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(SUZANNE PLUNKETT/Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)
(SUZANNE PLUNKETT/Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters)

Liberal worker resigns over comments about bribing voters with cigarettes Add to ...

The Ontario Liberal worker who made remarks about giving people cigarettes for voting resigned on Friday, less than a day after her comments surfaced.

On Friday evening, Liberal president Yasir Naqvi issued a statement stating he’d accepted Nikki Holland's resignation of her volunteer roles with the party and York Centre campaign.

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“She informed me that she did not want to be a distraction to the positive campaign we are running,” he said. “Ms. Holland has apologized for the inappropriate jokes she made this past summer. With her resignation, I now consider the matter closed.”

But earlier in the day, a letter was sent from the Conservatives’ lawyer calling for Elections Ontario to probe the comments made by Ms. Holland, as originally reported by the Toronto Sun.

It was reported that Ms. Holland, the operational vice president of organization for the Liberal campaign, made the comments at a campaign session last July. The allegations surfaced while the Liberals and Conservatives are less than a week away from Election Day.

According to the Sun, Ms. Holland could be heard in an audio recording saying: “I have done crazy things, like … and if anyone repeats this I’ll deny it (until) the cows come home … I have gone to a shelter in the riding of St. Paul’s with a carton of smokes and said, ‘I’ll give you them after you vote.’

Ms. Holland said her statement was a joke mocking what other parties have done. But the Conservatives say her comments may have been truthful and in violation of the bribery section of the Election Act.

On the hustings, in Brampton on Friday morning before the resignation, Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty said Ms. Holland’s actions were a “completely unacceptable comment on the part of my worker.”

“It was a bad joke, in poor taste, she apologized for it,” he said. “You know where I stand on these issues, we’ve happened to have some of the toughest anti-smoking regulations in North America.”

Conservative leader Tim Hudak said in a statement, before Ms. Holland’s resignation, that he would have fired her.

Election laws are meant to ensure MPPs and the Premier are elected without interference, the letter from Conservative lawyer Gina Saccoccio Brannan said.

“Ms. Holland’s stories about personally violating these laws and her apparent advice to others to similarly violate these laws, calls into question the integrity of the political process generally and specifically next Thursday’s Ontario general election,” the letter concludes.

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