Conservative candidate John Baird came under fire Thursday for using his campaign letterhead to promote a $1.9-billion government announcement on homelessness programs.
Liberals accused the Tories of breaching protocol by using the government announcement as a prop for their election campaign.
"I have never before seen anyone like Mr. Baird so brazenly take a Government of Canada announcement, put it on his campaign letterhead and roll it out in the middle of an election," said Marcel Proulx, the Liberal candidate for Quebec's Hull-Aylmer riding.
Flanked by outgoing Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg, Baird announced Wednesday that the Conservative government will extend funding over the next five years for established housing and homelessness programs in municipalities, which were set to expire at the end of March.
He made the announcement in his Ottawa-West-Nepean riding outside a residence for troubled youth.
The funding will go toward the Affordable Housing Initiative, housing renovations programs such as the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy over the next five years.
Proulx accused Baird and Solberg of "outrageously trying to dress it up as a campaign announcement."
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper insisted the funding announcement was outlined in the 2008 budget but not allocated until a cabinet meeting just before the election was called on Sept. 7.
"This is not a spending promise. This is a cabinet decision," said Harper. "The decision has been taken. The funds are there."
Brock Carlton, chief executive officer of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, however, said the organization knew nothing of the five-year commitment and didn't see it when examining the 2008 budget.
"We did not know it was coming, but obviously we're very, very pleased," he said.
In an interview with CBC News on Thursday, Baird referred to the announcement as a "campaign commitment."
"It's something that we're announcing that this government is committed to, as a candidate. That's why it was on our political letterhead, not on government ones."
Asked whether it was appropriate to make government announcements during an election campaign, Baird said:
"It's a commitment from the Conservative Party to follow through and ensure that these groups continue to get the support that they need to do the important work that they do.
"That's why it was on political letterhead, because we're in an election campaign, and we're not using government resources to support political efforts."