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"Mr. Volpe is a sleazebag," Tory MP says in preview of coming election campaign

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:30 p.m. November 24, 2005]

OTTAWA  — The promised "negative" Christmas election campaign as reported by the Globe and Mail on Thursday morning was quite evident by Thursday afternoon on Parliament Hill. 

As debate began on a motion that will topple the government next week, an opposition MP called a Immigration Minister Joe Volpe a "sleazebag," while the Conservatives were accused of being a group of angry people with a right wing agenda.

The day began with a front-page Globe and Mail story headlined "PM plans negative campaign."

According to the Globe story, Charles Bird, who is chair of the Ontario campaign for the Liberals, told the Ontario Liberal caucus on Wednesday to expect a negative campaign. 

"We will give as good as we get," Bird reportedly told the MPs. 

The Liberal political minister for Ontario is Immigration Minister Joe Volpe, a minister the opposition have criticized for weeks for some of his hospitality expenses, which are publicly disclosed on his department's Web site. 

When Volpe came under criticism in the House on Thursday for those expenses again, he accused the opposition of distorting the expenses and then launched an attack on the travel expenses of Conservative MPs Rahim Jaffer and John Reynolds. 

After question period, Reynolds, who is his party's campaign co-chair, was asked whether he believed the upcoming campaign would be a dirty one. 

He responded by calling Volpe a "sleazebag."

"Mr. Volpe's a sleazebag," Reynolds told reporters. "He sort of put that across very well in the House of Commons today. I imagine that's the kind of campaign he'll want to run in Ontario. We'll fight back very hard." 

Asked for his reaction, Volpe described Reynolds as a "mudslinger" who "finally got some of it on his own and didn't like it."

"He spent $138,000 last year traveling," Volpe said. "What did he do? Travel by luxury jet everywhere? Drink champagne?"

Volpe later denied the Liberals were about to engage in a nasty election campaign. "

"I'm not going to run any nasty campaign. I'm going to run on my record."

The Conservatives also mocked an attempt by Liberal MP Dan McTeague to stop gangsta rapper 50 Cent from playing in Toronto because of what the Liberal MP believes is the rapper's glorification of the gun culture. 

"The rap star is known for glorifying theft, breaking the law and gangsterism," Jaffer said during question period.

"It sounds like he picked up his lyrics from the Gomery report.

"Does (McTeague) not see any hypocrisy in condemning 50 Cent when he merely glorifies standard practice in the Liberal government?"

It wasn't the only allegation of criminal activity heard in the House on Thursday.

The ink hadn't even dried on the Globe negative campaign story when Conservative Leader Stephen Harper gave a speech in the House of Commons in which he alleged "organized crime" had helped the Liberals in the sponsorship scandal. 

"A party that has been named in a judicial inquiry or Royal commission, been found guilty of breaking every conceivable law in the province Quebec with the help of organized crime cannot lecture the separatists or anyone else about respecting the rule of law," Harper charged in the House of Commons. 

Harper was speaking after forwarding a watered-down non-confidence motion he tabled in Parliament. Passage of that motion is expected on Monday evening and will result in the defeat of the Liberal minority government. 

Justice John Gomery in his report on the sponsorship scandal accused Liberal party organizers of operating a "kickback scheme" sending money from the sponsorship program to the Liberal party, but made no direct links to organized crime.

Conservative MPs were later asked to explain whether Harper actually believed the Liberals were in cahoots with criminal syndicates, an allegation the Liberals were describing as an exaggeration. 

Reynolds said Justice Gomery "did not clear the Liberal party of being involved in organized crime or organized crime being involved in that money."

Conservative MP Monte Solberg said Harper "was talking about the Gomery report and those aspects that dealt with laundering money, so that's what he was referring to."

"It was clear in the Gomery report that there was suggestions that some of this money was laundered through organizations who are regarded as organized crime."

Solberg said he would have to have a copy of the report in front of him to point to "some of the specific references."

Meanwhile, the Liberals played the hidden agenda card again during their response to Harper's motion in the House.

Contrasting the Liberal party with the Conservatives, Government House Leader Tony Valeri described the Conservatives' policy as "some right wing ideology put forward by some angry people."

Staying away from the crossfire being exchanged between the two larger parties, Bloc Quebec Leader Gilles Duceppe told reporters that he was not concerned about a rough election campaign. 

"I'm ready for any kind of campaign," he said.

"I'm not a dirty man, so I won't do a dirty campaign. But when I look at what the Liberals did with the dirty money, maybe they'll do a dirty campaign." 

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