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NDP [New Democratic Party] Wants Mounties to Probe Taping of Call (with video)


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OTTAWA — The NDP is asking the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police]  to investigate whether Conservatives broke the law by taping a private conference call between NDP Leader Jack Layton and his MPs.

British Columbia Conservative MP John Duncan is shown in a 2001 file photo.

British Columbia Conservative MP John Duncan is shown in a 2001 file photo. (The Canadian Press)

In a letter to RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, the NDP also indicates that British Columbia MP John Duncan is the Tory who was mistakenly e-mailed the information required to take part in the call.

The NDP said Mr. Duncan received the e-mail because his name is similar to that of new NDP MP Linda Duncan.

Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister's press secretary and senior Quebec adviser, was filmed on Sunday distributing the recording of the NDP caucus meeting to the media.

But the exposé could backfire on the Conservatives.

Lawyer Jacques Shore, the first research director for the watchdog body overseeing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said the scenario that played out this weekend in Ottawa raises serious questions.

The Criminal Code states that it is illegal to record a group conversation without the consent of at least one of the intended participants. Furthermore, a separate provision bans the dissemination of such a recording.

"One has to be very, very careful in how one dispenses information that is taped … without one knowing this could find its way in the public arena," Mr. Shore said. "I think that it calls into question issues that could very well be addressed by the courts to determine whether it's illegal or not.… It certainly brings those points into question, which would certainly be best addressed by a court of law."

Mr. Soudas declined to answer when asked to comment on the allegations of criminal activity. The Prime Minister's director of communications, Kory Teneycke, also declined to comment, and Mr. Duncan could not be reached. It is not known whether Mr. Duncan is the one who called in and taped the caucus meeting.

NDP MP Thomas Mulcair, who insists his party started talking with the Bloc only after the government's Nov. 19 Throne Speech, said the incident shows why the opposition parties want to replace the government.

"Caucuses are one of the institutions of our Parliament," Mr. Mulcair told reporters. "Spying on a caucus undermines those institutions, and of course, it's just another indication of why the Conservatives don't deserve the confidence of Parliament."

Should the RCMP choose to investigate, lawyers say a key point will be whether the e-mail was sent to Mr. Duncan intentionally. The relevant section of the Criminal Code says a conversation can be recorded with the consent of one of the intended recipients of the information being discussed. People who are known to be part of the discussion can give themselves that consent. That is why it is legal for reporters, for instance, to record telephone interviews without the knowledge of the person being interviewed.

But Mr. Shore said outsiders cannot give themselves permission to record a phone conversation without the approval of at least one of the people intended to take part in the call.

What will have to be determined is whether, Mr. Duncan is an outsider, given that he received the e-mail notification of the conference call and information on how to dial in.

The Prime Minister's Office handed out copies of the recording to reporters on Sunday, claiming it showed the NDP and the Bloc Québécois had long conspired to topple the Conservative government.

Tories release secret tape

The NDP says it may pursue criminal charges after the Conservatives covertly listened in, taped and distributed audio of a closed-door New Democrat strategy session 

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