Canada’s elections watchdog cited and fined a former adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for violating an election law in 2021. 

On Monday, Ayesha Chughta was accused of voting in a riding that she was not eligible to vote in, according to a notice posted on the Commissioner of Canada Elections’ website. 

Chughtai attempted to vote in the Calgary Skyview riding on Sept. 2, 2021 despite the fact that she’d already been told she was not eligible to do so. Chughtai claimed that there was a rule in the Canada Elections Act which permitted people to vote in their previous riding as long as they had lived there within six months before moving, however the Canada Elections Act does not permit this. 

The former adviser was denied eligibility but then decided to vote in an advance poll in the Calgary Skyview riding on Sept. 13, according to the commissioner’s office. 

George Chahal was the Liberal candidate for Calgary Skyview during the 2021 election that Chughtai illegally voted for and he won the seat. Chahal himself has also been charged by the commissioner’s office for removing his opponent’s flyers from doorsteps in that area. He was charged $500 for his conduct.

“The failure of those involved in the political process to comply with the rules adopted by Parliament to ensure a fair election can contribute to a loss of public confidence in the integrity of members of the political class, which may, as a result, increase voter apathy,” said the Commissioner of Canada Elections in the notice.

The notice of violation did not specify how Chughtai managed to still vote in the advanced poll after being denied previously but it did confirm that she has received a fine of $1,500 dollars for her conduct. That is $500 dollars higher than what the baseline violation fine normally would be but the Commissioner of Canada Elections said the additional $500 was necessary in Chughtai’s case, citing two factors.

The first being that she’d already been told she couldn’t vote in Calgary Skyview and the second was her motive for wanting to vote in that riding. 

Chughtai “indicated to returning office staff that she intended to vote in the electoral district of Calgary Skyview in order to support the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) candidate running in that electoral district.”

“Information on file shows that Ayesha Chughtai was working for the LPC during the 44th general election — including as a volunteer for the LPC candidate for whom she indicated she wished to vote — and that she was then also an employee of the Prime Minister’s Office,” said commissioner’s office.

In 2017, Chughtai started working on Parliament Hill and eventually began working as a PMO advisor for the Prairies and the North in March of 2021. She announced that she would be leaving the position in June 2022 to take a job with Deloitte, a consulting firm. 

“I continue to this day to own my home in the riding and I incorrectly believed that I was eligible to continue to vote in that riding,” wrote Chughtai in a Facebook post. “I regret the circumstances and have cooperated with Elections Canada throughout the process. I have not worked for the government for more than a year.”

Michael Barrett, the Conservative ethics critic spoke with the Toronto Star following the incident, saying that this sort of behaviour is indicative of Prime Minister Trudeau’s leadership style. 

“It’s no surprise members of the prime minister’s staff followed his disregard for democratic institutions and broke election law by knowingly casting an illegal vote for a Liberal candidate,” said Barrett.