The Supreme Court of Canada will deliver a historic ruling Thursday morning which could, for the first time in the court's history, overturn an election result.
The court is being asked whether or not to uphold a decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice which found enough administrative "irregularities" during the last federal election in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre, and that the results from May 2, 2011, be set aside and a new election called for that riding.
In Etobicoke Centre, Liberal incumbent Boris Wrzesnewskyj lost to Conservative Ted Opitz by just 26 votes out of nearly 53,000 ballots cast.
Wrzesnewskyj appealed the results, saying there were dozens and dozens of "irregularities" including instances in which people may have voted twice and that there was insufficient proof that some voters were entitled to cast ballots in the riding.
The case before the court did not involve any accusations of fraud or illegal wrongdoing by any candidate or political party. Instead, the culprit, if there is one, was Elections Canada for failing to properly administer the election.
Judge Thomas Lederer of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that there were indeed enough administrative irregularities to throw out 79 ballots. He went on to conclude that, since Opitz won by just 26 votes, those 79 votes may have made a difference and he ordered a new election.
Opitz appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. Wrzesnewskyj cross-appealed to the Supreme Court arguing that Lederer should have found many more "irregularities" by more voters.
The Supreme Court will rule on those appeals on Thursday and in doing so will help define, for the first time, just what an "irregularity" is when it comes to elections.
The Supreme Court could also have to decide if Lederer's decision to order a new election is warranted, passing judgment on his test that one is warranted when the number of votes invalidated is greater than the margin of victory by the first-place finisher.
If a byelection is ordered and should the Tories lose the seat back to the Liberals, it will make no difference from a political point of view as the Conservatives will still have a majority in the House of Commons and the Liberals will still be the third party.