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Another questionable campaign worker sends Harper scrambling

Supporters cheer for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper during a campaign rally in Winnipeg on March 29, 2011.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is distancing himself from another tainted political organizer who found a home in a local candidate's campaign.

Giulio Maturi, who was a top official in the campaign of disgraced former Montreal mayoral candidate Benoit Labonté in 2009, was listed as late as Wednesday afternoon as the campaign manager for a Montreal Conservative candidate.

But during a lunchtime news conference, Mr. Harper said Mr. Maturi is no longer part of the campaign.

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"I am not aware of the details of that situation but I have been told that person is no longer a volunteer on our campaign," Mr. Harper said during a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont.

Conservative officials later announced the national Harper tour would no longer take questions on local campaigns.

"There are 308 local campaigns and local campaigns can speak to what they are doing locally," Conservative campaign spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.

Mr. Harper, he said, "will stay focused on electing a national, stable, Conservative government."

Mr. Maturi was the unpaid campaign manager for Agop Evereklian, the Tory candidate in the Pierrefonds-Dollard riding where Mr. Harper will make a stop later Wednesday.

Mr. Labonté dropped out of the 2009 race under a cloud of corruption allegations. He accused Mr. Maturi of trying to convince him to use four campaign organizers paid for by a private company.

Last year, Christian Paradis, Mr. Harper's Quebec lieutenant, told the House of Commons that Mr. Maturi was not on an employee of the Conservative Party.

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But Mr. Maturi has popped up since, organizing a Conservative fundraising event along with now being the volunteer in charge of Mr. Evereklian's campaign.

Neither the Conservative team in Pierrefonds-Dollard nor the national party immediately responded to interview requests after Le Devoir broke the story Wednesday morning.

A little after 1 p.m., Mr. Maturi's name disappeared from Mr. Evereklian's website, replaced by a new campaign head, Sophie Allard.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the case is similar to that of Sébastien Togneri, the disgraced former staffer under RCMP investigation for allegations he meddled with access-to-information requests.

Mr. Togneri had signed up to help the Conservative campaign in the Alberta riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. The party dismissed him when his involvement was revealed.

"Curious, curious, curious. This seems to be a problem Mr. Harper keeps having," Mr. Duceppe said.

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"The Conservatives talk about transparency, about respecting justice, about being virtuous and true. It's another example that shows their words don't match up to reality. It's another example that shows they don't talk straight."

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About the Authors
National correspondent

Les Perreaux joined the Montreal bureau of the Globe and Mail in 2008. He previously worked for the Canadian Press covering national and international affairs, including federal and Quebec politics and the war in Afghanistan. More

Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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