‘Wacko’ stance on robocalls lashed

Tories won't make records public but demand Liberals release theirs

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OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives are refusing to publicly release phone records related to their telemarketing in the last election, despite insisting that the Liberal party should take this action with its own records.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/03/2012 (3928 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are refusing to publicly release phone records related to their telemarketing in the last election, despite insisting that the Liberal party should take this action with its own records.

Opposition parties quickly reacted Monday by accusing the Tories of adopting a bizarre double standard as the government tries to quell the growing robocall controversy over whether someone systematically harassed and misled voters into going to the wrong polling stations in last year’s election.

The development occurred as Harper’s parliamentary secretary, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, warded off questions in the House of Commons by flatly alleging that it was the Liberals — not the Tories — who were responsible for “each and every one” of the calls that have now spawned thousands of complaints from voters and an investigation by Elections Canada.

Since the robocall controversy broke nearly two weeks ago through a story by Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen, opposition parties have been grilling the governing Conservatives in the Commons over whether the Conservatives had any role in the affair.

Harper, his campaign chair and Del Mastro have all said the Tory campaign was not involved.

On Monday, Del Mastro took his counter-attack one step farther by alleging in the House that it was the Liberals who were to blame for misleading their own supporters through campaign phone calls.

“It is reprehensible to make baseless, unsubstantiated smears in this House,” Del Mastro said of the opposition parties’ questions.

Rather, he said the Liberals spent thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars on their own phone calls and he challenged interim Liberal leader Bob Rae to release records of those calls.

“I believe when those phone records are made public, the Liberal party will have fingered itself for each and every one of these calls that they allege had taken place,” said Del Mastro.

Afterwards, outside the House, Del Mastro told reporters that he doesn’t believe the Liberals “intentionally” misled their own voters, but that it is “entirely plausible and probable” that it was the Liberal campaigns themselves that were behind the calls.

He said the Tory campaign made phone calls to Conservative supporters, encouraging them to vote. Asked if the Tories will release the records, Del Mastro was categorical.

“No, because our party is not behind these calls.”

Rae revealed that, in fact, the Liberals hope to release their records soon and that the Tories should take the same steps.

“Of all the wacko things that Mr. Del Mastro has said in the past 10 days, that has got to be the wackiest,” he said of the Tory MP’s refusal to disclose Conservative phone records.

“I mean to suggest that, you know, they don’t have to answer because they’re not concerned about this problem is just — it shows you that they’ve lost completely their moral compass. I mean, of course they have to release the documents. Everybody does.”

New Democrat MP Pat Martin scoffed at Del Mastro’s claim the Tories should not be expected to release documents.

“That’s a ridiculous, spurious argument.

“I mean, if they have nothing to hide, as they keep saying, why are they denying and obstructing and turning down any idea of a public inquiry?”

Last Friday, Elections Canada said it had received 31,000 “contacts” from people in relation to the matter.

— Postmedia News

Conservative

expenses probed

OTTAWA — Elections Canada investigators probing the robocalls scandal are interviewing workers on the Conservative campaign in Guelph, Ont., and trying to determine why payments made to an Edmonton voice-broadcasting company were not declared in financial reports filed with the agency.

Andrew Prescott, deputy campaign manager for Conservative candidate Marty Burke, said he is co-operating with the investigation and handing over bills he received from RackNine Inc. for a series of robocalls promoting Burke events during the election.

Prescott maintains he had no role in fake Elections Canada calls that directed voters to the wrong polling stations.

Prescott said Monday he used a RackNine account he held through his own company, Prescoan, to place the automated calls announcing Burke campaign events.

He said he had given his campaign manager invoices for the calls but could not explain why the expenses did not appear on the financial report sent to Elections Canada.

It is unclear why the Burke campaign did not report the costs Prescott said he submitted. Failing to declare campaign expenses is a breach of the Elections Act.

— Postmedia News

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