Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he has confidence in an ongoing Hamilton Police investigation into alleged voter fraud at a nomination meeting held by his party last year.
The controversy has dogged the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario since allegations of ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities emerged soon after the May, 2017, vote.
“I have all the confidence in the chief of Hamilton and the police services in Hamilton that they’re going to do the right thing. But it’s not my job as Premier to interfere in any police investigation. Matter of fact, I can’t interfere in any police investigation,” Mr. Ford told reporters Wednesday at an unrelated announcement in Trenton, Ont.
Lead investigator Detective Constable Adam Jefferess wrote in a recent affidavit that details of the criminal probe should be kept under wraps to avoid creating “undue negative bias” toward the current government. Mr. Ford did not address questions about whether police should be taking such considerations into account.
“I was elected as leader of the PC Party to clean up Patrick Brown’s mess,” Mr. Ford said, referring to his predecessor. “Let’s make no mistake about it, there’s no secret, he left a real mess with this party and we cleaned it up. We’re moving forward. The police are going to deal with it properly.”
Several nomination races held under Mr. Brown were disputed – and six were later overturned by the party – amid allegations of electoral interference. Mr. Brown was forced to resign as PC leader in January after a news report alleging sexual misconduct, which he denies. Mr. Brown, who was recently elected mayor of Brampton, maintains that he left the party in good shape but has called for Elections Ontario to oversee political parties’ candidate nominations.
The Globe and Mail and CTV are seeking to unseal court documents related to the Hamilton police probe, which is believed to be the country’s first criminal investigation into alleged voter fraud at a political party’s nomination meeting. The Crown is opposing the application.
In his affidavit, Det. Constable Jefferess revealed that police made two arrests but have not laid any charges in their investigation into the PC nomination in the riding of Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas. Officers have interviewed almost 150 witnesses and seized 61 different items, including ballots, voting credentials forms and e-mails. Investigators also searched two properties tied to one suspect.
Hamilton Police did not respond to questions seeking further information about the arrests on Wednesday. “This continues to be an active investigation into allegations of voter fraud. Hamilton Police will not be providing comment beyond what was shared in the affidavit filed” on Tuesday, the force said in a prepared statement.
The Globe reported previously that there was a printer at the nomination meeting cranking out fake Rogers and Scotiabank statements that enabled people who were not eligible to vote to cast ballots, according to multiple sources. In addition, there were irregularities at the credentials table, which is typically where voters are sent after encountering problems at the standard alphabetical registration stations.
In March, the PC Party announced that the results in the riding would be set aside because of “irregularities in the nomination meeting.” A new vote took place in April and was won by Ben Levitt, who also won the race last year. He lost to the NDP in the June provincial election.