A Conservative cloak-and-dagger caper aimed at capturing a Liberal candidate in a verbal gaffe has taken another twist, with the governing party producing expert audio analysis to back up its version of who said what.
The Conservative party asked Edward J. Primeau, an audio forensic expert with 30 years experience, to analyze audio of a secretly recorded conversation involving Marlo Raynolds, the Liberal candidate in Banff-Airdrie.
In a report to the party, given to The Canadian Press, Primeau concludes that it was indeed Raynolds who said the Tory income-splitting plan would give couples with children money that they'd waste on television sets and cars, rather than caring for their kids.
Raynolds was flabbergasted Wednesday to learn the Conservatives are refusing to back down, even though another individual involved in the conversation, Tam McTavish, has said he's the one who uttered the offending remarks. Sun Media has retracted the story on which the Tories based their attacks.
"It's quite astounding that the Conservatives continue to pursue this," Raynolds said in an interview.
He said he'll continue demanding an apology "until I clear my name because I know what I said and Tam knows what he said."
For his part, McTavish said he'd be happy to provide the expert with another audio sample of his voice, repeating word for word what is said in the disputed audio.
"But this is getting silly. It really is as simple as everyone who knows me recognizes it (as me)," he said.
The audio – surreptitiously recorded by a woman identified as a Conservative operative who has conducted previous sting operations against Liberals – was given to Sun Media personality Brian Lilley. He attributed the remarks to Raynolds in a column and on his television show last week.
Sun Media issued a retraction Tuesday.
Four Conservative MPs, including Employment Minister Jason Kenney, have used the Sun story to attack Raynolds – and, by extension, all Liberals – for thinking they know better than parents how they should spend their money and care for their kids.
Since the retraction, they've simply doubled down on the matter.
"I think it's actually quite a remarkable situation when Sun News is demonstrating a higher level of ethical standards than the Conservative cabinet," Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
In the House of Commons, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux asked Kenney to show the same "standards of decency" as Sun Media and apologize. Kenney was having none of it.
"That Liberal candidate (Raynolds), that Liberal member (Lamoureux) and every Liberal member opposes tax fairness for families," Kenney retorted, asserting that the Liberals are opposed to all the family-focused tax cuts the Conservative government has implemented.
"They want to take these benefits away from families, and they do so because they believe that Liberal politicians known better how to spend money than do moms and dads. We profoundly disagree on this side."
The Conservative MP for Banff-Airdrie, Blake Richards, also refused to apologize.
"Well, certainly the people who were at the meeting maintain that the statements were made by the Liberal candidate. So, you know, I would encourage people to just check the record for themselves," he said outside a Conservative caucus meeting.
The audio, recorded during a Nov. 13 public meeting in Canmore, Alta., is a little over two minutes long and of varying quality. It is clear that at least two men and one woman are involved in the conversation about income splitting.
The relevant remarks are toward the end, by which time the audio is muffled and the voices partially obscured by background noise. Lilley has told Raynolds the poor quality of the audio was due to the female Conservative supporter "zipping up her coat when she thought you were getting nervous that she might be recording you."
In his report to the Conservative party, Primeau says he's "100 per cent sure that the male at the beginning of the digital audio recording and the male speaking at the one minute and fifty-eight second mark, is the same person."
Comparing that male's voice to a YouTube video of Raynolds, Primeau says he's "75-80 per cent sure" that speaker is Raynolds.
Raynolds confirmed he's the one speaking at the start of the audio recording, expressing his opposition to income splitting. But he and McTavish both say it's McTavish towards the end.
The speaker starts talking about "Planet Money," a National Public Radio podcast, just before the recording ends. McTavish said that's one of his favourite shows.
Raynolds said he'd never heard of the program until that moment.