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Conservative officials and friends of Maxime Bernier launched a counterattack yesterday against Julie Couillard's allegations that the former minister was a sloppy and scornful politician.

Mr. Bernier took to the airwaves in his riding of Beauce, where he was elected with a huge majority in 2006 and is looking for a second mandate on Oct. 14 despite his public falling-out with his ex-girlfriend.

The Conservative MP and candidate accused Ms. Couillard of trying to obtain free publicity for her coming book on their romantic relationship.

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"It's a marketing strategy," Mr. Bernier said on CHEQ-FM. "We are dealing with a woman who is frustrated, looking for glory and visibility. It was a mistake for me to go out with her, but that is in the past."

Mr. Bernier added there is an RCMP investigation involving Ms. Couillard, and pointed out that she once raised allegations that someone had placed microphones under her bed. Still, he refused to rebut her allegations one by one.

"I will not respond to those bits of gossip and craziness," he said.

Conservative officials had been bracing for the book's release. But they seemed relieved that the first excerpts, which came out yesterday, contained no major new bombshell beyond further details on the time Mr. Bernier lost track of confidential briefing documents at her home.

"It's a case of he said, she said," a Conservative source said.

A friend of Mr. Bernier also sought to contradict Ms. Couillard's repeated assertion that she had a one-year contract to appear in public with Mr. Bernier.

The friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the only truth to the matter is that Mr. Bernier officially listed Ms. Couillard as his spouse on a form stating she was eligible to travel on his MP's budget. The friend said that MPs cannot change their so-called "designated traveller" more than once a year, and that Mr. Bernier explained this to Ms. Couillard.

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Apparently, that conversation left Ms. Couillard with the impression she had a contract with Mr. Bernier.

Ms. Couillard lived with two men with ties to biker gangs in the 1990s, one of whom was assassinated. She dated Mr. Bernier from mid-2007 to the end of the year, and they continued seeing one another in ensuing months.

Mr. Bernier resigned as foreign affairs minister when Ms. Couillard revealed in a television interview that he had left confidential papers at her home. He later told investigators from Foreign Affairs that he had no idea how the briefing documents came out of his briefcase.

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