A Manitoba judge will decide in two weeks whether the court has jurisdiction to toss out Heather Stefanson’s victory in the Progressive Conservative Party’s leadership race.
Stefanson won the leadership on Saturday by 363 votes over Shelly Glover, who refused to concede defeat and launched a legal challenge against the result.
Glover claims the total vote count fluctuated on election day and that the party failed to secure ballots. She wants the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench to declare the race result invalid and order a new leadership race.
Appearing before the court in a virtual appearance on Thursday, Glover’s lawyer, David Hill, requested a hearing as soon as possible.
He said under normal court rules, it would take five or six months to get a hearing on a matter he described of obvious public interest.
Kaitlyn Lewis, a lawyer for Manitoba’s PC Party, asked for more time to prepare a response to Glover’s claims.
Justice James Edmond agreed that the public has an interest in this case, which he described as being similar in some respects to a judicial recount.
“I can tell you that I’ve had experience dealing with those in the past, and they’re usually conducted very quickly — and there’s a lot of good reasons for that,” he said.
Edmond nonetheless declined to set a date for an immediate hearing on the merits of the case. Instead, he set a date of Nov. 19 to determine whether the court has jurisdiction over the case and, if so, what parties should be involved.
Jonathan Kroft, a lawyer for Stefanson, said his client needs to decide whether she wishes to intervene.
“Ms. Stefanson doesn’t see any urgency that would justify the court doing anything today that would deprive affected parties of the right to fair notice as prescribed by the rules,” he said.
Stefanson was sworn in as Manitoba’s premier on Tuesday.
Kroft said he doesn’t believe the court has the jurisdiction to review the decision of the Crown to swear in Stefanson.
“By virtue of the Canadian and Manitoba constitutions, Ms. Stefanson will remain premier until she dies, becomes unable to serve, resigns or loses the confidence of the House,” he said.
Hill seized upon Kroft’s urgency comment to note the party proceeded with naming Stefanson its leader three days after the race concluded.
“There appeared to be some urgency to do the swearing-in, even though we already had an acting premier, so it wasn’t as if the position was going to be void or hollow,” he said, referring to Kelvin Goertzen, who resigned as premier on Tuesday.
Glover’s lawyers now have until Nov. 8 to file briefs, and the party has until Nov. 15 to respond.
Stefanson has until Nov. 15 to decide whether to intervene.
Should the court decide on Nov. 19 that it has jurisdiction over the case, another hearing will be scheduled to allow all parties to argue the merits of the case.