Fire, rehire

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It was a little-noticed hiring in one of Canada’s political machines — but it’s also a disturbing message that dirty tricks are the sorts of things that might just have become an accepted part of Canadian politics.

Back in February, Adam Carroll was a staffer with the federal Liberals when he started an online campaign to reveal personal family details about Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Carroll, under the pseudonym @Vikileaks30, was caught after tweets about Toews and his divorce were tracked to a House of Commons computer by parliamentary IT staff.

The Liberal staffer was caught red-handed, and it was up to the party leader to fall on a political sword on his behalf.

Carroll resigned from his job and Liberal Leader Bob Rae told the House of Commons he regretted the staffer’s behaviour.

“I want to offer to the minister my personal apology to him for the conduct of a member of my staff,” Rae said following his House comments, saying he feels matters of private behaviour shouldn't be fodder for political attacks.

“We did not meet that standard with respect to the establishment of that site by a member of the Liberal research bureau.”

That was all well and good — but it is somewhat undercut by the fact that Carroll spent only about five months outside the Liberal fold before being welcomed back in again.

Bad behaviour — even unacceptable behaviour — means a slap on the wrist before a simple return to business as usual.

To be fair, the Liberals are not alone in counting on Canadians’ short memories: Tory staffers caught in misconduct have also resigned, only to reappear in taxpayer-funded jobs as soon as the political opinion dust settles. Two notable examples? Kasra Nejatian quit Jason kenney’s office after using parliamentary letterhead for fundraising purposes, and Ryan Sparrow was turfed from Tory campaign operations for improperly dissing the father of a Canadian veteran. Both ex-employees resurfaced quickly with the Tories, past indiscretions seemingly forgotten.

You can look at it two ways: you can be charitable and argue that parties who take back miscreants are simply rehabilitating otherwise valuable employees who made one stupid mistake. Or else you can take a harder line and say that those same political parties care more about their own insiders than they do about maintaining and fostering ethical behaviour, and that, deep down, their actions speak more to contempt for voters and the length of those voters’ recall.

Unfortunately, the second view is probably the more accurate one.

It’s not acceptable when the Tories do it and it’s not acceptable when the Liberals do it.

Indefensible behaviour, in hockey terms, has become merely a two-minute penalty. We should expect a game misconduct.

Or a permanent suspension from the game.

Organizations: House of Commons

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Auditor General
    August 10, 2012 - 08:23

    There is a third option - he resigned to protect a higher-up staffer, MP, or Leader of his party that was aware of the smear campaign, perhaps sanctioned it. Locally, what does it say when an Auditor General retires, runs for the governong party and loses and then gets a job at $140 grand a year and collect his pension from that same employer? John Noseworthy has recently been travelling the globe to Guyana and the caribbean on provincial government business. Yet, the Premier says unnecessary travel and hiring are to be eliminated? "Do as I say, not as I do. "

  • Virginia Waters
    August 09, 2012 - 21:06

    I agree with all three comments. Carrol broke no law in posting details of Toews personal life that reflected poorly on the Minister's character and judgement. Carrol's actions served to underscore the hypocrisy of Toews' eagerness to pass an internet surveillance bill that flew in the face of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Toews was willing to compromise the privacy of ordinary Canadians while insisting that his own be protected. Readers will recall that the Minister went so far as to suggest that critics of the bill were no better than child pornographers. The ensuing public outrage forced Harper to recall the bill. Yes, posting the court records online amounted to a dirty political trick. If Canadians want to remove the slime from politics then they must stop electing sleazy politicians. I don't approve of Carrol's methods but they pale in comparison with those used by the Harper government to get re-elected and to force backward legislation through the Commons. The Telegram editorial wasn't entirely one-sided in that it also condemned the behaviour of governing conservatives. But it did a very poor job of explaining the circumstances that gave rise to actions of the Liberal staffer. In the past the Telegram showed no hesitation in attacking provincial leaders - especially Williams when he was premier. However for reasons that are unclear, it has shown much more restraint in its response to the far more outrageous behaviour of the federal conservatives, particularly as it relates to the mistreatment of this province.

  • Don McLeod
    August 09, 2012 - 11:23

    You are too quick to punish. You sound like Stephen Harper "The other philosophy is Burkean conservatism. Its primary value is social order. It stresses respect for customs and traditions (religious traditions above all), voluntary association, and personal self-restraint reinforced by moral and legal sanctions on behaviour...In particular, Canadian conservatives need to rediscover the virtues of Burkean conservatism as a key component of that balance. We also need to rediscover Burkean conservatism because the emerging debates on foreign affairs should be fought on moral grounds. Current challenges in dealing with terrorism and its sponsors, as well as the emerging debate on the goals of the U.S. as the sole superpower, will be well served by conservative insights on preserving historic values and moral insights on right and wrong." To sum up Harper's morality "If you are against me you are evil if you are for me you are like me on God's side of good"

  • Hypocrisy
    August 09, 2012 - 09:28

    Tweeting publicly available court documents is not ''revealing personal information'' as you put it. It is fundamentally no different than what your reporters do from the courtroom every week. If you take issue with the court records of divorce proceedings being publicly availaible, feel free to use your editorial clout to advocate for secrecy of court records if you feel it's a great injustice. Further, Mr. Carrol was not fired, as your headline suggests, he resigned.

  • Justin Flontek
    August 09, 2012 - 08:45

    Toews is a goof!