Conservatives pressed over "dirty tricks"

Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:30pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Conservative government came under increasing pressure on Monday to explain what the opposition said were dirty tricks the Conservatives used during last year's election to cut into the number of votes going to other parties.

Opposition parties allege the Conservatives made phone calls that directed opposition supporters away from the correct polling stations. They also charge they made rude calls impersonating the Liberals to turn voters against them.

"When is the prime minister going to take some degree of personal responsibility for what has taken place?" demanded interim Liberal leader Bob Rae in the House of Commons.

On Saturday, Rae told a news conference that he had no doubt the so-called dirty tricks had affected the election, in which the Conservatives won their first majority in the House since the 1988 election.

"We deny such activities, and I challenge the Liberal Party to provide information to Elections Canada if such information exists," Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House.

The Conservatives won 166 of 308 seats - an 11-seat majority - in the election, but on Monday the small Green Party questioned the government's legitimacy.

"The big question: is this a strong, stable illegal majority?" Green leader Elizabeth May asked on her Twitter account, as she called for a public inquiry.

The opposition parties say they had heard reports of voter interference in some three dozen of Canada's 308 electoral districts. The Conservatives captured six of them from the opposition by margins of 300 to more than 4,000 votes. The allegations remain unproven.   Continued...

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 14, 2012.       REUTERS/Chris Wattie