Charity McGrath, the Progressive Conservatives' standard bearer in Newmarket-Aurora in next year's provincial election, is a cheat according to the riding association Board.
I have to pinch myself as I tap out the word "cheat" on the keyboard but, astonishing as it is, I am merely repeating what appeared on the front page of last week's ERA newspaper which reported in a matter-of-fact sort of way:
"Local riding president Derek Murray, with the support of the riding executive, filed two appeals following the April 8 nomination meeting, claiming candidate Charity McGrath cheated by falsifying signatures on memberships and paying the $10 membership fee for new members, both of which are against party rules."
The allegations of cheating were put before the Party Leader, Patrick Brown, but he decided to soldier on regardless, endorsing McGrath and others across the Province similarly accused of malpractice.
The Newmarket-Aurora riding Board says there is
"clear and substantial evidence indicating the campaign team for Charity McGrath Di Paola blatantly breached party rules in their membership drive when members did not pay their own fees and their signature was falsified on the membership form and fraudulent members were knowingly allowed to vote at the nomination meeting in which (she) was declared the winning candidate."
It is stated as fact that people attending the nomination meeting:
"may have personally seen school buses funded by the McGrath campaign bringing people from the buildings in question to vote. It is these memberships that are under question."
I have no idea if it is against the rules for candidates to hire transport to ferry supporters to the nomination meeting - I suspect not. But you don't need a degree in jurisprudence to know it is corrupt to forge the signatures of "supporters" or to pay their membership fees for them.
I learn that McGrath's margin of victory was 35 votes out of 717 cast but the Board asserts that
"many more than 35 were bussed in."
The riding Board had commissioned an independent survey of the riding's membership before the nomination meeting on 8 April 2017. Members were asked:
(1) if they had been contacted by a candidate to attend the nomination meeting on 8 April
(2) if they had signed an application to become a member of the Ontario PCs and
(3) if they or an immediate family member paid the membership fee.
The telephone survey tried to contact all 1267 members and got a response from 287 (22.6%). It listed so called "challenge addresses" involving 358 "members".
PC Leader, Patrick Brown, has now ruled that the nominations of the 64 candidates endorsed and approved to date will stand, though many are challenged. A new, more rigorous, system for checking on cheating will be brought in for all nominations "going forward".
Membership cut-off date
One simple, straightforward and easy fix is for the membership freeze date to be brought forward many months before the nomination meeting. Unless this happens, candidates may feel forced to go on a last minute membership recruiting spree, signing people up who have little or no ideological affinity with the PCs just to make up the numbers.
This is no way to run a party. It leads to clientism and bogus members packing meetings. Soon the whole body politic is infected.
Brown has said he will be signing the nomination papers of candidates such as Charity McGrath, branded as a cheat by leading members of the Newmarket-Aurora riding association.
You expect this kind of fiddling in a banana republic - not in apartment blocks on Davis Drive allegedly full of fraudulent "members".
It is in Charity McGrath's own best interests to press for a review of the nomination process and to co-operate fully with it. And to temporarily stand down until it is completed.
I don't like labelling candidates for political office as cheats.
But I like it even less when unscrupulous people steal elections.
Update on 15 June 2017: PC Vikram Singh goes to Court over ballot stuffing allegation.