Montreal candidates spar over illegal robocalls

Projet Montréal mayoralty candidate Richard Bergeron is refusing to accept an apology from opponent Marcel Côté, who has admitted his campaign made close to 1,000 robocalls.

Marcel Côté admits calls targeted Projet Montréal opponent Richard Bergeron

Richard Bergeron called the robocalls accusing Projet Montréal elected officials of being involved in a funding controversy “odious” and “dishonest.” (Radio-Canada)

Projet Montréal mayoralty candidate Richard Bergeron is refusing to accept an apology from opponent Marcel Côté, who has admitted his campaign made close to 1,000 robocalls critical of Bergeron's party without identifying who paid for them.

The 986 automated calls made to residents of several electoral districts broke election rules because they failed to mention they were paid for by Côté's coalition. Instead, the recorded message said the calls were from an "independent research firm.”

'Honest mistake,' Côté says

Côté says it was an honest mistake that he reported himself to the chief electoral officer.

He said he accepts responsibility for what happened, although the mistake was made by the company hired to make the calls.

He said campaign staff were busy preparing for a debate and didn't properly verify the text of the calls.

"It was a mistake, I take full responsibility,” said Côté.

The calls link Projet Montréal elected officials to a "funding controversy" — one that the incumbent Projet Montréal borough mayor in Plateau Mont-Royal, Luc Ferrandez, calls a complete fabrication.

"They have no grounds," Ferrandez told host Bernard St-Laurent in an interview on CBC Montreal's Radio Noon, calling for a "campaign of ideas" and not "cheap shots."

'Tea Party tactics,' Bergeron retorts

Bergeron said he doesn't believe Côté's version of what happened — calling the calls "odious" and "dishonest" and part of a deliberate smear campaign.

"These tactics were invented by the Tea Party in the last decade in the U.S.," Bergeron said. "I think that our society deserves to stay free of these very dirty tactics."

Bergeron said he will file a complaint with the province's chief electoral officer, saying the calls were “odious” and “dishonest.”

Côté in turn accused Bergeron of overreacting to the robocall campaign.

"To associate that with the Tea Party is…total exaggeration," he said. "It's totally distortion."

Marcel Coté says campaign staff were busy preparing for a debate and didn't properly verify the text of the robocalls that fail to mention they were paid for by his coalition. (Radio-Canada)

Côté said all campaigns conduct such research surveys, and while he apologizes for not identifying his coalition in this instance, he said this type of research will continue.

Bergeron has filed a complaint with the province's chief electoral officer, Elections Montreal and the telecommunications regulatory agency, the CRTC.

Coderre also lays complaint

Mayoral candidate Denis Coderre, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, also said he will file a complaint, even though he wasn't targeted by the calls.

"I think its disgusting. I'm totally against that. This is not [our] kind of politics. I despise that," Coderre said.

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