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Suspicious call urges support for withdrawn NDP candidate

An automated phone message went out at dinner time on October 13 encouraging people in Saanich-Gulf Islands to vote today for Julian West, an NDP candidate who withdrew from the race three weeks ago.

According to people who received the message, it appeared to be coming from a fax number belonging to Bill Graham, the NDP's riding association president. But Graham said the message did not come from there and he has asked both Telus and the Saanich police to investigate.

“This is a really terrible crime,” he said. “It's a crime against democracy and I hope a civil crime too . . . We want the person prosecuted to the full extent of the laws.”

Graham said he has suspicions who would have made the message, but wouldn't make allegations without proof. “The question is who would stand to gain by this, by splitting the vote,” he said.

The most obvious suspects would be Conservative Gary Lunn's campaign, who with no NDP candidate in the race face a united progressive vote and a tough challenge from Liberal Briony Penn.

“We didn't do it,” said Lunn's campaign co-manager Byng Giraud. “I hope nobody's thinking it's us. If they were, I'd be quite upset.”

It could be NDP people who didn't like how West was bounced from the race, NDP people who want to get the $1.95 per vote in annual funding for the party or the Green Party, he said. “There are lots of people who have motivation for it.”

The NDP sent a letter to members last week, Graham said, telling them to vote for whomever they think is the best person to represent the riding. “The election's today. It would be nice to figure out who did this, but we're concerned about people being confused in today's election.”

The Green Party is just as likely to be hurt by people marking their ballots for West as Penn would be and have little to gain from the confusion.

A person who received the message said a woman delivered the following:

"Support Julian West of the NDP. Everyday families need to know they have someone in Ottawa fighting for them. Stephen Harper is the wrong kind of strong. Wrong on the economy, wrong on health care and wrong on the environment. Stéphane Dion has been his best friend over the last year and now wants to impose a second carbon tax on British Columbia. Jack Layton and the NDP won't let that happen. Let's put the priorities of the kitchen table first. Tomorrow vote Julian West of the NDP."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. You can reach him here.

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