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Spy vs. spy on the campaign trail

[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:16 p.m. January 5, 2006]

Can you figure out which one is the Tory mole and which one is the Liberal mole? 

OTTAWA  — The 2006 federal election is becoming a game of Spy vs. Spy and the two parties who want to lead Canada for the next few years seem unable to put a plug in it.

The Globe and Mail reported Thursday morning of suspicion that a mole is listening in on Conservative strategy conference calls and now the Liberals believe they also have a mole in their midst. 

Just who exactly is the mole in the Liberals is not clear. 

But the existence of the mole was revealed after Prime Minister Paul Martin's big post-secondary education announcement was leaked --- sort of. 

During a campaign stop in Waterloo, Ontario, CTV reporter Robert Fife asked Martin about the mole. 

In his question, Fife described the mole as "somebody who your people have long considered not to be a friend of Mr. Martin's campaign, but … somebody who is a favourite of Mr. Chretien."

Martin downplayed this character and said, "I don't think that every time we've made an announcement there have been leaks. The fact is that I do understand in this particular case there was a story that said today we were going to do an education announcement.

"They seem to get their information considerably fouled up. The fact is these things happen and so far I think it has actually been a rarity."

The alleged Liberal mole appears to get the gist of the announcements correct, but comes up short on specifics. 

Martin's team is saying a mole leaked to the media Wednesday evening plans for Martin to make a major announcement on post-secondary education. 

The information leaked to the media said all students would receive aid to offset tuition costs and low-income students would receive $3,000 a year over four years. 

But the actual announcement from the PM was half of the cost of tuition for the first year and last year up to a maximum of $3,000 per year.

While the Liberal mole seems to leak incorrect information to the media, the alleged Tory mole seems only to leak to the other team. 

According to the Globe and Mail, suspicious Tory officials have been counting the line beeps on conference calls and then having a roll call to make sure the number of beeps matches the attendance. Some times there is one more beep than people on the line.

If the Tories can't organize their conference calls, then how are they going to handle something like an income trust announcement?

"More suspicions were aroused as a result of Paul Martin's surprise announcement on Tuesday that the Liberals would eliminate the $975 head tax for immigrants that he fought to bring in," the Globe reported. "Yesterday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper made a similar announcement that appeared to have been better planned and organized than the one Mr. Martin had made."

Speaking of leaks

The RCMP had no problem getting to talk to Finance Minister Ralph Goodale in their criminal investigation of the income trust announcement, but they may have a more difficult time getting to interrogate Zonimoni and TimeScape, two figures who were featured in media coverage of ITscam.

These two characters are the online names used by people who post on the bulletin board StockHouse.ca where pro and amateur traders talk about the markets. 

Stockgroup Information Systems Inc. issued a press release Thursday saying it planned to protect the identities of the two users who posted what appeared to be advance knowledge of Goodale's November 23 announcement on income trusts before the markets closed. 

The Web site has not been contacted by the RCMP, but Stockgroup's VP of marketing, Bruce Nunn said in a statement they will not release the real names of the two individuals. 

"Protecting the interests of the StockHouse BullBoards community is vitally important to our company," Nunn said.

"Both professional traders and non-professional investors frequent our BullBoards to candidly share their insights and opinions. They expect privacy and anonymity."

At 11:14 a.m., on the day Goodale made his announcement Zonimoni posted on the BullBoard: "Skuttlebutt is that he (Goodale) will soon announce a reduction on dividend taxation to 'even the playing field'." 

In a more detailed post at 3:59 p.m. TimeScape posted "The hot rumour is that the government's decision on the income trust issue is that they are going to make a more level playing field by reducing the degree of double taxation which currently exists on dividends by increasing the dividend tax credit. This makes high dividend stocks like BCE more attractive. Check MBT, it is up more than a buck today for the same reason. Also, this move would be rather benign for income trusts compared to some of the more harmful alternatives, so it renews the possibility of BCE spinning off a portion of their business into a trust."

A CTV News story in December highlighted those two posts because the "even the playing field" line used in them was similar to the language Goodale used at his press conference later that day. 

The RCMP investigation continues, but Goodale is denying there was a leak from his office. 

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