There was an “apparent contravention” of the Elections Act in the nomination process for Audrey Festeryga, a southwestern Ontario Liberal candidate in the spring provincial election, a letter from Elections Ontario to the NDP says.
Festeryga withdrew from the Chatham-Kent—Leamington race just a week before election day June 2 after the Ontario New Democrats raised concerns about the validity of her nomination papers.
In the letter the NDP released to CBC News, Elections Ontario says the chief electoral officer has reviewed all the evidence and determined there was an “apparent contravention” of Section 95 of the act, which deals with providing false or misleading information to a returning officer or other election official.
“The chief electoral officer has therefore reported this matter to the Ministry of the Attorney General,” states the letter dated Sept. 21, 2022.
It explains that once an apparent contravention is reported, police may investigate, and with the go-ahead from the chief electoral officer, the case could be prosecuted.
If convicted, the penalty for violating Section 95 of the act is a fine of not more than $5,000.
Festeryga could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, but the Ontario Liberal Party provided a short statement to CBC News.
“We are aware of the communications from Elections Ontario on this matter,” a party spokesperson said. “As it has been referred to the Ministry of the Attorney General, we have nothing further to contribute at this time.”
NDP alleges signatures were transferred
The Liberals announced Festeryga would run for the seat on May 12. She joined the race following the party’s removal of another candidate, after social media posts containing homophobic slurs made eight years ago were shared by the NDP.
However, the removal came just hours before the deadline to file nomination papers, which require the signatures of at least 25 electors in the riding.
The NDP alleged the Liberals transferred signatures gathered for the previous candidate’s nomination to that of Festeryga, something the party says is not allowed under Ontario electoral rules.
At the time of her withdrawal from the election campaign, Festeryga said she was stepping down due to the NDP’s “relentless personal attacks,” and to protect her family and her name.
“This decision was also made based on my personal sense of morals and ethics,” Festeryga said.
Festeryga accused the NDP of trying to stop people from voting Liberal.
“I have been a Liberal candidate in this area in three federal elections. In this provincial election, Elections Ontario has verified my candidacy. No other candidates have raised any concerns about my nomination,” Festeryga said.
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