Elmwood-Transcona MP Lawrence Toet went to Ukraine last month to keep an eye on the country’s election process.
Based in Kyiv for the May 25 balloting, Toet observed the voting that resulted in candy magnate Petro Poroshenko being elected president.
In a phone interview from Ottawa on May 29, Toet explained he applied to join Canada’s Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe contingent for its parliamentary association’s presidential election observation mission in part because of the high number of people of Ukrainian descent in his riding. He said he was "honoured to be able to go," as a short-term election observer, only in the country for a few days around the election.
Long-term observers were in the country for months on either side of the balloting. Toet was one of 12 Canadian MPs to make the journey.
The election was necessary after former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February. Tensions have continued to be high after Russia annexed the country’s Crimean territory in March.
Toet said in his time visiting nine different polling stations around the capital, he noticed a well-organized election day.
As well, he credited the voters with staying in line for upwards of 90 minutes in scorching 29C heat with "very little mumbling and grumbling."
"People were so patient as they waited to cast their ballot," Toet noted, adding the 70 per cent voter turnout impressed him. "They realized this was a special day, something they fought for in the months before.
"People appreciated being there."
The delays were, in part, because voters were selecting more than just the next president — representatives for other levels of government were on the ballot as well.
During his time in the country, Toet also toured the Maidan, the central square that was the heart of the protests and was still riddled with bullet holes when he went. The sight provided added context to the election day, he noted.