10/15/2015 06:32 EDT | Updated 10/15/2015 07:59 EDT

Irwin Cotler, Veteran Liberal, Says He Didn't Endorse NDP Candidate

"I’m supporting the Liberal party. I support Liberal candidates."


Outgoing veteran Liberal MP Irwin Cotler says he didn’t endorse a Toronto-area NDP candidate, despite an announcement suggesting otherwise earlier this month.

“I’m supporting the Liberal party. I support Liberal candidates,” he told The Huffington Post Canada. “I have not given my support in her case or in any other case in any other riding to anybody else.”

On Oct. 4, Etobicoke Centre NDP candidate Tanya De Mello unveiled a “string of major endorsements and messages of support” that included Cotler’s name alongside environmentalist David Suzuki and former diplomat Stephen Lewis.

Screengrab of Tanya De Mello press release. (Source: NDP)

It turned out that Cotler’s words calling De Mello a “strong and dedicated natural leader” were pulled from a letter of reference he wrote for her in 2012 when she was a law student — three years before she announced her NDP candidacy.

“When I saw that I immediately got in touch with her,” he said.

Cotler, an international human rights lawyer, said the use of old reference letters for character statements are OK as long as the context is clear. In De Mello’s first press release, it wasn’t, he said. Her follow-up one did include clarification.

De Mello owned up to the error five days later, acknowledging the sourcing of Cotler’s words was not clearly identified and “may have caused confusion.” Still, she defended use of the reference.

“Mr. Cotler wrote those words a few years ago, praising me as a local leader from our work together,” she said.

Cotler has served the Montreal riding of Mount Royal as MP since he was first elected in 1999. The long-time Parliamentarian announced earlier this year he would not be running for re-election.

“I am a Liberal. I support the Liberal party … that has always been the case,” he said.

De Mello did not respond to The Huffington Post’s request for comment by the time of publication.