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Supreme Court set to rule over contested Etobicoke Centre riding

Conservative MP Ted Opitz, who won his Toronto riding by just 26 votes, speaks in the House of Commons on May 28, 2012.

CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters

The Supreme Court of Canada will issue a precedent setting ruling this morning that could affect the administration of all future elections in the country.

Canada's highest court will issue its ruling on whether Conservative MP Ted Opitz legitimately won his seat in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre in the May 2011 federal election.

Mr. Opitz is appealing an Ontario Superior Court ruling that set aside his narrow, 26-vote victory over Liberal incumbent Borys Wrzesnewskyj, after identifying procedural irregularities with 79 ballots.

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It will be first time the Supreme Court has ruled on the validity of an election result in a federal riding in the modern era under the current Canada Elections Act.

Seven justices of the high court heard Mr. Opitz's appeal at an emergency hearing in July and have been working on the decision since.

There is no evidence that either of the candidates — or either of the two federal parties — engaged in fraud or corruption.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas Lederer threw out Mr. Opitz's victory after problems were found related to how new voters were registered on Election Day, and whether the accompanying paperwork by Elections Canada staff was adequately done.

Mr. Wrzesnewskyj cross appealed and asked that more ballots be rejected.

He also argued that some voters may have been allowed to cast ballots twice.

Mr. Wrzesnewskyj said Wednesday he planned to be at the Supreme Court for the decision. It will be made public in written form at 9:45 a.m. ET, as per the court's custom.

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Conservative party spokesman Fred DeLorey wouldn't say whether Mr. Opitz will be at the court as well.

The ruling will be precedent-setting because it is expected to set out clear rules on when the courts ought to involve themselves in reviewing tight election races — and when they should not.

The court will have to decide whether polling officials made errors and, if so, whether those errors had an impact on the final result.

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