Thursday, September 16, 2004

Former Ontario Premier Swears at Volunteers

Sep. 16, 2004. 06:05 AM
Tempers flare as Harris votes
Dispute over I.D. behind brouhaha
Tory volunteers get a nasty earful

Former premier Mike Harris is being accused of raising a ruckus by swearing at volunteers when he voted in an advance poll ahead of Saturday's provincial Conservative leadership election.

Harris has been given until next Monday to apologize or face possible expulsion from the Vaughan-King-Aurora Conservative Riding Association. He also faces a lawsuit launched by riding president Gabe Spoletini.

"It was the kind of language you would expect from a sailor, not a former premier," Spoletini said. Spoletini said the incident occurred Monday when Harris, who lives in Woodbridge with his girlfriend Laura Maguire, became irate over being asked for the required two pieces of identification at the advance poll, including one that showed his address and signature.

"I heard yelling ... and I heard him say `Just give me the f------ ballot' and then he grabbed it from the woman who was the DRO (the deputy returning officer)," Spoletini said.

"I said, `What's going on here?' He turned around and said, `You can challenge my f------ ballot, you jackass.' I said, `Don't be an a------' and he said to me `You're the biggest a------ of them all.'"

Harris was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Harris spokesperson Deb Hutton disputed Spoletini's version of events, saying the ex-premier did supply two pieces of identification but was asked for a third.

"I think someone, quite frankly, chose to create a little mischief and asked for additional identification, which he didn't have," she said. Hutton said she did not know if Harris swore at the three women working the advance poll. Other sources confirmed that he did.

Spoletini said Harris has until Monday to provide a written apology or face "legal action."

Meanwhile, candidates met yesterday for the final debate in the race to succeed Conservative Leader Ernie Eves. MPP Frank Klees (Oak Ridges) sparred with rivals John Tory, the ex-Rogers Cable president, and MPP Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Ajax) over health care.

With Files From Robert Benzie