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Nastiness on the campaign trail

All's fair in love and war, they say, but what about politics?

Campaigners throughout Canada have been accusing each other of dirty tricks in the race coming to an end on Jan. 23.

It would take the wisdom of Solomon to tell who's really the injured person in some cases, of course. Sadly, sometimes underdogs decide to paint themselves as the victim of a dirty trick in order to generate sympathy or a negative backlash against an opponent.

That said, without taking sides, CBC.ca presents a list of some of the nasty tactics that have been used or alleged in the campaign, organized alphabetically by riding:

Abbotsford: On Jan. 13, the NDP candidate in this British Columbia riding went public with an allegation that the Liberal candidate, David Oliver, and his campaign manager had offered him a job in return for dropping out of the race and supporting the Liberals. Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson filed an affidavit with Elections Canada over the matter. In it, he alleges that the Liberals assured him of a win in the next municipal election if he left the race, and said he could have a job in Ottawa if Oliver won the election in Abbotsford. Oliver has denied the allegation, and his riding association is supporting him until the investigation is complete. However, Liberal Leader Paul Martin has said that Oliver will not be allowed to sit as a Liberal if he wins.

Elwood-Transcona; A campaign official for Conservative candidate Linda West suggested "political opportunists" were to blame when her campaign office was broken into on Jan. 12. The thieves got away with a laptop computer containing confidential polling information, but left a $3,000 computer system and a television behind. The Manitoba riding is an NDP stronghold that has been held by Bill Blaikie since 1979. Police are still investigating.

Jeanne Le Ber: The Liberal candidate in this Montreal-area riding, Liza Frulla, says someone claiming to be from her campaign has been calling seniors as late as 11:30 p.m. The irritated voters are obviously not too pleased with the heritage minister as a result. "We lived through this a year and a half ago," said Frulla, who won the riding by only 72 votes in the 2004 election. "So it's a campaign that's very dirty."

Nationally: The week before Christmas, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said it was "beyond tasteless" for the Liberals to release a photo of himself and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe at a Holocaust memorial to imply that the two men have a close working relationship. The photo showed Harper whispering into Duceppe's ear during the Holocaust memorial last spring on Parliament Hill. Harper said all party leaders attended the memorial, and he just happened to sit beside Duceppe. Liberal spokeswoman Amy Butcher said in an e-mail to the Canadian Press that the material was not intended for a planned advertising campaign. She said it was part of a list of issues to help candidates who are knocking on voters' doors.

Oshawa: Someone has been spreading pamphlets around the Ontario riding alleging that NDP candidate Sid Ryan has links to IRA terrorism. The pamphlet contains a photo of Ryan with Alex Maskey, who spent time in jail as a member of the Irish Republican Army before going on to become the mayor of Belfast and participate in the Good Friday peace accord talks. "What Do You Really Know About Sid Ryan?" is the headline blazoned on the pamphlet, which also shows photos of an Irish bombing site and an IRA member holding a gun. Ryan, an executive with the Canadian Union of Public Employees who once took part in a delegation participating in the Northern Ireland peace process, says the pamphlet is "character assassination."

Saskatoon-Wanuskewin: The Conservative candidate for this Saskatchewan riding, incumbent MP Maurice Vellacott, is considering legal action after a widely broadcast dirty trick. Vellacott was taking part in a campaign debate on a live cable show when it took a phone call from a listener who first asked Vellacott if he was once a candidate for the Liberal party and then asked if it was true that he had been removed from his job as pastor at a local church after being accused of sexual assault. Vellacott immediately said that was a lie and demanded that the station use Caller ID to save the number of the caller for future legal action. He never worked at the church in question and was never accused of sexual assaulting anyone. It turns out the call was made from the campaign office of the local Liberal candidate, Chris Axworthy. Axworthy, who was on the air with Vellacott when the call came in, has apologized to his opponent. His explanation is that some unauthorized person not connected to the campaign snuck into the office and made the call.

Thunder Bay-Superior North: An NDP supporter set up a website using the name of Liberal MP Joe Comuzzi and used it to present an NDP logo and the headline, "Vote for the NDP this time and really make a positive change." Gavin Hemeon, who lives in Sioux Lookout, Ont., said, "It's nothing personal" against Comuzzi. He set up www.joecumuzzi.ca when the Liberal minority government looked likely to fall last spring because the domain name was available. "I'm going to be taking it down," he said recently. "Somebody e-mailed me about taking legal action."

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