Nikki Clarke wanted to run against incumbent Mississauga councillor Carolyn Parrish in the upcoming election. But instead of letting voters in Ward 5 declare a winner, Clarke says Parrish effectively eliminated the competition by ordering the city clerk to review her nomination papers.
The subsequent review uncovered discrepancies that led to her disqualification.
“It is clear that Carolyn Parrish is interested in my nominators because she wants to scrutinize every movement of my campaign,” Clarke told CityNews. “I do believe she thinks that I’m a strong contender, that I’m a challenger. And I believe this is a tactic to deflect and disorganize the campaign that I’m planning to run.”
Clarke, who ran in the last provincial election under the NDP banner and lost by only 2300 votes, registered to run as a candidate in the Mississauga municipal election last Friday.
In order to run as a candidate for city council, residents must present a list of 25 nominators – complete with their contact information – before July 27 at 2 p.m.
Clarke handed in her papers just in time, but it’s what happened in the moments before that led Parrish to ask the clerk to take a closer look at her nominators.
Parrish said one of her staff members waiting outside the City clerk’s office on Friday told her Clarke had been short two signatures half an hour before the deadline and was asking staff members in the hallway to nominate her.
“My executive assistant Danny Singh was part of a group of staff in the hallway outside of the Clerk’s office Friday afternoon, waiting for last minute candidates for various council positions,” Parrish explains in an emailed statement to CityNews. “Ms. Clarke came in, I believe, mid-morning, but left without filing papers. She returned around 1:30 p.m. and her papers were still not accepted. She went up to Danny in the hall and told him she was short two signatures to run in Ward 5. Of course, Danny refused. She then approached another staff person who also refused. It is City policy that staff can’t sign political nomination papers.”
Clarke admits she did ask several people in the city hall lobby to sign her papers, although she didn’t know if any of them were political staff.
According to Parrish, Clarke returned one minute before the deadline and turned in her papers.
“Given the last minute disarray and the somewhat odd filing in of two last nominators somewhere in City Hall, I filed a request to have her nominators reviewed,” Parrish said.
In total, eight discrepancies were found in Clarke’s nomination and the clerk’s office gave her until 4 p.m. on Monday to correct them.
“There were spelling errors, through no fault of mine, and four incorrect postal codes,” she explained.
But Clarke says simply fixing the errors wasn’t enough to rectify the problem.
“What was required of me was to go and locate the eight endorsers and get them to fill out new documents with fresh signatures within three hours and ten minutes,” Clarke explained.
She said it was an impossible task to complete and she wasn’t allowed to gather new nominees. “I believe that the clerk coming in and being a de facto scrutiniser on behalf of the incumbent did not afford me the amount of time to provide all the information they require,” Clarke says.
According to the Municipal Elections Act: “The clerk has until 4 p.m. on Monday, July 30, 2018 to certify or reject your nomination. The clerk must be satisfied that you are eligible to run in order to certify your nomination. If your nomination is not certified, your name will not appear on the ballot…The clerk’s decision is final.”
Parrish says Clarke has no one to blame but herself for not being more prepared.
“Most of us submit 35 (nominators) in case, inadvertently, there are errors,” she said. “The decision was in the City clerk’s hands.”
But Clarke feels otherwise. She feels Parrish targeted her and a social media exchange showed Parrish berating one of Clarke’s nominators while seemingly looking for discrepancies in her papers.
All information submitted in nomination forms is open for review by any member of the public – including a city councillor. And Parrish apparently set out to review them herself.
In a social media exchange with one of the nominators, Parrish asks for clarification of Peel District School Board Trustee candidate Catherine Spolet’s maiden name, and then writes, “I am disappointed you would support an opponent of mine.”
The screenshots of the messages were posted on Andray Domise’s Twitter page and have been verified by Catherine Spolet.
“I thought it was very inappropriate for her, if the inquiry was a fact-finding mission to condemn my nomination of a candidate,” Catherine Spolet told CityNews. “Nominating a candidate doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to vote for the candidate. It just means you’re acknowledging that the candidate is eligible to run and you are able to vote for them.”
Mitchell Kosny, Associate Director of Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, said checking the nominations should be a function of the City clerk’s office, not anyone walking off the streets or another candidate.
“I think it opens up a real ugly slippery slope and I don’t think we have a place for that in the rules and regulations we have,” Kosny said.
But in the end, Kosny believes the rules must be adhered to.
“Deadlines are deadlines,” he said. “And I think we all can afford some flexibility on some things, but you know what, this is a case of one size fits all,” he explained. “It’s a rule. It’s a law. And I think the bare minimum should be, for heaven’s sake, get your nomination papers in accurately, on time and you should expect nothing less.”
Clarke says she aims to get her name back on the list of candidates. Although, according to city staff, there are no mechanisms for appeal within the City.