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Subject: Liberals go with Innes:Re-vote margin of victory more than 200 votes

Joe Hueglin
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Date Posted: 12:22:53 02/04/03 Tue
Author Host/IP: d150-99-156.home.cgocable.net/

Liberals go with Innes
Re-vote margin of victory more than 200 votes
By Brian Shypula

Brian Innes handily won the hotly contested Perth-Middlesex federal Liberal nomination re-vote Saturday by more than 200 votes over Rev. Rick Horst, the original winner.

The Avonton resident and longtime Grit was reduced to tears as he hugged wife Marilyn on stage after being introduced as the winner to applause and chants of “Brian” from supporters in the gymnasium at Stratford Northwestern Secondary School.

For the second time in six weeks, the turnout by party members was huge. There were 1,630 ballots cast Saturday, only 36 fewer than at the original nomination on Dec. 12 and several hundred more than the candidates and party officials had expected for the re-vote. It took five tallies to decide the winner. Twenty-four ballots were ruled invalid.

Party officials wouldn’t release the vote totals for the candidates. Sources later confirmed the margin of victory was slightly more than 200 votes.

“That’s a pretty substantial victory,” Mr. Innes said. “We worked very, very hard.”

It was a dramatic reversal of the Dec. 12 outcome, when Mr. Horst won by seven votes over Mr. Innes.

The runner-up subsequently sought a recount citing irregularities in the voting procedure. A special Liberal panel eventually declared the integrity of the original vote could not be guaranteed after flawed instructions were given at the Dec. 12 nomination, and ordered the revote.

But in the interim, local Liberals were thrown in turmoil when The Beacon Herald revealed that Mr. Horst was a card-carrying member of the New Democratic Party. Some felt the nomination had been hijacked by an outsider and later a series of leaks to the media dogged the riding executive’s efforts to keep a lid on the controversy.

Appeals for unity within party ranks came from other challengers for the nomination Saturday.

“We need to all get together and win this byelection,” said candidate Gerry Teahen. “Because regardless of what camp we were in, we’re all Liberals and the purpose of this whole exercise is to keep Perth-Middlesex Liberal.”

“For the good of the party and the good of this riding and this country, let’s stand together after tonight and get a Liberal back to Ottawa,” echoed candidate Dan Mathieson.

“We have a big job on hand. We have a big task on hand,” said candidate Martin Ritsma.

Earlier, candidate Adam Mair quickly moved to make the result of the nomination vote unanimous in a show of solidarity.

Mr. Horst was greeted with prolonged applause and cheers at the podium, requiring him to hesitate several times before he was finally able to speak.

Losing the re-vote after having won the original nomination was a disappointment that showed clearly despite the brave face put on by Mr. Horst, the minister at St. Marys Presbyterian Church in St. Marys.

“That’s the political process. Anything can happen. We gave it our best shot. Tomorrow’s a new day,” he told reporters afterward.

He declined to say if he would accept an invitation from Mr. Innes to participate in the byelection campaign.

“I’m going to go home and think about what’s happening next. I’m going to go home and thank our volunteers,” he said.

Mr. Innes, the last to speak, had individual words of kindness for each of the challengers and thanked everyone who participated.

“The Liberal party is very much alive and well in this riding,” he said.

Speaking to reporters afterward, he pledged to begin campaigning right away and promised he would be knocking on doors as soon as he had brochures printed.

“I think what happened today will give our campaign and our party a real boost,” he said.

It was a hectic day for all six candidates as they greeted voters and worked the long lineup for support. More than 500 association members cast ballots in the first 30 minutes after the polls opened shortly after 1 p.m. At times the lineup stretched out the front doors and on to the driveway of the Forman Avenue school.

A tense two-plus hours followed the close of voting at 4 p.m. until the result was announced. The long time spent counting the votes had people guessing it was a much closer race than the final result indicated.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien has until April 11 to call the byelection. The riding has been without an MP since October when John Richardson stepped down for health reasons.

The other candidates are Sam Dinicol for the NDP, Marian Meinen for the Canadian Alliance and Gary Schellenberger for the Progressive Conservatives.

To respond to this story contact our City Editor, Larke Turnbull or our Editorial Page Editor, Diana Loveless .

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Re: Liberals go with Innes:Re-vote margin of victory more than 200 votesMike Redmond13:23:59 02/04/03 Tue

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