Sunday August 23, 2020 | NATIONAL 3 pm [Updated 4:15 pm PDT]
by Mary P Brooke, editor | Island Social Trends
Suddenly during live TV coverage of the Conservative Party of Canada leadership ballot count, it was announced that the first-ballot results announcement would be delayed by at least 90 minutes. [Then at 4:15 pm PDT the delay was pushed another 30 minutes.]
The announcement was to come at 6 pm EDT (3 pm Pacific), but now is officially pushed to 7:30 pm EDT (4:30 pm Pacific). However, it could take longer. [UPDATE at 4:15 pm Pacific — ballot count expected now at 8 pm EDT / 5 pm Pacific].
The delay has been blamed on the hands-on time it will take to process ballots that were damaged by ballot-opening machines. There is no indication yet if any ballots were damaged to the point of being unreadable or uncountable.
The delay has impacted live TV coverage (such as on CBC, CTV and Global) as in the cost and disruption of extending the coverage by several hours. As well, the delayed announcement runs right into the Raptors basketball game which will draw away from viewer interest.
This situation of damaged ballots has serious implications for trust in the democratic process, and lends concern to overall Canadian politics for the next federal election.
Reportedly, a record number of ballots cast for any leadership candidate — of any party — were cast for this leadership race. The total is said to be around 175,000. All ballots were cast by way of postal mail during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The candidates in the Conservative Party of Canad leadership race are Peter MacKay (a former Cabinet minister under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper), Erin O’Toole (currently an MP from Ontario, and a former cabinet minister), Leslyn Lewis (lawyer and ran once in 2015 unsuccessfully), and Derek Sloan (presenting a strong social conservatism stance).
The race is expected by most political observers to have close results, and therefore not just a first ballot but also a second and possibly third this evening in Ottawa.
Potentially a future prime minister:
The keen interest in this federal party leadership race is founded on the technicality that whoever wins this contest could potentially be a future prime minister of Canada.
About the ballots:
On live TV this afternoon, former Conservative deputy leader and leadership campaign co-chair Lisa Raitt said the ballots, which were mailed in in a sealed envelope inside another envelope, are being opened automatically by a machine.
“What’s been happening is the machine is ripping or cutting some of these ballots,” Raitt said.
When a ballot has been damaged, it is shown on a screen to scrutineers from all camps who agree on the result, so there is no risk of the integrity being compromised, Raitt said.
The speeches to come, and perhaps second/third ballots:
The announcement ‘event’ online will include an introduction from the Conservative Party of Canada’s executive director and the party president, and then from outgoing leader Andrew Scheer. Then the first-ballot results will be announced. “And then the second and third,” said Raitt.
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