Harper says unaware of alleged vote suppression

Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:56pm EST
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By Chris Wattie

IQALUIT, Nunavut (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday he was unaware of allegations his Conservative party had used dirty tricks to suppress votes to help win last year's federal election.

The allegations come at an awkward time for Stephen Harper, whose government is due to unveil a tough budget shortly, which will cut public spending. The Conservatives came to power as a minority government in early 2006, promising to crack down on sleaze in Ottawa.

Last May the Conservatives narrowly won a majority of seats in the House of Commons - some by very thin margins - which gave the party a secure four-year term and allowed it to start pushing through its wide-ranging right-of-center agenda.

Voters in several constituencies complained about automated phone calls designed to prevent them from casting their ballots.

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper said some of the calls had falsely told people their voting stations had been changed. Others, supposedly from opposition parties to their supporters, were insulting.

The Citizen said a probe by the independent Elections Canada agency into possible wrongdoing in 18 constituencies had traced some of the calls to an Edmonton, Alberta, call center which had been used by Harper and other Conservative candidates.

"I have absolutely no knowledge of any of these calls but obviously if there is anyone who has done anything we will expect they will face the full consequences of the law," Harper told reporters during a visit to the Arctic territory of Nunavut.

Last year senior Conservatives pleaded guilty to overspending on advertising in the 2006 election campaign that brought the party to power.   Continued...