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Canada Eight candidates demand recounts in wake of B.C. provincial election

Jennifer Fisher-Bradley demanded a recount. So, a recount she will get.

The Democratic Reform B.C. candidate did not top the polls in Alberni-Qualicum on election night this month. She didn't finish in second place either. Or third. Or even fourth, an honour claimed by the Marijuana Party candidate.

With 289 votes, Ms. Fisher-Bradley finished a distant fifth. She took just 1.13 per cent of the vote.

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"She's concerned because on election night CBC had a different number," Elections B.C. spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said. "Of course, our results are the official preliminary results."

The Vancouver Island constituency, which was won by former Tofino mayor Scott Fraser of the NDP, is one of eight in which a recount will be held.

Alberni-Qualicum is not expected to change hands, although some other jubilant candidates from election night may find their celebrations to have been premature.

Liberal candidates have asked for five recounts, while the NDP and Democratic Reform B.C. have each requested one. Another recount was automatically mandated because of the closeness of the result.

The fresh counts will begin today and district returning officers must report their results by Wednesday.

The initial count gave the governing Liberals 45 seats to the NDP's 34.

The most-watched count will take place in Vancouver-Burrard, a heated contest that finished as one of the closest elections in provincial history. The NDP's Tim Stevenson holds a 12-vote lead over Lorne Mayencourt of the Liberals. The razor-thin margin was the result after more than 26,000 residents cast ballots in trendy Yaletown.

The ballots will be recounted -- Mr. Stevenson has 11,217 to Mr. Mayencourt's 11,205 -- before 1,700 absentee ballots are examined.

In Cariboo South, the NDP's Charlie Wyse has a 26-vote lead over the Liberals' Walt Cobb.

In neighbouring Cariboo North, Steve Wallace of the Liberals trailed the NDP's Bob Simpson by 197 votes.

Two former cabinet ministers have asked for recounts. In the Victoria-area riding of Saanich South, former human resources minister Susan Brice is 333 votes behind the NDP's David Cubberley. In Burnaby-Edmonds, Patty Sahota, the former minister of state for resort development, lost to the NDP's Raj Chouhan by 586 votes. Mr. Chouhan was the founding president of the Canadian Farmworkers' Union.

NDP candidate Pietro Calendino has asked for a recount in Burnaby North, where he trails Liberal incumbent Richard Lee by 282 votes. Mr. Lee holds a master's degree in advanced mathematics from the University of British Columbia, so he is aware of the numerical probabilities of a recount upset.

In Skeena, Liberal incumbent Roger Harris lost by 439 votes to the NDP's Robin Austin. The margin in the sparsely populated electoral district represents 3.58 per cent of the vote.

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The eight requests for recounts are the most since a new electoral law came into effect before the 1996 election. Four races were contested that year, while only two were challenged in 2001.

In all cases, the candidate finishing second asked for a recount.

The recount in Alberni-Qualicum is rare in that it has been requested by a candidate with no hope of winning.

"This is my third election and I've never seen it happen," Ms. Miller of Elections B.C. said.

Under current legislation, any of the 412 candidates, or their official agents, registered for the May 17 election can request a recount. No reason needs to be given.

Ms. Miller said it is possible officials at Elections B.C. will recommend changes to the law to limit recounts.

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"We might consider making some recommendations on making a threshold and a time period," she said. "Right now, it's pretty much open to any candidate or their official agent."

The completion of the final count on Wednesday does not mean every seat will be decided. A judicial recount is ordered in any contest in which the difference between the top two candidates is less than 1/500th of the total ballots. Any voter, candidate or district electoral officer has six days after the final count to apply for a judicial recount by a judge of the B.C. Supreme Court. As well, a judicial recount can be appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The closest contest in recent history was settled only after recounts and appeals. In 1979 Al Passarell of the NDP defeated Frank Calder of Social Credit 750 to 749, in a two-candidate race in Atlin, which is now the riding of Bulkley Valley-Stikine. Mr. Calder later did not deny the tale that he and his wife had neglected to travel from Victoria to their isolated northern constituency to vote.

His victorious rival was forever after known as Landslide Al.

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