The Ontario NDP has confirmed it won’t seek a recount in the hotly contested riding of Ottawa West—Nepean.
Incoming PC MPP Jeremy Roberts won a nail-biting victory over NDP rival Chandra Pasma in the June 7 provincial election.
A mere 176 votes separated the two candidates, after a race that saw 50,545 voters cast their ballots.
Pasma’s campaign team had raised concerns about what they described as “an unusually high number of unmarked ballots,” concentrated in a few polling stations in the riding.
Ultimately, with a Thursday deadline looming, it was up to the NDP headquarters in Toronto to decide whether to request a recount.
Erin Morrison, an Ontario NDP spokesperson who served as deputy campaign manager to party leader Andrea Horwath, told CBC News that the party would let the result stand.
“We did take a look at it, but the number of ballots that were counted as blank — even if they were all in fact votes for the NDP — it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, even in that very close race,” she said.
The number of ballots counted as blank was “substantially less” than the 176 votes that separated Roberts and Pasma, Morrison said.
“We’re talking about 100 or fewer ballots,” she said.
The vote in Ottawa West—Nepean was a three-way split that saw the PCs inch ahead with 32.8 per cent, compared to 32.5 per cent for the NDP and 29.3 per cent for the Liberals.
Under Elections Ontario rules, an automatic recount is triggered only if the margin between the first two candidates in a riding is 25 votes or less.
NDP candidate wants ‘clarity’
Although she accepts her party’s decision, Pasma told CBC News she still hopes to get a better sense of just how many ballots were left unmarked.
“I’ve always accepted the results,” Pasma said.
“We’ve just wanted some clarity around the results.”
Pasma said she and her party both want an explanation from Elections Ontario as to whether the ballots were actually left unmarked or whether there may have been a problem with the electronic voting machines.
The 2018 election was the first time Elections Ontario used the machines, in an effort to speed up both voting and ballot-counting.
Neither Pasma nor Morrison could confirm whether the Ontario NDP has asked Elections Ontario to investigate.
Elections Ontario told CBC News that it does not comment on whether or not it has received such requests.
‘A historic result’
Still, Pasma said she’s amazed by what she and her team accomplished.
“This was a historic result regardless of the outcome. We more than doubled our previous highest vote total in this riding,” she said.
“People were really, really hungry for change for the better, and people in Ottawa West—Nepean are willing to look at the NDP as a progressive alternative.”
A bellwether riding, Ottawa West—Nepean had been held by the Liberals since 2003, when former premier Dalton McGuinty swept to power.
The riding’s outgoing Liberal incumbent — Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli — had held the seat since 2010.
Incoming PC MPP Jeremy Roberts was unavailable for an interview Thursday.