Liberal’s name staying on Victoria ballot despite withdrawal

Elections Canada says it isn’t allowed to remind voters on election day that the Liberal candidate on the federal ballot in Victoria has dropped out of the race.

Liberal Cheryl Thomas, a business consultant, abruptly withdrew and apologized Wednesday for comments she posted to Facebook several years ago about the conflict in the Middle East.

The Sept. 28 nomination deadline for her name to be removed from the ballot or for a candidate to replace her has passed.

Elections Canada said Thursday it has no authority to tell voters Thomas has withdrawn from the Oct. 19 election.

“There is nothing in the Canada Elections Act that requests us to inform electors,” said spokeswoman Dorothy Sitek. “We can only speak from our legislation. We are simply the administrator of the election.”

Thomas’s comments were found and publicized by online publication True North Times. She called mosques “brainwashing stations” in one posting.

Victoria Green candidate Jo-Ann Roberts said she hopes Liberal voters will continue to exercise their right to vote and consider the Greens, given their similar platforms.

Roberts said Victoria remains a two-way race between the NDP and Greens and she is not concerned that votes cast for the Liberals will decrease the margin between the NDP and Greens. “Vote splitting was not an issue in this riding and it’s less of an issue now.”

She said Thomas was a hard-working candidate, adding her resignation will be hard on Thomas and her campaign team, and diminishes choices for voters.

NDP candidate Murray Rankin said his message will remain unchanged. “It seems to me most people in Victoria want to change this government and I’m going to keep saying how to do that is more NDP seats in Parliament.”

University of Victoria professor Michael Prince said leaving Thomas’s name on the ballot serves up an interesting, albeit confusing, scenario. “This makes it an intriguing, intriguing situation, very unusual, and it certainly adds to the drama and makes it a real national-interest story,” said Prince. “And it puts a new wrinkle in what strategic voting means.”

Liberals bouyed by national polls in favour of Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau may still vote for Thomas to boost the party’s national vote count, Prince said. Or if they want Trudeau leading a minority government instead of the NDP, they may vote Green in Victoria to knock off the NDP seat, he said. NDP and Green camps “will be wooing former now-confused, distraught Liberal voters,” Prince said.

In the 2008 election in Saanich-Gulf Islands, NDP candidate Julian West, who dropped out of the race after a report about a nudity incident, remained on the ballot. He ended up with nearly six per cent of the vote.

Automated phone calls from an unknown source may have played a role in his support. NDP voters said they received recorded messages encouraging them to vote for West, despite his withdrawal.

In this election, Conservative John Rizzuti, Libertarian Art Lowe and Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party candidate Jordan Reichert are also running in the Victoria riding.

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