A well-known Saint John lawyer and his firm will not be removed from a case alleging voting irregularities in the provincial election.
Kelly VanBuskirk represents Barry Ogden, the Progressive Conservative candidate who lost the Sept. 24 election to Liberal Barry Ogden by 10 votes. Ogden is challenging the results over alleged voting irregularities in the riding of Saint John Harbour.
On Wednesday, Elections New Brunswick lawyer Fred McElman called for VanBuskirk and his firm to be removed from the case. The matter involves a document VanBuskirk acquired and believes should be made available to the public. He has said it represents “extraordinary importance to the interest of the public.”
McElman argued the document was notes made for him and should be privileged. He accused VanBuskirk of egregious conduct for not immediately turning the material over and refusing to reveal when and how he received them.
On Friday, Justice Hugh McLellan dismissed the motion saying he could see no misconduct. VanBuskirk says he has never been asked to be removed from a case.
“Do I feel good about what Mr. McElman said about me? No,” said VanBuskirk. “Has he apologized for that? No. Do I have pride in our clients for taking this difficult road, yes.”
In delivering his decision and referencing the document, Justice Mclellan said, “I see this as a leak” and would later add, “This has echoes of American politics … dominating the news cycle and derailing discussions.”
WATCH: NB Election 2018: Saint John Harbour up for grabs
McLellan also drew a comparison to the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s leading to the resignation of then U.S. President Richard Nixon.
McLellan did not authorize release of the document but did ask Elections NB to prepare an affidavit addressing concerns expressed with it. VanBuskirk says there is a need for transparency.
“I would anticipate that the chief electoral officer will likely choose to make that document available so that it can also see the light of day,” he said
Saint John Harbour MLA Gerry Lowe is satisfied with the decisions but admits a cloud remains over him.
“If you read social media and that stuff they think that we did something, my team did something,” said Lowe. “We didn’t do nothing.”
There’s no word on when the voting irregularities hearing will return to court.
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