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.