According to CTV News, which obtained an audio of a robocall made on behalf of a Conservative riding association, the Conservative party officials make a pitch for party memberships by citing a Liberal MP Salma Zahid’s cancer diagnosis. Chris Mellor, the volunteer riding association vice president who voiced the March call, confirmed that he was the one behind the mass automated message but he does not regret the call. Outgoing Liberal party whip, now Heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez said the Conservatives owe Zahid an apology. “This is a new low in politics. I think it’s not only unacceptable but it’s sad,” Rodriguez said. “This should never, ever happen again.”
OTTAWA — As next year's federal election battle heats up, Conservative party is hitting a new low even by their standards with one of their Ontario riding associations using a Liberal MP's cancer diagnosis to sign up members.
According to CTV News, which has obtained audio of a robocall made on behalf of a Conservative riding association, the Conservative party officials make a pitch for party memberships by citing a Liberal MP Salma Zahid’s cancer diagnosis.
In the automated call, a man identified himself as the vice president of the Conservative Party riding association in Scarborough Centre. He encouraged supporters to join the party, stating that the Liberal MP Salma Zahid was “very ill” and “there may be a need for a byelection.”
In February, Zahid announced she was taking a medical leave to be treated for Stage 4 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The call was made a month later. It began by saying that half of the party’s memberships in the riding were set to expire and encouraged supporters to renew or sign up, and solicited feedback on prospective candidates. Only current Conservative party members can cast a ballot in a nomination vote once it's called.
The audio recording of the call then ends with: “The Liberal MP for this area Salma Zahid is very ill, there may be a need for a byelection. Thank you so much.”
The volunteer riding association vice president who voiced the March call, Chris Mellor, confirmed to CTV News that he was the one behind the mass automated message, a month or so after Zahid began six rounds of chemotherapy treatment.
Mellor said he does not regret the call, saying it was appropriate given her public statement on her diagnosis.
He also cited the September 2017 death of then-Scarborough-Agincourt MP Arnold Chan, and said he was “sympathetic” but also “realistic.”
“I am aware of what non-Hodgkin’s can do to you, OK? Recovery is long, it’s debilitating in many cases. And you know, from the standpoint of election readiness we felt that we should have our members, as many members as possible, in order to select the candidate in the event that she resigned, or felt that she could no longer continue,” Mellor said.
However, the MP at the centre of the call, Zahid, told CTV News that she was really disappointed to learn recently that Conservatives were exploiting her illness for political advantage.
“I can say that it’s reprehensible, disgusting, and disappointing, that they are trying to create fear among my constituents and it makes it harder for me as a member of Parliament to do my job,” she said.
Zahid said a number of constituents have raised the call with her since she resumed her MP duties last month after successfully completing her treatment. She is now cancer-free.
She thinks it’s on Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer to take responsibility for this call, which she says has caused her family distress.
In a statement to CTV News, Daniel Schow, a spokesperson for Scheer, said that the federal leader was “unaware of the calls in question,” citing them being made by a volunteer who “acted alone.”
“Of course, speculating on another MPs health issues for political motivations is completely unacceptable under any circumstances. Our thoughts are with MP Zahid and we wish her a speedy return to health,” the statement said.
In a statement to CTV News, the Conservative Party also distanced themselves from the call.
Outgoing Liberal party whip, now Heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez told CTV News that the Conservatives owe Zahid an apology.
“This is a new low in politics. I think it’s not only unacceptable but it’s sad,” he said. “This should never, ever happen again.”
Courtesy CTV News