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This article was published 5/2/2015 (900 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Pat Martin is fighting back against persistent rumours he spends most of his time on an island in British Columbia.
Martin has been the MP for Winnipeg Centre since 1997 and was acclaimed again as the NDP candidate for the riding Wednesday night. Earlier that day, he sought help from a Winnipeg defamation lawyer to issue a cease-and-desist order to anyone who continues to propagate what he says is a blatant lie.
"They're going to get their asses sued," said Martin. "I know a thing or two about libel."
Martin is referring to his own issue with a defamation suit, which he settled for an undisclosed sum with an Edmonton telemarketer he accused of being involved in the 2011 robocall affair, in which more than 7,000 voters were directed by phone to the wrong polling station in Guelph, Ont.
For years, Martin's political opponents have taunted him, both publicly and privately, that he really lives on Salt Spring Island, off the east coast of Vancouver Island in B.C. Martin said he isn't sure how the rumours got started, but they are prevalent and have lasted for years, in comments on news stories, emails to reporters and whispered conversation at political lunches and events. In the 2011 federal election, an anonymous flyer with the claim was delivered in Winnipeg Centre.
Martin said he was at a party recently where he was told the rumour is also being spread widely by Liberals in the riding, who are gearing up to fight him for the seat later this year, with Robert-Falcon Ouellette on the ballot.
"It's malicious," said Martin. "It's a lie."
Martin has a "half share" in a hobby farm on Salt Spring Island, a property he bought with his former wife, and where they spent summer holidays and Christmas vacations. He now spends several weeks there on vacation every summer. He currently lives in Osborne Village, in a townhouse condo he bought in 2012 after he sold the Wolseley house he lived in for 20 years.
The townhouse is not in his riding; it's across the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg South Centre. Martin says he couldn't find the right place to live in Wolseley three years ago. He is now on the board of the Old Grace Housing Co-Op and hopes to buy a unit in the development being built at the Old Grace Hospital in Wolseley.
As for accusations he uses his parliamentary travel budget to fly himself to his B.C. vacation property, Martin says it's not true.
"I have never used my travel privileges," he said. "I've had it with this."
Public travel-expense disclosures show Martin claimed $428.87 for a trip from Winnipeg to Vancouver in April for a conference. He says another one, not yet posted, will show a trip to Vancouver in October when he was invited by Employment Minister Jason Kenney to participate in the Dalai Lama's visit to Canada. The records for that period have not yet been posted online.
He spent several weeks in B.C. on vacation last summer, and there are no expense claims for travel outside of his constituency during that period.
Previous years' records are not detailed (the House of Commons just released its first detailed expense reports in December), but Martin is swearing an affidavit with his lawyer that he has never abused his travel privileges for his personal use. He said he will send the letter to the Liberals, Conservatives and anyone else who repeats the rumour, threatening to sue.
Ouellette, who is awaiting his own nomination but faces no current competition after Allan Wise dropped out earlier this week, said he has heard the accusation but believes it has no place in the election debate.
"I don't believe in getting down and dirty in politics," Ouellette told the Free Press. "I have heard the rumour. I have seen stuff online. But I don't care where Pat lives. Let's talk about ideas."