Fixing the Vote

What Ottawa City Councillor Tim Tierney did is a matter of public record:

Last November, Ontario Provincial Police charged Tierney with corrupt practices under the Ontario Municipal Elections Act for trying to induce another candidate to drop out of the 2018 election.

according to OPP documents filed in court last year, Tierney called Schurter on his cell phone. Schurter put the call on speaker phone, and three people in the Elections Ottawa office alleged they heard the councillor offer to make a donation to a local food bank if Schurter withdrew his candidacy.

Now it’s not my place to presume guilt of innocence, especially given that the Crown has withdrawn the charges and agreed to a settlement with Tierney yesterday. But I’ve seen nothing beyond this prima facie evidence of a pretty strong case that could have been made.

And the reasons for dropping the case are transparently flaccid. It “would have been a ‘lengthy prosecution’ and that, if it had been successful, would have resulted in an expensive byelection.” Also, “the allegations of bribery were made public during the campaign, and noted the people of Beacon Hill-Cyville still re-elected Tierney by a massive majority.”

All that could well be true, but those aren’t the bases on which we decide whether to proceed with a prosecution. It’s like saying “sure, maybe he murdered the man, but it would cost a lot to find out, and the man would have died anyways.”

It’s not the sort of justice that would be meted out to you or me. But it’s the sort of justice the rich, powerful and connected have come to expect. It’s the sort of justice where we can overlook the allegations with a slap on the wrist if a full prosecution would be too inconvenient.

We’ve entered into an era now whether the foundations of democracy are under attack, where there are concerns of influence from external powers, where money is playing an increasingly oversized role, and where we are not even sure whether to trust the voting process itself.

We can’t simply allow a person to violate the rules and allow the results to stand if the win is big enough.

The result should have been overturned and a by-election held. I don’t care whether Tim Tierney agreed to pay two months’ salary. He shouldn’t have been entitled to it in the first place, as his own admission of wrongdoing shows.

This is a principle that should apply generally, shouldn’t it?

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Image: Ottawa Matters

 

 

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