10/02/2011 05:38 EDT | Updated 12/02/2011 05:12 EST

Joe Chan, Liberal Candidate, Compared To Bus Beheader Vince Li In Mystery Letter

Flickr: m A s

WINNIPEG - An anonymous letter mailed out to some residents in Winnipeg in the dying days of Manitoba's election campaign that contains a racial slur against a Liberal candidate amounts to hate speech, provincial Liberals said Sunday.

The unsigned letter, with no political letterhead or party symbols, calls Joe Chan, the Liberal candidate in the Logan constituency, "Chinese trash" and "a criminal."

It also urges people to vote for NDP incumbent Flor Marcelino, who is of Filipino descent, saying she "did more for you than what the Chinese population ever did for Canada."

The letter has a photo of Chan alongside Vince Li, a Chinese-Canadian who was found not criminally responsible for beheading a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in 2008.

Chan has no connection to Li and has no criminal record.

"I was shocked by it," said Alice, an area resident of Chinese descent who saw the letter in her friend's mailbox and who did not want her last name used.

"It sounds very racist. I feel it's directed at the Chinese community."

The Liberals have filed a complaint with Elections Manitoba and have asked police to investigate the letter as a potential hate crime.

"I have no knowledge of who's behind it and I'm not pointing fingers," Liberal executive director Dennis Trochim said Sunday. "I'm kind of disgusted by it."

The New Democrats said they have nothing to do with the letter and have also notified Elections Manitoba about it, according to Nammi Poorooshasb at the party's campaign communications headquarters.

For Trochim, the letter comes as another sign of a campaign turned negative. On Saturday, someone set up a Twitter account in his name with a photo of Paul Hesse, the Liberal candidate in Fort Rouge in central Winnipeg.

The person started tweeting messages that urged Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard to step aside so that Hesse could replace him.

Trochim was fuming.

"I'm getting a legal opinion as to whether this constitutes identity theft," he said.

"They were using my last name and my first name and then started spreading lies that were going out to members of my own party and members of the media."

This year's election contest is the closest in more than a decade and has been marked by negative advertising. The NDP has accused the Tories of having a secret agenda to privatize health care services and Manitoba Hydro. The Tories have countered with accusations that the NDP have let criminals run free and have a secret plan to raise the provincial sales tax.

Trochim says the negativity may be to blame for the mystery letter and the fake Twitter account.

"I have a concern that when campaigns go negative, that we shouldn't be surprised when members of the public go negative as well. As horrified as I am, I can't say I'm entirely surprised."

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press