FEDERAL election rules may not help punish those responsible for a batch of fake, profanity-laced flyers meant to smear NDP MP Pat Martin.

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FEDERAL election rules may not help punish those responsible for a batch of fake, profanity-laced flyers meant to smear NDP MP Pat Martin.

The flyers appeared Friday in at least two restaurants in his Winnipeg Centre riding. Martin's campaign pledged Sunday to file a complaint with the elections commissioner. The commissioner's office is not allowed to confirm it's investigating the complaint or discuss the merits of any complaints. It's unclear whether election laws can punish those who distribute fake campaign flyers.

The pamphlet, under the letterhead of NDP incumbent candidate Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre), was found in at least two locations.

The pamphlet, under the letterhead of NDP incumbent candidate Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre), was found in at least two locations.

"Generally speaking, the act does not control the content of election advertising," said office spokeswoman Michelle Laliberté.

Instead, election rules are more concerned with ensuring voters know who is responsible for advertising and how much was spent, even by third parties such as non-profit organizations, unions or individuals. Third parties that spend more than $500 on advertising must register with Elections Canada. It's unlikely the fake Martin flyers cost more than $500 to create.

In addition, third-party advertising must come with a tag line, an authorization statement saying who has produced the flyer, television commercial or other kinds of advertisement. Laliberté would not say whether that is a serious enough violation to merit a full investigation.

One profanity-laced flyer, printed in multi-coloured ink with bold-faced four-letter words, uses Martin's official letterhead and plays on some of Martin's past outbursts, including a heated exchange last month between Martin and Green party candidate Don Woodstock.

Martin was criticized for muttering "You son of a bitch," after Woodstock accused him of not living in the core-area riding and ignoring mentally ill constituents. The other flyer includes bogus campaign promises, such as nationalizing banks, cutting diplomatic ties with the "Zionist warmonger state of Israel" and spending $1 billion to foment revolutions with "our socialist freedom-fighting brothers and sisters in developing countries."

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca