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NDP calls on PM to testify about use of Conservative database to make robocalls

OTTAWA - The NDP wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to explain how the Conservative party's massive database wound up being used to send misleading robocalls to voters during the 2011 election campaign.

New Democrat MP David Christopherson intends to move a motion Tuesday asking the procedure and House affairs committee to study the way in which the Conservative data base was used as what he calls "a voter suppression tool."

As part of that study, Christopherson's motion asks that Harper be invited to appear before the committee to answer questions about the matter.

In preparation for Harper's testimony, the motion says the Conservative party should provide a list of all attempts to access its database during the final two weeks of the 2011 campaign.

After a three-year investigation, elections commissioner Yves Cote recently concluded there was no evidence of a Canada-wide conspiracy to use automated phone messages to misdirect voters to the wrong polling stations.

However, Elections Canada has charged one relatively junior Conservative campaign worker in Guelph, Ont., with employing such a scheme in that riding.

And a Federal Court judge who heard complaints about robocalls in six ridings found there was an orchestrated attempt to suppress votes across the country. He also concluded the Conservative party's database was the most likely source of contact information used to make the automated calls.

Christopherson's call for Harper to testify at committee comes after the Conservatives used a procedural ploy last month to demand that NDP Leader Tom Mulcair be invited to testify about his party's alleged use of parliamentary resources to pay staff in satellite partisan offices.

Mulcair has said he has nothing to hide and would be happy to explain the situation.

While the Parliament-paid staff work out of facilities paid for by the party, Mulcair has insisted they do not engage in partisan work.

However, Conservatives and Liberals on the board of internal economy, which oversees the financial administration of the House of Commons, has ordered the NDP to cease the practice. It may yet ask the NDP to reimburse the parliamentary money used to pay staff who work out of party offices.

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