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Ontario Election: Senior McGuinty Campaign Official Nikki Holland In Hot Water Over 'Smokes For Votes' Allegation

A senior Ontario Liberal campaign staffer caught on tape describing how she offered cigarettes to residents of a Toronto shelter in exchange for votes has quit.

Nikki Holland, the Liberals' operational vice-president, announced her resignation on Friday evening.

Sun Media published a story Friday about Holland's taped comments from a July 16 training session in which she was heard saying she once offered cigarettes to people in a shelter in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's, but not until after they voted.

Those comments sparked an immediate outcry. Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak slammed the Liberals over Holland's comments.

"One of [Liberal Leader] Dalton McGuinty's top campaign officials was boasting about trading smokes for votes. About giving out cartons of cigarettes in exchange for votes. And that's in violation of the law," Hudak said.

"If this happened in my campaign, that person would be out the door."

Holland admitted to making the comments, but said they were made in jest. She said she was repeating stories she heard about NDP campaign tactics and that she never actually handed out cigarettes.

Holland characterized her comments as a "stupid mistake." In announcing her resignation, Holland said she did not want the comments to be a distraction to the election campaign.

When asked about Holland's comments earlier on Friday, McGuinty called them "completely unacceptable," but said he didn't ask her to step down. "It was a bad joke in poor taste," said McGuinty. "She apologized for it."

McGuinty also noted Hudak was one of six MPPs who voted against the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, the anti-smoking legislation that went into effect in 2006.

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