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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 2, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 2, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Campaign-finance charges show Harper's 'lust to win at any cost,' Ignatieff says Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff accused Stephen Harper Wednesday of encouraging his Tories to break the law and defraud Canadian taxpayers. It didn't stop there.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe called on the Prime Minister to "finally admit" the Conservative Party violated Election Canada's rules. And then NDP Leader Jack Layton demanded Mr. Harper kick two senators - Doug Finley and Irving Gerstein, who were recently charged with "willfully" exceeding spending limits - out of his caucus.

"The Prime Minister's senators are facing jail time for a multi-million dollar actions against our democracy," Mr. Layton said. "Why are they still sitting in the Senate? That's my question."

It was a fiery Question Period, dominated by the so-called in-and-out financing scheme. And for added drama, it also included a live performance from Bev Oda - who, for the second time since controversy began swirling around her several weeks ago, answered a question on Haiti.

Nevertheless, the International Co-operation Minister continued to avoid questions on allegations she misled Parliament in her explanation of a doctored CIDA memo. Government House Leader John Baird answered for her on that file.

But the election-funding scandal has charged ahead the Kairos affair, which lost steam over the parliamentary break week. On Tuesday, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled against the Conservatives, overturning an earlier decision Mr. Harper's team had used as justification for the way in which it dealt with its 2006 campaign expenses.

The Prime Minister remained composed throughout it all during Wednesday's 45-minute session. He repeatedly told his opponents that was one was court's interpretation and that the Tories would seek leave to appeal the latest ruling.

In addition, he noted the Conservatives changed their practices in the 2008 election when Elections Canada changed its interpretation of the law.

"There are different rulings from the courts on this matter and that is why we will be launching an appeal," Mr. Harper said. "The most recent decision has been handed down but our party respects the interpretation of Elections Canada and we did change our practices in that regard three years ago."

Not satisfied with that answer, Mr. Ignatieff broadened his attacks to Mr. Harper's behaviour.

"This in-and-out scandal is more than forged invoices, it is more than police raids on Conservative Party headquarters, it is more than just the clique around the Prime Minister facing jail time," the Liberal Leader charged. "This is fundamentally a question about the public character of the Prime Minister, his lust to win at any cost and at any price."

Mr. Harper did not bite, arguing that his party's practices were nothing but above board.

Senators Finley and Gerstein, along with two other Conservative officials, could face a year in jail or a maximum penalty of $2,000 or both if they are convicted.

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