11/16/2011 05:48 EST | Updated 02/27/2012 12:02 EST

Irwin Cotler: Residents In Liberal's Riding Receive Calls On By-Election That Isn't Happening


A series of bizarre phone calls has residents in a Montreal riding scratching their heads.

More than a dozen constituents in Mont Royal have reported receiving calls asking if they plan to support the Conservative candidate in the upcoming by-election.

The problem?

There isn’t a by-election in the riding.

And the Liberal MP who has held the riding for 12 years, but fought a hotly contested race on May 2nd, Irwin Cotler, is fighting back.

Cotler asked the Speaker of the House of Commons Wednesday to look into the matter, saying the calls were an unacceptable practice and that it wasn’t fair to his constituents or himself for people to think he wasn’t hard at work in Ottawa.

"Constituents are asking my office and myself when will this imminent, but as I said, non-existent byelection, in fact be occurring? Calls have come in asking-- and constituents are surprised, if not shocked, by this--whether I am still serving. Such questions cause damage to my reputation and credibility and would do so to any member of the House," he said in the Commons Wednesday.

“While this occurred in my riding of Mount Royal, nothing is to stop this from occurring in another riding, and this practice simply put, ends up being an affront to all who serve in this place."

The calls began last week and have continued this week. Cotler's office said they are also coming from all corners of his riding.

Mont Royal resident Marian Levy told The Huffington Post she received not one but two phone calls last week asking if she planned to either support the Conservative candidate or Stephen Harper in the upcoming by-election.

Levy said she was not fooled into believing Cotler had resigned or that there was an impending by-election, but she is concerned that residents who are less aware could be misled into believing the MP is no longer active.

“It was the deceitfulness of the calls, I kept arguing with them. They kept insisting that there was a by-election and I’m politically aware and there isn’t one. Their insistence that there is was just an affront to our system because the people who may not be politically aware, they are being deceitful (to them),” she said. “It’s offensive.”

On the second call, Levy said, the woman on the end of the phone suggested Cotler “may be resigning shortly.”

“There was no question that the person on the other end of the phone knew there was not a by-election,” she added.

Levy doesn’t belong to any political party but believes strongly the calls are unethical and that they are just there to start the “rumour mill.” A staff member in Cotler’s constituency office, however, suggested the purpose was clearly to identify political support.

The riding of Mount Royal was a hotly contested race in the last election, with Cotler receiving 41.4 per cent of support and the Conservative candidate Saulie Zajdel obtaining 35.6 per cent of the vote. Prime Minister Stephen Harper held a rally in the riding just three days before the vote and since the Tories' candidate lost, Zajdel has received a plum patronage job reporting on regional concerns for Heritage Minister James Moore.

Conservative spokesman Fred Delorey did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

The 514 area code number from which the calls originated belongs to the marketing firm Campaign Research which is based in Ottawa. They also did not immediately return calls for comment.

Elections Canada spokeswoman Diane Benson would not say whether the office had received any formal complaints. “The Commissioner of Canada Elections does not confirm or deny complaints or investigations,” she said.

However, Benson noted, that all complaints received would be investigated.