POLITICS

Harper: Tory MP Who Told Untrue Story Should Be Praised For Apology

03/05/2014 07:45 EST | Updated 03/06/2014 07:59 EST

Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes a Tory MP who stood in the House of Commons and shared an inaccurate story about witnessing voter fraud ought to be applauded for apologizing voluntarily.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair put the prime minister on the spot in question period on Wednesday, a day after 153 Tory MPs voted to reject an opposition effort to have a House committee review the retracted story by Mississauga-Streetsville MP Brad Butt.

Butt claimed in February to have personally witnessed voter ID cards being collected from garbage cans and used by scammers at election time. He admitted in the House last week that those statements weren't accurate.

Butt said on Twitter that he misspoke and wanted to correct the record.

"Does the prime minister think it is okay for his MPs to present fabricated evidence in Parliament as long as they admit it after they get caught?" asked Mulcair on Wednesday.

Harper responded, saying "the member in question" did the right thing by apologizing.

"He, at his own initiative, brought this to light in the House of Commons and corrected the record, and he is to be commended for doing so," he said.

But Harper's words likely won't comfort New Democrats who believe Butt deliberately misled the House.

Butt sits on a committee reviewing the government's controversial Fair Elections Act, which would eliminate the practice of registered voters vouching for those without proper ID.

On Feb. 6, Butt said in the House he had personally seen such a practice being abused.

"I've seen on mail delivery day when the voter cards are delivered to community mailboxes in an apartment building, we often find that many of them are actually just discarded, they're in the garbage can or the blue box," Butt said.

"And I have actually witnessed other people coming in, picking up voter cards, going back to, I guess, whatever campaign of the candidate they support and actually handing out those voter cards to other individuals who then walk into a voting station with a friend of theirs that vouches for them with no ID."

However, weeks later, Butt retracted those statements and said he has not "personally witnessed that activity."

On Monday, Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled Butt may have breached parliamentary privilege, but left it up to MPs to decide if he should appear before a Commons committee to explain himself.

In a rare move, the government put a time limit on the debate on the matter the next day.

While it appears Butt won't face punishment, YouTube user SleepyRobAnders has cut a video that is sure to make the Tory MP uncomfortable. It captures the two different occasions where Butt claimed to have seen voter fraud and his eventual retraction.

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