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Harper criticized for 'unfriending' teen from rally

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Harper criticized for 'unfriending' teen from rally

Stephen Harper is drawing fire from his rivals after party officials "unfriended" a London, Ont., university student who wanted to attend one of his rallies.

London teen Awish Aslam, said she and some friends were kicked out of a Conservative rally on Sunday when organizers saw her Facebook profile picture, which was a snapshot of her with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

"We were waiting for Harper and then an official came by and said, ‘We need to talk to you girls outside,'" the 19-year-old Western student told A-Channel London. "(The official) said, ‘You are no longer welcome here.'"

When Aslam asked why she was being kicked out of the rally she said the official told her: "We know you have Facebook ties to the Liberal Party."

She said her only link to the Liberals was the picture of her and Ignatieff that was snapped at an earlier election rally.

"It was something to show off to our friends, we met Michael Ignatieff, that's cool," the second-year political science and criminology major said.

Harper's opponents jumped on the issue, tying it to the recent revelations about his former adviser Bruce Carson, who has been convicted on five counts of fraud.

"It's certainly quite a dichotomy that someone with a Facebook picture that bothers the Conservatives isn't allowed close to the prime minister but someone who is a convicted fraudster... is allowed to have the closest access," said New Democrat Leader Jack Layton, speaking at a campaign stop in Winnipeg.

"I think it says something about Stephen Harper and his administration, and it's not pretty."

Ignatieff also lashed out Tuesday, questioning why Harper would allow Carson -- a disbarred lawyer with a criminal record -- into a position of trust, but apparently checked the background of attendees at a campaign stop and decided some were inadmissable.

"I just think when you get to a situation where people can't come to a public meeting in Canada, and get thrown out by two heavies because they have a Facebook friend from another party, you're in a bad place," Ignatieff said today in South Conception Bay, N.L.

"You're in a very un-Canadian place."

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe also got in on the action, suggesting it's inexcusable for Harper to claim he wasn't aware of Carson's past.

"When someone is working for me I am checking where he is coming from," Duceppe said in Rimouski, Que.

"It's very curious: Mr. Harper is checking those participating to the meetings, but not those working in his own cabinet. Curious, curious."

When asked about the allegations of campaign screening on Tuesday in Victoriaville, Que., Harper said his staff members organize his campaign events, not him, and he had no intention of commenting further.

Another person at the London event, Aref Hamadi, said he was asked to leave by an organizer because he had an NDP bumper sticker on his car, according to local reports.

Aslam said she wanted to attend the Liberal, Conservative and NDP rallies in London to make an "informed decision" for her vote.

"This is actually a good way to get informed and hear exactly what the party stands for out of the leader's mouth," she said.

Harper's chief spokesperson Dimitri Soudas later said he planned to apologize to the teen.

Leaders' itineraries

After starting his day in Newfoundland, Ignatieff was scheduled to travel to Quebec later Tuesday, including a stop in Victoriaville, where Harper was earlier in the day.

Ignatieff is facing a potential backlash in Quebec where Premier Jean Charest has complained about his announcement Monday that a Liberal government would support Newfoundland's massive Lower Churchill hydro electric project.

Charest maintains the feds shouldn't interfere in the electricity market.

Layton, in Winnipeg on Tuesday, made an announcement about proposed changes to Employment Insurance and other initiatives aimed at the so-called "sandwich generation."

Layton will spend the day trying to generate momentum for the NDP's bid to take back Winnipeg-North, which they lost in a byelection last year.

Later Tuesday Layton will fly to Prince George, B.C. for the night.

Duceppe will remain, as per usual, in his home province while May will spend the day canvassing in Saanich, B.C., where she hopes to win a seat.

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