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Smith’s loyalties divided as assistant runs for Liberals

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Coun. Harvey Smith says he will be supporting the NDP in the Oct. 4 provincial election, but his loyalties are clearly divided.

His close friend and special assistant of more than 10 years, Joe Chan, is carrying the Liberal banner in Logan. The incumbent there is the NDP’s Flor Marcelino. The Tories have nominated Tyrone Krawetz.

Smith has already weighed into the campaign in defence of his assistant, whom he says has been the victim of a "smear campaign by one of the opponents of Joe Chan." He recently wrote a letter that’s been hand delivered throughout the constituency, which extends from the CPR Winnipeg yards in the north to Assiniboine Avenue to the south.

The letter says that Chan is being wrongfully accused of criminal behaviour and it advises anyone who receives a pamphlet spreading that ugly accusation to contact the Manitoba Commissioner of Elections. On the flipside of the letter is a photocopy of a Winnipeg Police Service criminal record check certificate showing Chan has no criminal record.

Reached on the phone today, Smith would not say who he suspects is behind the smear campaign, which he said was "being done verbally."

"Unless there’s concrete proof, there’s no point in saying anything further," he said.

He also credited his letter — a copy of which arrived at my door since I live in the constituency — with putting a stop to the whispers. "That’s all I wanted to do. It was very unfair."

"My letter was not an endorsement of Joe," Smith continued. "It was just to set the record straight that he was not involved in anything."

However, the Daniel McIntyre ward councillor was taken aback when I told him that the letter I got was tucked into a provincial Liberal pamphlet, touting Chan’s candidacy in the provincial election.

"I would have preferred it not be done that way. I would have preferred if it had been separate," Smith said, adding that he has "no strong feelings" about his letter being used as a campaign pamphlet insert.

Smith said that his friend Chan has considerable support in Logan and he predicted a competitive and spirited contest in the NDP stronghold. "It’s going to be a very rough election."

Smith is no longer an NDP member after challenging and defeating a party-endorsed candidate in last fall’s civic election. But he says he still supports the NDP.

He revealed, however, that he’s been courted by the Liberals lately. Interim federal Liberal Leader Bob Rae even paid Smith a visit at his city hall office, he said.

"But I’m not joining the Liberals. I’m not a Liberal."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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