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Harper defends use of lobbyists

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:30 p.m. January 3, 2006]

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper makes a point with a big briefcase of cash on the campaign trail on Tuesday. 

OTTAWA  — Even though he is promising to crackdown on lobbyists if elected, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper defended the use of lobbyists on his campaign while on the campaign trail Tuesday.  
 

Harper announced more accountability measures including a plan for an "independent review" of the findings of the Auditor General's 2003 report on government polling. 

The Auditor General's findings, better known as Chapter 5 of her November 2003 report, were not included in the terms of reference of the Gomery inquiry. 

Harper said Tuesday that was because Prime Minister Paul Martin did not want to risk Gomery's inquiry investigating contracts from the finance department to the firm Earnscliffe, a firm which was considered his shadow PMO.

But reporters questioned Harper's commitment to crackdown on cronyism and lobbyists when his campaign has a large number of lobbyists involved in it. 

"There are people who are members of our party working in lobbying firms," Harper admitted.

"There's nothing wrong with lobbyists belonging to political parties. What's wrong is when government money is then directed to them because they are friends or lobbyists."

Duff Conacher, head of the public interest group Democracy Watch, is considering filing complaints over the use of lobbyists in campaign war rooms of the Tories and the Liberals. 

Conacher told PoliticsWatch last month: "Our position is the lobbyist code of conduct and the cabinet code both make it illegal for lobbyists to do this. The lobbyist code of conduct says you can't put any public office holder in a conflict of interest."

The involvement of lobbyists on the campaign trail recently prompted the registrar of lobbyists to send out an e-mail to remind those lobbyists to deregister from lobbying during the course of the campaign. 

Human Rights Group ask party leaders to get tough with Iran

The human rights group Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is asking all the party leaders to get tough with Iran and make a pledge not to meet with Iran's leader or representatives of his government.

The call comes after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has failed to retract his theory that the Holocaust was a "myth"

"We are therefore calling upon you to openly and publicly declare that your party will ensure that there will be no meetings with President Ahmadinejad or any senior Iranians or Ministers by any Canadian Parliamentarians, Cabinet members or bureaucrats until Iran publicly renounces their policies of Holocaust denial and the wiping of Israel off the map of the world in Canada and by Canadians until such a retraction takes place," said Leo Adler, director of national of the centre.

The PM, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Jack Layton have all condemned Ahmadinejad's comments. 

In a nationally televised speech in December, he said the following:

"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets. 

"If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody criticizes the myth of the massacre of Jew, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream," he said. 

Ahmadinejad then made this bizarre proposal, specifically mentioning Canada. 

"Our proposal is this: give a piece of your land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska so they (the Jews) can create their own state."

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