The territory’s chief electoral officer says she’s started asking questions about allegations of wrongdoing in Whitehorse’s Mountainview riding.
Lori McKee says no one with firsthand knowledge has come forward to make an official complaint to her office.
To start a formal investigation, her office would need to get a complaint directly from someone who was wronged who can identify the wrongdoer, she said.
After seeking legal advice, she’s decided to use her legal authority to compel people to give her the information she needs to decide if anything fishy has been going on.
“We are asking individuals and groups who obviously have firsthand information that we don’t have to provide it to this office.”
If she needs to, McKee has the authority to do more than ask. The Yukon Public Inquiries Act says she has the same powers as a civil court. She can compel people to give evidence or provide documentation.
Punishment for violating the Elections Act can range from an order to follow the rules to prosecution.
McKee won’t say what she’s investigating or who she’ll be getting information from.
There have been plenty of accusations floating around recently for her to look into.
Mountainview is the home riding of Premier Darrell Pasloski. Next month’s election will pit Pasloski against Whitehorse lawyer Shaunagh Stikeman for the NDP and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s justice director Jeanie Dendys for the Liberals.
Public allegations of impropriety began earlier this week when a letter, sent by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to all three candidates, was made public by the CBC.
“We have been made aware that intoxicated people may have been taken to the polls and may not be in a position to cast their vote with a clear mind. This concerns KDFN Council and we request all parties refrain from this practice,” reads the letter, dated Oct. 14.
“Please do not tell KDFN citizens ‘it’s voting day’ when in actuality it is not. Please ensure citizens clearly understand what you are asking of them. If you are asking them to cast a special ballot, ensure they understand what that means.”
Eileen Duchesne, executive assistant to Chief Doris Bill, is not saying which party is being accused. She said the First Nation has received a variety of different complaints this election, ranging in severity, about all the political parties.
“Some of them are things we can’t do anything about,” she said.
“We decided to react to citizens being taken to the polls only because we knew that they were intoxicated, they admitted they were intoxicated. Some were elderly, weren’t sure where they were going, what they were doing.”
Duchesne said those complaints came in on Oct. 8 and during the Thanksgiving long weekend.
She estimates she personally got four calls.
“On that day there were at least three of them told that it was voting day,” she said.
Voting day is actually Nov. 7. But people can cast their ballot early using special ballots.
Aside from the accusations in the letter, the First Nation heard a party was asking members to sign proxy forms so that someone else could vote on their behalf.
When it checked, it was told they were actually being asked to sign party memberships, she said.
“There may have been some misunderstanding with the citizen, but it still came in as a complaint.”
Candidates have also been canvassing at First Nations events, including a recent luncheon, without asking permission first, she said.
Even though neither the elections office nor the First Nation are naming specific political parties, that hasn’t stopped the parties from taking subtle – and not so subtle – swipes at their opponents, all while maintaining that they intend to run a clean campaign.
Yukon Party campaign chair Currie Dixon said his party has told the elections office about complaints regarding the other parties.
“They relate to the other campaigns using misdirection about proxies and voting lists and giving some false information about whether or not an individual is signing a list to sign up as a voter or in fact a proxy.”
It is common practice during the election season for all the political parties to help if someone calls and asks for a ride to the polls.
Yukon Party volunteers are trained that it is “unacceptable and inappropriate to drive somebody who is intoxicated or to mislead them or use misdirection,” Dixon said.
What about overzealous volunteers taking matters into their own hands?
“If someone did it on their own I’m not aware of it, but we certainly don’t condone it and we don’t encourage it. We train our volunteers not to do that.”
The NDP’s Stikeman said she was happy to receive the letter from Kwanlin Dun.
“I had been hearing rumours in the community that people were being brought down to vote and perhaps misled as to when the voting day was,” she said.
“It was my impression that perhaps there was undue pressure being put on MacIntyre residents to vote now and so I was relieved to hear from Kwanlin Dun First Nation and have them put it on the record.”
Stikeman said the NDP acts “at all times with integrity, with respect and by the rules.”
Dendys did not agree to an interview. Instead the Liberal Party sent out a statement.
“Jeanie Dendys fully respects all of the citizens in the Mountainview riding. … She and her campaign team have been trained in proper voting practices, as have all Yukon Liberal candidates, and fully respect all the citizens in her riding and the KDFN government. Dendys and Liberal Leader Sandy Silver are disappointed that questionable practices have occurred in the Mountainview riding.”
The First Nation has not approached the Elections Yukon office to make a complaint.
People are being told they’ll need to make a formal complaint themselves, Duchesne said.
“We have nothing to do with this election and we’ve been trying to tell people you can go to the elections office, lodge a complaint and those kind of things,” she said.
“But they all seem to want to call here and that’s understandable. It’s a place that they trust.”
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org