The political row embroiling the British Columbia village of Pouce Coupe had been baking for months. At the center: six cinnamon rolls that a candidate alleged had been used to butter up voters during the tight mayoral race in October.
The 800-resident village has been “the subject of several political firestorms well out of proportion to its size,” British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ward K. Branch lamented in his ruling last week — one that tossed out former mayor Lorraine Michetti’s request to overturn the election results.
A month after losing to Danielle Veach by a five-vote margin, 84-79, Michetti filed a petition seeking to unseat her opponent and disqualify her from holding office for at least seven years. According to the court document, tensions in Pouce Coupe had boiled over after Veach hosted a “Tea and Talk” campaign event at a local pizza place.
The Sept. 18 affair was billed by Veach as a way for voters to “enjoy tea or coffee with a delicious cinnamon bun and ask questions, get to know me, and my plans for working towards bettering our community.” According to court documents, Veach spent 44.50 Canadian dollars on the drinks and pastries and then gave the restaurant a tip of 50 Canadian dollars, a total amount equal to about $70.
Those refreshments, however, would later become the basis for Michetti’s petition, in which she claimed the food giveaway amounted to buying votes and had “resulted in [Veach] winning the election.”
Branch, the judge, was then left to decide whether the snacks ran afoul of electoral rules that specifically prohibit “offer[ing] incentives to an elector to vote or not to vote, or to vote for a particular candidate.”…
During a four-day hearing, witnesses, some of whom had attended the “Tea and Talk,” told the court that cinnamon rolls and coffee weren’t enough to influence their votes. One of them, Lisa Saffran, said she found the suggestion “totally ridiculous.” By the end, Branch wound up siding with their assessment, ruling that “the simple drinks and buns provided here did not cross [the] line.”
“I find that Mrs. Veach’s purpose for supplying the very limited refreshments here was simple human decency and politeness, particularly given that it was an early weekend morning gathering,” Branch concluded.