POLITICS

Singh fined for calling NDP leadership rival Topp a liar

03/15/2012 06:36 EDT | Updated 05/15/2012 05:12 EDT

NDP leadership candidate Martin Singh says he is facing a $1,100 fine for calling his rival Brian Topp a liar and he is appealing to NDP members to help him pay it.

Singh, a pharmacist from Nova Scotia, sent out a mass email to NDP members Thursday and posted a link to the message on his Facebook page. Titled "My side of the story," the email says the NDP's chief electoral officer had imposed the fine because of an exchange during the French-language debate in Montreal on March 4.

Singh alleged that Topp did not tell the truth during an earlier debate when he said his tax policy does not propose to take away the capital gains tax exemption from charities. Singh says Topp's proposal does do that and in Montreal he asked him why he lied.

"Perhaps this was a harsh choice of words," Singh wrote in his message Thursday. Topp's campaign complained, according to Singh, and a few days later all of the campaigns were informed of a rule that they must not use "unparliamentary language."

Singh's camp was also told he would have to publicly apologize to Topp or face the fine. Singh said he was told by the chief electoral officer that he should have known that calling a fellow candidate a liar wasn't acceptable.

"I do not think it is fair to punish me for breaking a rule that did not exist yet," said Singh in Thursday's message. "I am a principled person and my honour is very important to me, so I am not willing to apologize for breaking a rule that did not exist yet while telling the truth about what Mr. Topp said on February 12."

Singh goes on to say that the fine will "seriously hurt" his campaign, which is in its final days. The new NDP leader will be elected March 24 in Toronto. He asks members to donate whatever they can.

The latest numbers show that Singh has raised $57,000 over the course of his campaign.

In the final leadership debate Sunday in Vancouver, Nathan Cullen asked Singh if he wanted to apologize to Topp for calling him a liar and Singh declined. He instead said he wouldn't be bullied by accusations that he was coordinating his strategies with Thomas Mulcair, a frontrunner in the race.

Yesterday, Singh again denied he is "in cahoots" with Mulcair, but named him as his second choice on his ballot and said he is urging his supporters to follow his lead.