In the final days of the Ontario election, it was revealed that a high-ranking Liberal gave cigarettes to homeless people in exchange for their votes. Nikki Holland, Liberal Vice President in charge of operations, was caught on tape saying
“I have done crazy things, like...and if anyone repeats this I’ll deny it (until) the cows come home...I have gone to a shelter in the riding of St. Paul’s with a carton of smokes and said, ‘I’ll give you them after you vote.” I have done that...but they were already smokers...”
But not to be outdone in absurdity, the Liberal spin team went to work, saying that she was "just joking" and that she was just repeating tactics that the NDP and Conservatives have used in the past.
Nice try! Holland cited a specific riding, a specific act, a specific time, and a specific action. What's more, who would preface a joke by saying they would deny that joke if ever asked?
This is clearly vote buying and not what Ontarians need or want. It smells of a desperate political party - the one currently forming government, no less - and questions need to be answered.
Elections Ontario should not wait to open an investigation. Ontario voters need to know immediately whether the Liberals are still using these illegal tactics in the current campaign. These are just a few of the questions that need to be asked:
- How many Liberals used this strategy to buy votes? In which ridings?
- How many votes were bought? In which ridings? (This is particularly important in close races - take Barrie, for example, which the Liberals won in 2007 by only three points.)
- Were the cigarettes bought by the Liberal Party, or paid for by Ontario taxpayers?
- How else are the Liberals buying votes?