Montreal (AFP) - Canadian Conservative leader Andrew Scheer faced questions on Saturday after reports that his party worked to smear a rival group ahead of next week's general election.
The Globe and Mail newspaper first reported the allegations that the Conservatives paid a communications firm to develop a social media campaign portraying members of the People's Party of Canada (PPC) as racist.
Asked by journalists about the allegations, Scheer, whom polls show is neck and neck with Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, refused to talk about the reports.
The Conservative Party does not "make comments on vendors that we may or may not engage with," Scheer responded repeatedly to reporters' questions during a press conference.
"Is it a rule you made up?" asked a journalist after Scheer, who has throughout the campaign accused Trudeau of lying and lacking transparency, repeated his response for the eighth time.
The PPC is an upstart party formed recently by one-time Conservative foreign minister Maxime Bernier after he lost a bid to lead the Tories.
The party has situated itself to the right of the Conservatives and could draw votes away during the general election set for Monday.
Bernier published a statement on Twitter saying he is "astounded and shocked" to learn that Scheer and the Conservatives had "paid professional mud-throwers to discredit our party."
In a separate press conference, he accused Scheer of being "prepared to steal the election with lies and manipulation," adding that the Conservative leader "did not deserve Canadians's trust."
Trudeau, who is completing a marathon campaign trip across three provinces Saturday, said the Conservatives "make stuff up... because they have nothing to offer Canadians except for $53 billion worth of budget cuts."