Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark proposed earlier this month to combine the municipal and provincial voters list into one that will be managed by Elections Ontario.
Wollaston Township council has voted to support this proposal.
“From the perspective of Wollaston council having been through what we went through this is a really positive move,” Reeve Barb Shaw says.
An investigation is on-going into allegations of the Township’s preliminary voters list being manipulated during the 2018 municipal election – which was managed by Municipal Property Assessment Corporation – when owners of waterfront properties created leases that they had their voter-eligible children and spouses of their children sign. “When you have a cottage property, you can vote at both locations,” Shaw explains. “Some of the leases were written for bunkies and sleeping cabins, and that’s prohibited by Wollaston’s comprehensive zoning by-law.” Shaw also points out that the Residential Tenancy Act doesn’t allow people to have a lease within a family property.
“At the end of the day, the responsibility is on the person who returned their ballot to know that they are legally entitled to participate in the election,” Shaw says. For the 2018 election, Acting Clerk Verna Brundage was in-charge of returning ballots for the Township. Shaw says the ballots shouldn’t have been accepted by Brundage.
Brundage retired from her post in February 2019, but My Bacroft Now did reach out to her for comment on the on-going investigation but have not heard back.
“The problem is those names are now permanently on the voters list and we don’t know how to fix it,” Shaw explains. “If there’s more oversight from the province, what happened in Wollaston is less likely to happen.”
A police investigation into Wollaston’s election results began in late 2018 after a nearly two-week-long delay in making the election results official. The day after that happened then Brundage made a speech to council saying that she had received word about “unethical practices” that had taken place by one or more of the candidates but did not give further details. She suggested at the time that anyone looking for more information on what was unethical should speak to the individual candidates.
Bancroft OPP Constable Susanne Cox, speaking on behalf of John Kyle of the Centre Hastings OPP, said they cannot comment on the investigation since it’s on-going. Andre Duval with Anti-Rackets in Smiths Falls is also working on the case.
While the OPP cannot pass along an update, Shaw said the OPP has told her they’re now interviewing voters that were added to the Township’s voters list for the 2018 municipal election. She says all election documents have also been seized by police, including the leases that were allegedly used to get people on the Township’s voters list. “We’ve tried to be quiet and mindful that this is a difficult situation for our community as well as the OPP,” Shaw says.
Shaw says the next steps are sending the accepted proposal to Clark. She hopes that this is a step towards repairing the voters list. “With more oversight, we will have less possibility of voters list being impacted,” she says.