Stephen Harper’s Conservatives say the Liberals must release records of calls made on their behalf during the last election – but the Tories also say there is no reason for them to release their own documentation.
Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, stood repeatedly in House of Commons Monday to answer questions from opposition MPs who accuse the Conservatives of making calls to suppress votes for other parties. Over and over again, Mr. Del Mastro blamed the Liberals for the calls.
“The Leader of the Liberal Party knows full well, every household that they called, every originating phone number they called them from, and, in fact, when those calls were made,” he said in response to a question from Bob Rae. “When will he make those phone records public? Because 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.”
But when asked later by reporters if the Conservatives were prepared to release their own records, Mr. Del Mastro said: “No, because obviously our party is not behind the calls. We know that. We believe the Liberal Party has in fact made these allegations and they’ve made these allegations knowing full well that they’ve paid these companies millions of dollars to makes calls to hundreds of thousands of households across the country.”
Elections Canada says it has been contacted by 31,000 Canadians in relation to calls. Some of them directed people to the wrong polling station. And some Liberal candidates say their supporters were harassed over the telephone by people wrongly claiming to represent the Liberal Party.
A Conservative staffer who worked on his party’s campaign in the Ontario riding of Guelph resigned after the elections agency said is was investigating the calls that misdirected voters. And the Liberals say it doesn’t make sense that they would call voters, identify themselves and Liberals, and proceed to harass them.
Mr. Rae said after Question Period that the Liberals are trying to get permission from the companies they have hired to do their calling to release the records and are hoping to do so in the near future.
As to the statement the Conservatives will not release their own records because they are not the ones making the allegations, Mr. Rae said: “Of all the wacko things that Mr. Del Mastro has said in the past 10 days, that has to be the wackiest.”
To suggest the Conservatives don’t have to answer because they are not concerned about this problem demonstrates “they have lost completely their moral compass,” the Interim Liberal Leader said. “I mean, of course they have to release the documents. Everybody does.”
Pat Martin, the Winnipeg MP who has been the NDP’s main interrogator on the calls, said Mr. Del Mastro’s excuse for not releasing the phone records was a “ridiculous, spurious” argument.
“If they have nothing to hide as they keep saying,” Mr. Martin said, “why are they denying and obstructing any idea of a public inquiry? They are not behaving like people with nothing to hide. They are behaving like people who have everything to hide.”
After Mr. Del Mastro demanded several times during Question Period that the Liberals release their phone records, NDP MP Charlie Angus accused the Conservatives of bullying the third party in the House of Commons.
“Last week, the Minister of National Defence said it was a kid from Guelph [who was behind the calls] case closed. Now the Conservatives are saying they do not know what is going on in Guelph. Now we are hearing that the Conservative Party is trying to blame Elections Canada because obviously blaming the little Liberal Party is not following through either,” Mr. Angus said. “When will the government stop playing the blame game and come clean with the electoral fraud that happened under its watch and its party.”
Mr. Del Mastro clarified later in the day that the Conservatives will give Elections Canada any documents the agency requests.