Judge denies request for recount in N.L. riding where NDP leader lost by 53 votes

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A judge has denied the Newfoundland and Labrador NDP's request for a recount in a tight race in the province's pandemic-delayed election.

Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Donald Burrage said Wednesday in a written decision there was not enough evidence to warrant a recount in the St. John's East-Quidi Vidi district, where party leader Alison Coffin lost her seat to Liberal John Abbott by just 53 votes.

Under provincial elections law, recounts are automatically triggered if the margin of victory is 10 votes or fewer.

Following the release of Burrage's decision, NDP president and lawyer Kyle Rees said the ruling wasn't entirely unexpected.

"The judge is limited by the legislation," he told reporters. "And I think we've all come to realize that the Newfoundland and Labrador Elections Act is a severely outdated act in need of some serious overhaul."

Newfoundland and Labrador's election was called on Jan. 15 with voting set for Feb. 13, but a COVID-19 outbreak in St. John's forced officials to cancel in-person ballots and arrange a mail-in vote. The shift did not go smoothly. After several deadline extensions for requesting and mailing in a ballot, results were finally announced March 27.

The party has separately filed to have the results in Coffin's district overturned and a byelection called, citing 28 "irregularities" with the voting and ballot-counting process. The party had initially asked for the results of the entire election to be overthrown but has since walked back its stance in the application.

Former Progressive Conservative candidates Jim Lester and Sheila Fitzgerald have also applied to have the results of their respective districts tossed out.

Burrage has said many of the concerns raised by the NDP in the recount application would be better addressed by their bid to have the district results thrown out. On Wednesday, Coffin said that strengthened her confidence in the merit of their decision to challenge the results.

"That certainly buoys our argument ... and certainly suggests that perhaps we do have a very good case there," she told reporters.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press