Harper Conservatives may have broken the law with dirty campaign tactic

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler. (CBC)While dirty campaign tricks have become common in Canada, it seems the Conservatives may have broken some laws with their latest tactic.

Last week it was reported that constituents in the Montreal riding of Mount Royal have been receiving calls from a telephone number identified as "Campaign Research" asking if they intend to support the Conservative Party in an impending federal by-election.

There was one problem though: Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who represents Mount Royal, has no plans of stepping down and there's no impending by-election.

According to an article in the National Post, on Thursday, the Conservative party has admitted to making the calls but said they were simply identifying supporters. 

"Every political party in the House identifies its voters in one way or another," Conservative MP John Williamson told the Post.

"This is an important part of the political process."

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan added that rumours of Cotler's pending resignation have been circulating since the Liberal was first elected in 1999. As a result, he said, saying there were rumours of a by-election was a perfectly legitimate thing to tell constituents.

But not everybody agrees with the Conservatives' tactics.

"It's disgusting," Queen's University professor Ned Franks told the Post.

"Politics is a blood sport but that doesn't mean you have to resort to dirty blows."

Liberal insider and lawyer Warren Kinsella says it's not only disgusting, it might be illegal.

It's much more than "crossing a line." If electors were provided with false information, inside or outside of the writ, laws were indeed broken," Kinsella wrote on his blog, Thursday, citing Ontario law.

"Quebec has similar, and tougher, laws. This morning, the Harper Conservatives have admitted they've broken the law.  If I were Irwin Cotler... I would get on the line to the police right now."