Fentie campaigner violated election rules in Watson Lake

WATSON LAKE Elections Yukon has received an official complaint against one of Dennis Fentie’s campaign workers.

WATSON LAKE

Elections Yukon has received an official complaint against one of Dennis Fentie’s campaign workers.

The violation of the territory’s election rules happened during Sunday’s advance poll.

Linda McDonald, granddaughter of Frank Watson — the town’s namesake — lodged a formal complaint with the returning officer after watching local businessman Archie Tannoch escort two inebriated First Nations men into the advance polling station at the Watson Lake Recreation Centre.

Tannoch is a key player in Dennis Fentie’s re-election campaign.

“I’m a Kaska woman,” said McDonald on Tuesday.

“To see someone being taken advantage of when they’re at their weakest hurts me to the core.

“It’s immoral. It’s unethical.”

Tannoch denied the allegations.

“I gave two people a lift to town,” he said.

“I did not tell them who to vote for. I didn’t bribe them or anything else.”

Tannoch said he met the two men in Upper Liard while visiting his friend, Hudson Caesar.

Tannoch acknowledged the two men were drunk, but said he wasn’t about to deny a request from friends.

“They said, ‘We want to vote.’ I’m not going to stop them.

“I didn’t do that on behalf of (Fentie). I was down there talking to a friend.

“I know 99 per cent of the natives in this community. Or they know me.”

McDonald’s husband Tom Cove laughed when he heard Tannoch’s explanation.

Cove, who ran for the Liberals in the 2002 election and lost against Fentie, said Tannoch has been recruiting votes in First Nations villages where he would otherwise never visit.

“Archie has been going in and out of Two Mile for two days straight,” said Cove.

McDonald, who teaches the Kaska language at Watson Lake Secondary School, said she was about to enter the polling station to cast her own ballot when she recognized two men exiting Tannoch’s pickup truck.

When they approached her, McDonald realized they were inebriated, she said.

When Tannoch escorted the men inside, McDonald and her husband followed.

Tannoch identified both men to the polling officers, but got his “friends’” names wrong, said McDonald, who offered their correct names.

McDonald admitted that, in the grip of emotion, she advised the two men not to vote for Fentie.

“As soon as they left, Tom and I questioned the clerks.”

The polling officers advised McDonald to speak with returning officer Laurel Cole.

She did.

“It’s not about the election,” said McDonald.

“People have been abused here. I don’t care about the two votes.”

Returning officers are not authorized to speak to reporters, said assistant chief electoral officer Jo-Ann Waugh.

But Waugh confirmed that a complaint was passed to her office in Whitehorse from the Watson Lake bureau.

It’s not illegal to be inebriated at a polling station or to bring an inebriated person to a polling station, said Waugh.

It is against the rules to lead people inside the polling place.

The Yukon Party campaign headquarters in Watson Lake was advised not to let such actions occur, she said.

“We’re satisfied with that.”

Election rules clearly dictate that only voters, polling officers and scrutineers are allowed inside polling stations.

“I walked in. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to,” said Tannoch, who is running for mayor in Watson Lake’s October 19 election.

“It was not done intentionally. I don’t know all the rules.”

Regardless, it’s unethical for a campaigner from any party to bring drunk people to vote, said Liberal candidate Rick Harder, who also witnessed Tannoch’s arrival at the polling station with the two inebriated men.

“I’m not sure if it’s legal to bring someone in that is intoxicated, but to me that’s not ethical,” said Harder.

“I told my campaign people, ‘Be polite, and offer to come back and give them a ride when they’re sober.’”