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NDP MP apologizes for 'unequivocally false' robo-call accusations

NDP MP Pat Martin speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 7, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

An opposition MP who decried the role of "RackNine rascals" in the robo-call scandal has issued a public apology to the Alberta-based company on behalf of himself and his party.

RackNine Inc. demanded contrition from Pat Martin, who has been NDP point man on the issue, after remarks he made in February. Last month, the firm filed a lawsuit against the Winnipeg MP, alleging defamation.

The company was used to send out robo-calls in the last federal election, which are now being investigated by Elections Canada. RackNine has said any wrongdoing was the work of an unidentified political operative using the alias "Pierre Poutine," who created an account with the firm.

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"RackNine was merely an innocent intermediary, not a participant in electoral fraud," Mr. Martin said Monday at a brief Parliament Hill news conference where he did not take questions from reporters.

"I apologize for any damage my statements may have caused to [RackNine president Matt Meier]personally or to RackNine Inc.," he said.

On Feb. 23, Mr. Martin held a news conference where he blasted the company, comparing it to Groupaction Marketing Inc., whose president was convicted of fraud in relation to the Liberal sponsorship scandal in Quebec.

"I predict that RackNine will become the Conservative Party's Groupaction, and I predict that we will find that the sheer magnitude and audacity of the 'RackNine rascals' will be enough to make Richard Nixon blush," Mr. Martin said at the time.

On Monday, he specifically apologized for those remarks. As well, he said he had been authorized by the NDP for apologize on its behalf for similar remarks posted on the party website.

Mr. Martin said he now knows his statements insinuating RackNine participated "in an electoral fraud conspiracy were wholly and unequivocally false."

"In my rush to express my personal outrage and the outrage of the New Democratic Party caucus, I jumped to conclusions I now know were unsupported by fact," he said.

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Elections Canada has been on the hunt for the person behind the robo-calls, who used a disposable cellphone registered to an alias to setup an account with RackNine. As of last month, there were 800 specific complaints from 200 ridings in 10 provinces and one territory regarding alleged fraud in last year's federal election.

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