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Investigate Liberal worker's cigarette bribe comment, Ontario Tories demand

SUZANNE PLUNKETT/Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

Ontario's Conservatives are demanding an investigation into allegations that a Liberal worker made comments about bribing voters with cigarettes.

A letter was sent from the Conservatives' lawyer on Friday calling for a probe by Elections Ontario based on a front-page Toronto Sun story from the same day.

It was reported that Nikki Holland, the operational vice-president of organization for the Liberal campaign, made the comments at a campaign session last July. The allegations surfaced with the parties less than a week away from election day.

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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, 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."

Ms. Holland is a volunteer, according to the Liberals.

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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