Skip to main content

Clarifications, regrets and apologies were flying nearly as fast as the anonymous tips and war-room mud-slinging that spawned them Thursday, as nearly every party was on the defensive over candidate controversies.

Winnipeg-area Liberal candidate Leslie Hughes was forced to explain why she wrote about conspiracy theories alleging the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and that Israeli businesses had advance warning to vacate the premises.

The remarks surfaced a day after she joined Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion in a major public outreach to Canada's Jewish community.

"I find any interpretation of my journalism as anti-Semitic personally offensive and I heartily apologize for that perception," she said in a statement released late Thursday.

The Conservatives called on Mr. Dion to dismiss Ms. Hughes as a Liberal candidate."Canadians rightfully relegate 9/11 conspiracy theorists to the extreme ideological fringes of our society," Toronto-area Conservative candidate Rochelle Wilner said in a statement. "They are also repelled by those who intentionally target the world's only Jewish nation as a target of suspicion and scorn. These kind of extremist ramblings have no place in any mainstream political party and if Mr. Dion were any kind of leader, he would fire Lesley Hughes without delay."

But in Vancouver earlier this week, it was Mr. Dion who accused NDP Leader Jack Layton of attracting Sept. 11 conspiracists.

"He has a coalition with the nudist's party. He has a coalition with the marijuana party and maybe now with the Sept. 11 conspiracists' party."

With the recent passing of the deadline to nominate candidates, scrutiny from the media and other parties has increased this week into candidate backgrounds and comments.

Among the developments: Calgary Centre Conservative MP Lee Richardson expressed his regret in a statement Thursday after he was quoted in a weekly newspaper linking refugees and crime. "Those are troubled people. They come here and, well, it's easy to take advantage of people that are trying to help," he was quoted as saying. "Talk to police. Look at who's committing these crimes. They're not the kid that grew up next door."

Mr. Dion said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has no choice but to dismiss Lee Richardson as a candidate.

"He should be fired right away. There is no hesitation possible," Mr. Dion said.

But a spokesman for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Mr. Richardson made comments that were "subject to misinterpretation." He said that Mr. Richardson has expressed his regret and the party now considers the matter closed.

The NDP candidate in Durham, Ont., Andrew McKeever, issued an apology Thursday over comments he posted on Facebook that threatened violence toward another individual with whom he disagreed over Canada's policy toward American war resisters .

Mr. Layton said because Mr. McKeever has issued an apology, and that was the end of the matter.

The NDP Leader had said the same thing earlier in the week about B.C. NDP candidate Julian West, who was accused of taking his clothes off in front of teenagers. However after more details surfaced about that incident, Mr. West resigned and Mr. Layton agreed that he had to go.

Meanwhile, the Green Party's candidate in Nunavut was answering questions Thursday about his past run-ins with the law, including convictions for spousal abuse and cocaine possession.

Peter Ittinuar is well-known in the Eastern Arctic as the first-ever Inuit MP and widely recognized as a driving force behind the creation of Nunavut as a stand-alone territory.

The guilty plea for cocaine posession came just one month after his historic election the House of Commons in May, 1979, as an NDP MP.

In 1984, after crossing the floor to become a Liberal MP, he was charged with breach of trust, theft and uttering a forged document in connection to allegations he used his Parliamentary budget to buy a boat motor. The case went to trial and a jury found him not guilty on all counts.

Lacking the support of local Liberals, he ran as an independent and lost in the 1984 election. He promptly ran into more problems. He pled guilty in 1986 to assaulting his wife Susan and a police officer in Rankin Inlet.

He won the NDP nomination for Eastern Arctic in 1993, but then-leader Audrey McLaughlin rejected him as a candidate.

More recently, his driver's licence was suspended for six months in 2003 after pleading guilty to careless driving. Three other charges related to impaired and dangerous driving were dropped.

"We certainly allow for redemption and recovery in somebody's life," said Jim MacDonald, the Green Party's campaign manager. "[Mr. Ittinuar]has continued to play an important part in the life of the North and we are certainly aware of those rather ancient charges that were filed against him and feel that enough time has passed by."

Jim Bell, the editor of the Iqaluit-based Nunatsiuq News, said Mr. Ittinuar is an intelligent and well-respected personality in the North and that his paper did not even mention the criminal convictions when it reported on the former MP's return to politics.

"He's a very bright guy who has a lot of interesting things to say," said Mr. Bell, who recently interviewed Mr. Ittinuar in Iqaluit. "For me, it's just making it a much more interesting campaign to have him in it."