Don Cherry, CBC’s high-profile and sometimes controversial hockey commentator, is making automated calls to households in a Toronto-area riding endorsing the Conservative candidate in a federal byelection.

The federal Conservative party has distributed a written version of the endorsement to select journalists.

“Hi, it’s Don Cherry,” says the distinctive voice in the 20-second recording, before launching into an endorsement of his “good friend Julian Fantino.”

“I know he would make an excellent member of Parliament. Thanks.”

Cherry, 76, is the public face of CBC’s flagship sports property, “Hockey Night in Canada,” where he holds court during the first intermission of NHL games with his long-running “Coach’s Corner” segment.

While the taxpayer-subsidized public broadcaster has strict rules governing political involvement by its news and current affairs staff, the CBC said yesterday that Cherry’s partisan political activity is not an issue.

“Don is acting as a private citizen and is not acting or speaking on behalf of, or associating his activity with, either CBC or ‘Hockey Night in Can­ada’,” CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said in an email.

“Nor is he a news or current affairs person.”

Cherry is not a full-time CBC employee, but is under contract for an annual salary last reported to be in the high six figures.