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Tempers flare over Tory calls in disputed Toronto riding

Liberal Leader Bob Rae speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on June 4, 2012.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Liberals say the Conservatives demonstrated a deep lack of respect for the judicial process by placing calls last weekend to voters in a Toronto riding where the results of last year's election are now before the Supreme Court.

The calls told constituents in Etobicoke Centre, which Conservative candidate Ted Opitz won by 26 votes in May of 2011, that the Liberals were attempting to "overthrow" the election results and that their votes were being "taken away" by a court ruling.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae told reporters Monday it is "unbelievable" that the Conservatives would try to accuse his party of stealing the election.

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"What happened was that a judge made a decision saying there were irregularities in the voting, which meant that we couldn't find out what the real result of the election was and that the only way to resolve the situation is to have a new election," Mr. Rae said.

"Why would you launch that kind of attack in the middle of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada?" he asked. "Why wouldn't you let the Supreme Court hear the case instead of dealing directly with the issue that is before the court?"

In a rare decision two weeks ago, an Ontario Superior Court judge threw out the results of the election in the riding after he found that officials failed to ensure 79 voters were properly registered or cleared to cast a ballot. The ruling was a victory for former Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who had mounted a legal challenge after finishing second in the riding.

News reports said the calls started on Friday and continued through the weekend, with the callers saying they were telephoning on behalf of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Mr. Rae rose in during Question Period in the House of Commons to say the calls were "an attempt to close down and shut down democracy in Etobicoke Centre."

But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who answered on behalf of the Conservative government, said he "absolutely" disagreed – and he reminded the Liberals of their party's involvement in the sponsorship scandal in the early part of the last decade.

"The Conservative Party, like every party, has a right to communicate directly with voters on issues of public concern," Mr. Kenney said. "And we will not allow the party of Adscam that still owes Canadian taxpayers 40 million missing dollars to teach anyone lessons on public ethics."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More


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