OTTAWA — Two federal polling stations in Labrador were shuttered for an hour on election day in 2011 because an Elections Canada employee drove away with ballot boxes.
Elections Canada confirmed the "human error" on Thursday after former Liberal MP Todd Russell raised concerns about "missing" ballot boxes during in an interview with QMI Agency.
A spokesman for Elections Canada said an employee in Labrador thought empty ballot boxes were for "training" and drove away with materials, before voting began, for about 20 minutes. The employee was then called back to the polling stations, located at a legion and a hall, by another officer before the stations could be opened.
Elections Canada says these types of "hiccups" happen on election day and claim the mistake was caught quickly. Errors are documented in incident reports compiled by the agency.
Russell lost his seat to Conservative Peter Penashue, now intergovernmental affairs minister, who is currently under fire by opposition MPs for election overspending. There was only a 79 vote window between the two candidates.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae and other opposition politicians slammed the minister in the Commons Wednesday and Thursday after a media report raised new questions about the Labrador MP's expenses in the last election.
Elections Canada documents cited in a CBC report suggest a sweetheart deal Penashue's team arranged with a Labrador airline during the 2011 election campaign. The quoted documents suggest Provincial Airlines wrote off more than $7,000 in flights.
Penashue's former campaign manager, Reginald Bower, issued an apology this summer for oversights in Elections Canada paperwork after it was learned the campaign team spent nearly $4,000 more than the legal spending limit.
Bower has since received an appointment to oversee the federal-provincial board regulating Newfoundland's offshore oil sector but Penashue has pinned the overspending oversights on him.
"We are continuing to work with Elections Canada to make any amendments that might be needed. We have appointed a new official agent who is working with Elections Canada to help correct any mistakes that were made by the previous official agent," Penashue said in a statement.