for Brosseau did not contain her name, which was only added later by an Elections Canada official.
Though the Liberals appear willing to contest the legitimacy of Brosseau’s election, Elections Canada made it clear Friday that only a court challenge could annul her victory.
“The results of the election are valid unless a court decides otherwise,” Elections Canada said in a statement.
During the campaign, each party has the chance to verify the signatures on each other’s nomination papers.
The Liberals acknowledge they never bothered to do so for Brosseau because they felt she didn’t stand a realistic chance of winning.
“We didn’t verify the NDP’s at the beginning because they weren’t in the running; it’s more Conservative and Bloc Quebecois,” said Sylvestre.
The NDP stunned observers on Monday night by sweeping Quebec’s electoral map, winning 59 seats; a feat never even achieved by the Bloc.
Brosseau, who beat the Bloc incumbent by more than 10 percentage points, has been hounded by controversy since it was revealed she took a family vacation during the campaign.
The single mother lives in Ottawa and speaks little French, though her riding is overwhelmingly francophone.
There are also questions about whether she even visited the riding during the campaign.
Brosseau hasn’t made any public appearances since Monday, despite a litany of media requests. The NDP says she is undergoing intensive French lessons but has had little else to say.
Her absence has become all the more problematic for the party given large parts of Brosseau’s riding have been affected by severe flooding.
The Liberal MP said that, in the case of emergencies like this one, the riding deserves better help from its federal representative.
“When you need a federal MP to play a role, fully, in co-operation with the Quebec government, can we agree that instead of playing Where’s Waldo we should get straight answers?” Coderre said.