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Ruby Dhalla calls for probe of rival's dealings with Immigration Minister's office

Liberal incumbent Ruby Dhalla holds a press conference in her riding of Brampton-Springdale on April 27, 2011.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press/Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

As election day nears, allegations are flying in the closely fought riding of Brampton-Springdale .

Liberal candidate Ruby Dhalla called on the Auditor-General Wednesday to investigate the relationship between her Conservative opponent Parm Gill and the office of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Ms. Dhalla said the close ties between the two Conservatives need to be examined to determine whether there was an inappropriate use of the Immigration Minister's office for political gain.

She referred to an audio recording of Mr. Gill saying he had three people working on immigration files even though he was not an elected MP. Mr. Gill called Ms. Dhalla's allegations baseless.

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At the outset of the campaign, the riding was expected to be very close. But if the surge in NDP support seen in national polls carries over to Brampton, it would likely cut into the Liberal vote, placing more pressure on Ms. Dhalla. Even a small bump for NDP candidate Manjit Grewal could have profound consequences. Ms. Dhalla won by fewer than 800 votes in 2008, a margin of less than 2 per cent. Since then, Mr. Gill and Mr. Kenney have carried out a relentless campaign to win the seat for the Conservatives, paying particular attention to the riding's large Indo-Canadian community.

Both Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have paid several visits to Brampton in this campaign. Mr. Harper has made three stops here, largely because it's seen as one of the most vulnerable regions of Liberal support in the Greater Toronto Area. The neighbouring riding of Brampton-West, held by Liberal Andrew Kania, was decided by just 131 votes in 2008.

Ms. Dhalla called the alleged connections between Mr. Kenney's office and Mr. Gill's campaign a "new low for Canadian democracy."

"No political party in our country should be utilizing a Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration for the purpose of buying ethnic votes. It is unacceptable," Ms. Dhalla said.

Mr. Gill, who has been a full-time Conservative candidate since a narrow loss to Ms. Dhalla in 2008, said party volunteers have helped him with requests for assistance on immigration files. He dismissed Ms. Dhalla's charges as mudslinging designed to distract from her own problems.

"I am proud of the fact that when newcomers ask my volunteers for information on the immigration system, whether it's wait times in different categories or where to find an immigration lawyer or representative, we have helped them find that publicly available information. This demonstrates my commitment to the people of Brampton-Springdale," Mr. Gill said in a statement.

"These volunteers are not paid - contrary to false allegations by my Liberal opponent - and they do not provide any information that is not already publicly available."

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Mr. Gill also denied what he described as opposition allegations that he had travelled to India with Mr. Kenney on official government business at taxpayer expense. He said he was twice in India at the same time as Mr. Kenney, having paid for the trips himself, and participated in meetings and photo ops during those trips.

"My Liberal opponent has misled voters and is falsely alleging that I travelled to India on taxpayer money and even made announcements on behalf of the Conservative government. This is false," Mr. Gill said.

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About the Author
Demographics Reporter

Joe Friesen writes about immigration, population, culture and politics. He was previously the Globe's Prairie bureau chief. More

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