NEWS

Stephen Harper mails byelection voters, says he 'needs' candidate

11/21/2013 01:24 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST
The Conservative Party has taken the unusual step in the Brandon-Sourisbyelection by distributing letters signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging people to vote for his party.

The letter takes aim at the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals and tells voters that Harper needs Conservative candidate Larry Maguire as part of his “team in Ottawa.”

Brandon voter Kathryn Giesbrecht said she received the letter this week and wasn’t impressed with the tactic.

“I found it insulting,” she said. "I get this great letter, but I am a university student, and the Conservative candidate couldn’t be bothered to come and talk to me."

Giesbrecht said the letter makes the Conservatives look desperate for votes in the election.

“The Conservatives are scrambling. You are looking at $1, easily $1 to $1.50 per letter,” she said, adding they’re all over her riding.

Giesbrecht also wants to know who paid for the letter, whether it was sent with taxpayer money or came out of the Conservative Party’s pocket.

The letter’s return address indicates it came from the Conservative Party of Canada, but also contains the signature of Harper.

The unusual move is only the latest in what has been a bizarre and increasingly close byelection, one each party appears desperate to win.

Leaders of both the NDP, Tom Mulcair, and Trudeau have visited the riding to ramp up support for their candidates, Cory Szczepanski and Rolf Dinsdale respectively.

The Conservative Party, meanwhile, has distributed attack ads taking aim at Trudeau’s stance on marijuana and gun laws.

The party has also criticized Dinsdale for not having strong enough roots in the riding. Dinsdale created a brief controversy during the campaign when his punk-rock band and previous claims about his work experience surfaced.

The traditionally right-leaning riding was previously held by Conservative MP Merv Tweed, who vacated the seat to take a top job at the Canadian division of rail company OmniTrax.

Brandon University politics professor Kelly Saunders said the attack ads were unprecedented in a byelection, and the results of the vote could provide insight into how voters will lean in the next federal election in 2015.

Recent polls have favoured the Liberals, but Maguire said in a debate the numbers didn’t faze him. And he avoided a scheduled interview with CBC after the debate.

Tweed hints at unhappiness with new candidate

Tweed said he hopes the Conservatives maintain their hold in the area, but added he wasn’t happy with the nomination process that ultimately resulted in Maguire being chosen as the Tory candidate.

“I think a good race is what you need to build your party and team and regrettably that didn’t happen, so people didn’t get the chance,” said Tweed, referring to Chris Kennedy being tossed out of the Conservative competition over issues with his nomination papers.

Despite that, Tweed said he still thinks the Conservative Party will win the riding.

“I think the people that have voted Conservative are happy with what the Harper government has done,” he said. “We’ve brought a lot of investment to that community.”

Tweed wouldn’t speculate on why attack ads or other measures were being taken in the riding, saying, “I’m away from that now, so I hope the Conservatives maintain the hold, but it’s a difficult situation right now.”

Advance polling has already been completed, and remaining voters will hit the polls on Nov. 25.

Read PM Stephen Harper's letter here

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