Ed Ackerman, a local filmmaker and former mayoral candidate, marched into the Winnipeg Law Courts building on Friday, Oct. 1 on a mission.
Clutched in his one hand was the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the other, a large sign proclaiming in bold letters: “Back on the Ballot.”
Ackerman was one of four mayoral candidates that were disqualified for not providing the 250 valid signatures necessary to appear on the municipal election ballot.
In response to his disqualification, Ackerman filed a legal motion against the City of Winnipeg requesting that his nomination papers be reviewed and at least 109 disqualified signatures be ordered back on the papers.
“They (the city) have deliberately deprived me of the right to run for mayor,” he said, standing outside the Court of Queens Bench after Justice Jeffrey Oliphant ruled to delay the case until Oct. 18.
Ackerman first appeared before the court on Tuesday, Sept. 28, whereby he was instructed to file an affidavit by 2:00 p.m. that afternoon.
Ackerman failed to file an affidavit before his second court date on Oct. 1. As a result, Oliphant rescheduled court proceedings in the case until later this month.
Although Ackerman was the only former candidate seeking direct legal recourse against the city, he was joined in court by business consultant and former mayoral candidate Nancy Thomas.
“I believe Ed (Ackerman) and I should be put back on the ballot,” said Thomas, who was also disqualified as a candidate due to a lack of valid signatures. “Let the people decide.”
The 250 signatures required for a candidate to appear on the ballot are only valid if they correspond with the City of Winnipeg’s voters list. The basis for that list is the National Register of Electors, compiled by Elections Canada.
When candidates first register their campaigns with the city, they are given a preliminary voters list.
Names can be added to or taken off that list by calling 311 until Sept. 3, at which point a final voters list is compiled. The senior election official uses the final voters list to confirm whether candidates have enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
According to Michael Jack, the City of Winnipeg’s lawyer on the case, if a candidate does not have enough valid signatures they have no right to see the final voters list.
Without the final list, Thomas feels that there is no way of confirming whether she or Ackerman are truly disqualified.
“The onus should be placed on the city to prove that I am not eligible to appear on the ballot,” Thomas said, adding that she has found at least 12 discounted signatures on the preliminary list and believes she is well over the 250 signatures required.
“I asked for the (final) list, or at least to see it, but I wasn’t permitted,” she said.
Jack claims that access to the final voters list is just rhetoric, particularly in Ackerman’s case.
“(In Ackerman’s case) the number of valid names found on the preliminary list and the final voters list was identical,” he said.
Many of Ackerman’s signatures were disqualified because there had been a change in name or address. In some instances, the printed name may have been simply illegible to the senior election official, Jack said.
“For this reason, all candidates are encouraged to get more names than just the 250 because these issues are bound to occur,” he added.
Thomas believes the system itself is flawed.
“If you’re eligible to vote you should be able to nominate the candidate of your choice,” she said, pointing to the fact that you can vote on Oct. 27 without appearing on the voters list but need to be registered in order to nominate a mayoral candidate.
Senior election official Marc Lemoine would not comment directly on Ackerman’s case. He did say, however, that it was ultimately up to the candidates to get well over the 250 signatures required and regularly check the preliminary voters list.
“Candidates receive a preliminary voters list in May and they have a four-month window to check updates to that list at the city clerk’s office” he said, adding that most candidates submitted their nomination papers on Sept. 21, the final possible date.
“It’s human nature, unfortunately, for people to leave it to the last minute.”
To read more about the controversial nomination process check out Nick Ternette’s article in last week’s Uniter or online at www.uniter.ca/view/4706. To read an interview with former mayoral candidate Avery Petrowski, check out Ethan Cabel’s blog at www.uniter.ca/blogs.
Published in Volume 65, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 7, 2010)