The Ontario Provincial Police have given a Commons committee documents that Liberals hope will show extravagant spending during the G8 and G20 summits by former chief Julian Fantino, who is running for the Conservatives in a bitterly fought federal by-election race.
The provincial force initially said that it would not release the spending documents until Dec. 1, two days after the vote in Vaughan, north of Toronto, where Mr. Fantino is trying to defeat Liberal candidate Tony Genco in a long-time Liberal riding.
But the Liberals, with the help of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois, got the Commons operations and estimates committee to order that the documents be produced by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, and the OPP met the deadline.
Geoff Regan, a Liberal MP who sits on the committee, said late Wednesday afternoon that he had not seen the documents because they were still being translated, but he had been told that the force provided only a portion of what was requested.
"I understand that they failed to completely comply and that raises the question: What aren't we seeing?" said Mr. Regan, who also accused the Conservative government of deliberately withholding information about OPP spending because Mr. Fantino is a Tory candidate.
But Stephen Lecce, a communications strategist for Prime Minister Stephen Harper who took a leave of absence to work on the Fantino campaign, said an agreement signed with provincial Liberal Rick Bartolucci specified that documents related to the OPP's summit costs were to be submitted by Dec. 1.
"I think it's clear that the Ignatieff Liberals and their coalition partners are intent on continuing to play political games with this subject," he said. "I just wish that they would actually show their support for the men and women in uniform who performed exceptionally during the summit rather than heaping scorn on them."
A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews expressed irritation at the Liberals' attempts to get the information.
"Over the past week, the Ignatieff Liberals have taken time away from government business at Committee and the House of Commons to repeatedly ask for the tabling of these costs.," said Christopher McCluskery. "These are costs that Public Safety officials and the Minister of Public Safety have already confirmed would be available by the approved deadline of Dec. 1."
The riding, where Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua resigned earlier this year to make a successful bid for mayor of Vaughan, is one of three vacancies in the House of Commons that will be filled next Monday. The other two are in Dauphin-Swan River in Manitoba, where the Conservatives are the front-runners, and Winnipeg North, where the New Democrats have the edge.
Perhaps in an effort to dampen expectations, Liberal insiders told reporters on Wednesday that Mr. Fantino is poised to win Vaughan in a landslide. The Conservatives would concede only that he appears to be ahead.
But the Liberals do not want to lose the seat to the Conservatives or to be shut out in the by-elections that could provide much needed momentum before an anticipated spring general election. In a bid to keep their chances alive, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Mr. Genco held what they called a 'virtual town hall" on Wednesday night.
The Conservatives have been keeping Mr. Fantino away from public venues to avoid potential missteps that could chip away at his lead. On Tuesday, he missed a forum organized by a local newspaper, saying it conflicted with a memorial mass for his father-in-law.
The Liberals in Mr. Ignatieff's office were quick to label Mr. Fantino's absence "a stinging rebuke to all the people of Vaughan who showed up and for him to think he's above basic democracy and doesn't need to answer to the citizens he's running to represent."
With a report by Jane Taber