Robocalls Scandal: Bob Rae Comes Clean On Calls, Challenges Tories To Do Same

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ROBOCALLS SCANDAL BOB RAE
Liberal interim leader Bob Rae speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, February 27, 2012. The Liberal party has given Elections Canada samples of its robocall messages and scripts for live calls to voters during last spring's election campaign. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick) | CP

OTTAWA - The Liberal party has given Elections Canada samples of its robocall messages and scripts for live calls to voters during last spring's election campaign.

In a letter Tuesday to the watchdog agency, Interim Leader Bob Rae said the party has recordings of all its campaign robocalls and will make them available as well if needed for the investigation into alleged electoral fraud.

And he's called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives to be equally transparent.

"If the Conservatives truly have nothing to hide, they would follow the lead of the Liberal party and supply their documentation on the robocalls they conducted to Elections Canada immediately," Rae said.

Elections Canada is investigating thousands of complaints about fraudulent robocalls in which someone purporting to be calling on behalf of the agency misdirected voters to non-existent polling locations.

The watchdog is also looking into harassing live calls purportedly made on behalf of an opposition party but that appeared aimed at alienating that party's supporters.

Opposition parties have been accusing the Conservatives of masterminding a widespread, vote-suppression scheme since discovering that fraudulent robocalls in the hotly contested riding in Guelph, Ont., had been traced to a company used by Tory candidates.

However, the Tories have fought back by claiming they too were victims of harassing or misleading calls and accusing the Liberals of their own misdeeds.

For the second consecutive day, they zeroed in on a robocall in Guelph that attacked the Tory candidate's position on abortion without saying that the call was being made on behalf of Liberal incumbent Frank Valeriote.

Valeriote has admitted the woman who recorded the call used a fake name and didn't identify that she was calling on his behalf. He's said that all information and documentation on that robocall has already been given to Elections Canada investigators, who've not indicated that his campaign did anything wrong.

However, in the Commons, the Tories continued to label the abortion robocall "misleading" and "illegal" and accused the Liberals of raising a stink about electoral fraud as part of an elaborate coverup.

"I guess the reason for all these allegations has been to cover that very fact," Harper told the Commons. "It makes us wonder how many other ridings the Liberal party did this in."

Harper also contended that his party made all its information regarding automated and live campaign calls available to Elections Canada several months ago.

Rae shot back that the Tories have provided information only about their robocalls in Guelph and then only because they were required by court order to do so.

New Democrat MP Charlie Angus said the Tories are counter-attacking with allegations of Liberal wrongdoing in a bid to divert attention from the real issue.

"We are talking about electoral fraud. Only one party is being investigated for electoral fraud. Only one party's operatives are being brought forward."

Angus later said the NDP would hand over its own records of campaign calls if there's an independent inquiry into electoral fraud, an idea Harper has rejected. Otherwise, he said: "This is not about us."

In his letter to election commissioner William Corbett, Rae said election returns already filed by the party and its local candidates include all relevant financial information about live and automated phone services used during the campaign. He offered to supply more records if necessary.

"The complaints being made by Canadians are disturbing and unprecedented and must be resolved," Rae wrote.

"If there is any additional documentation or assistance that Elections Canada requires from the Liberal Party of Canada in order to get to the bottom of these reprehensible allegations, please let us know and we will be more than happy to comply."

In a veiled reference to the Tories, Rae added: "We feel it would be irresponsible and tantamount to obstruction for any political party to be anything less than fully transparent and co-operative with your investigation."

Meanwhile, the government confirmed that it will introduce legislation within six months to give Elections Canada more investigative powers, precisely as called for in an NDP motion.

"We support that motion and we will act on that motion," Tim Uppal, minister for democratic reform, told the Commons.

Opposition parties had been skeptical about the government's willingness to act on the motion even though Tory MPs had supported it. The motion called for additional powers to be given to Elections Canada, including requiring candidates and parties to produce campaign receipts.

It also specified that the agency should be enabled to apply those new powers to records from last spring's election campaign.

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