OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s ruling Conservatives denied on Monday that an official watchdog has condemned the government for misleading legislators over spending plans, a charge that could hurt the party’s election campaign.
Canadian Press said it had obtained a draft report by Auditor General Sheila Fraser about some C$50 million of expenditures for the G8 summit in June 2010, which took place in the resort town of Huntsville, Ontario, north of Toronto.
It concluded officials had decided which projects to fund “with no regard for the needs of the summit or the conditions laid down by the government,” CP said.
The timing of the leak could help the main opposition Liberal Party, which trails the Conservatives badly in opinion polls ahead of the May 2 election.
John Baird, the government House leader, said the CP report was based on Fraser’s first draft. A later version contained no such language, he told reporters.
“We have no problem with this report being public because we think it will show that the inflammatory parts that have been circulated are in fact not in the final report,” Baird said.
The leaders of the four main political parties will hold a live televised debate on Tuesday evening and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is bound to seize on the report to bolster his position that Harper cannot be trusted.
“These are shocking revelations. I don’t know how Canadians can have confidence in a government that treats public money in this way,” Ignatieff said on Monday.
The Liberals will be hoping for a good debate performance, since a Harris Decima poll for the Canadian Press on Monday put the Conservatives well ahead with 40 percent public support. This could be enough to capture a hitherto elusive majority of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
The Liberals were at 28 percent with the left-leaning New Democrats at 15 percent.
The final report by Fraser was initially due out last week but was delayed after opposition parties brought down the government in late March on the grounds that it was in contempt of Parliament.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power in 2006 promising to clean up Ottawa after a patronage scandal helped bring down the previous Liberal government.
Opposition legislators complained at the time of the G8 summit that much of the money had been spent on infrastructure projects unrelated to the gathering, which took place in the electoral district of Industry Minister Tony Clement.
Earlier in the day Ignatieff -- who spent decades abroad as a broadcaster and academic -- fended off questions about whether he had voted in foreign elections.
He denied having done so in the United States, even though in 2004 he told the Glasgow Herald he would be voting for John Kerry, the Democratic opponent of President George W. Bush.
The Conservatives say the long period of time Ignatieff spent abroad shows that he is not serious about Canada.
The Harris Decima poll of 1,018 adults was taken between April 7 and 10 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20
Additional reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson