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A sign post is shown on May 4, 2011, in the Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinonge, which was won by NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A sign post is shown on May 4, 2011, in the Quebec riding of Berthier-Maskinonge, which was won by NDP candidate Ruth Ellen Brosseau. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Liberal seeks to overturn absentee candidate's victory Add to ...

A defeated Liberal candidate is filing a formal complaint with Elections Canada claiming the vast majority of the signatures in support of New Democrat Ruth Ellen Brosseau's surprisingly successful candidacy are invalid.

Francine Gaudet claims that at least 90 of the 128 signatures in support of the NDP candidate in Berthier-Maskinongé should not count. The Liberals are hinting that similar complaints against victorious NDP candidates in neighbouring ridings are in the works.

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Ms. Gaudet alleged in an interview that when voters were asked to endorse the NDP candidate's nomination papers, Ms. Brosseau's name did not appear on the form. The law requires that each candidate obtain the consent of 100 voters in the riding to be eligible to run.

When the documents were submitted to the local returning officer, according to Ms. Gaudet, the official noticed the blank space where Ms. Brosseau's name should have appeared and filled it in himself in order to properly identify the document. In addition to the allegedly falsified signatures, Ms. Gaudet offered this as further grounds on which to declare the nomination papers invalid.

Earlier this week at least three voters in the riding claimed they never signed the nomination papers and that the signatures that appeared on them were false.

NDP Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair insisted that everything was done according to the rules and said the party will defend Ms. Brosseau tooth and nail.

"From everything I know from the party and from the director general of elections, everything was fine. That's the information I have. If the Liberals think there is a problem, I'll leave it to them," Mr. Mulcair said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Brosseau did not appear in the riding during the campaign and has not spoken in public since her election victory.

Ms. Gaudet held a news conference Friday in Trois-Rivières with veteran Quebec Liberal MP Denis Coderre to confirm the challenge.

In a news release, Ms. Gaudet stated that other ridings are preparing similar challenges against the NDP, including the neighbouring riding of Champlain-St-Maurice.

Elections Canada spokesman Diane Benson said in a statement that Ms. Brosseau remains the MP unless her election is challenged and overturned by a court.

That does not mean Elections Canada has "cleared" Ms. Brosseau of the allegations being made against her campaign, as some media reports suggested Friday. It simply means her election is valid unless a court says otherwise.

Liberal Party spokeswoman Sarah Bain said the challenge is not coming from the party.

Fred DeLorey, a spokesman for the Conservative Party, also said his party is not challenging the results, even though the local Tory candidate is calling for a by-election over the allegations.

Liberal Party spokesperson Sarah Bain said the challenge is not coming from the Liberal Party.

Fred DeLorey, a spokesman for the Conservative Party, also said his party is not challenging the results, even though the local Tory candidate is calling for a by-election over allegations of forged nomination signatures.

The NDP has said Ms. Brosseau's nomination list is legitimate because it was accepted by Elections Canada's returning officer in the riding.

Elections Canada spokesman Diane Benson said in a statement that Ms. Brosseau remains the MP unless it is challenged and overturned by a court.

"The result of the election is valid and stands unless a court rules otherwise. The recourse is to contest an election before a court," she said Friday.

That does not mean Elections Canada has "cleared" Ms. Brosseau of the allegations being made against her campaign, as some media reports suggest. It simply means that her election is valid unless a court says otherwise.

The Bloc Québécois has not indicated whether any of its members intend to launch a court challenge.

The wording of the law regarding the contestation of election results is somewhat unclear on the issue of allegedly forged signatures. That scenario is not explicitly addressed in the law.

Section 523 of the Canada Elections Act states: "The election of a person is null and void if, under section 65, the person was not eligible to be a candidate."

It also says any eligible elector in the riding can contest a result in court under two scenarios: if the elected candidate was not eligible to be a candidate, or if "there were irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election."

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