Francophone election count delayed after apparent ‘discrepancies’

Roger Gauthier (pictured) led Denis Simard according to preliminary results released last week, but there are still advance polls to count. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

An election to choose the next leader of Saskatchewan’s francophone community has hit an unexpected snag, after the chief electoral officer suspended counting of advance votes in Saskatoon.

The Assemblée communautaire fransaskoise (ACF) announced Monday on their website that the chief electoral officer will send the matter to an independent commission, though the organization did not share exactly what prompted that decision.

Two men are running for the presidency of the ACF, which represents the interests of the province’s francophone community. According to preliminary results, Roger Gauthier is leading Denis Simard by only nine votes.

But Michel Dubé, the president of Prince Albert’s francophone association, said that there are more than enough advance ballots to make up that gap.

“There’s about 102 outstanding advance poll ballots that have to be opened or verified,” he told the Daily Herald.

“C’est kind of weird,” he added, switching between French and English.

According to Dubé, the chief electoral officer came across “discrepancies” in the advance ballots. Dubé said she had the authority to rule on the matter herself, but instead chose to defer to an independent commission of three.

Outgoing ACF president Françoise Sigur-Cloutier said she supports that decision.

“It’s always concerning to be confronted with a situation like this during an election, but that’s part of democracy,” she said in a website post. “We are confident that the chief electoral officer made the right decision to protect the integrity of the democratic process at the ACF.”

But the ACF’s press representative, Marc Masson, told the Daily Herald that the commission declined to hear the matter until a candidate or an elector formally raises a complaint. They sent the matter back to the chief electoral officer. Masson said she was busy supervising a count of the ballots on Wednesday afternoon.

“We don’t now whats going to happen here,” Masson said. “Maybe everything is kosher.”

 

Denis Simard speaks at the offices of the Société Canadienne-Française de Prince Albert during the election campaign. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

Gauthier and Simard both visited Prince Albert during the campaign to lead the ACF. Simard positioned himself as the candidate of a new generation, and called on the organization to make more effort to welcome people living on the periphery of the francophone community.

Gauthier said his priority is to ensure people can live their life in French in Saskatchewan. He emphasized his experience and ties to government. Both candidates called for a stronger role for the francophone school board and increased education funding.

For more on this story, see the Friday November 9 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald. 

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