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The Salon is ONW's weekly gathering place where three of Canada's brightest and most respected political strategists - John Capobianco , Marit Stiles and Richard Mahoney - come together to analyze national issues affecting Ontario.

CPC Executive Director Dimitri Soudas has been fired for allegedly interfering in party nominations to favour his fiancee, MP Eve Adams.

Does the affair show Stephen Harper will tolerate no favouritism in CPC nominations, or is this just another in a long list of bad appointments by the PM? 


Richard Mahoney:

At first blush, the Dimitri Soudas affair seems like one of those momentary and distracting minor "inside baseball" stories. In many ways, that is what it is. To a family struggling to make ends meet on $54,000.00 a year, the trials and tribulations of Stephen Harper's well paid, hand picked top honcho at Conservative Party HQ seem, well, trivial.

In these cases, observers look to see if they tell us anything about what is really going on behind the curtains or under the covers. (Apologies!)

The most important things we learn from this sorry tale are: 1) Another person hand-picked by Stephen Harper four months ago is engulfed in controversy and dismissal. 2) There are serious allegations of misuse of the Conservative database of Canadian voters, one that has been found by the Federal Court to be misused in the past. 3) Our Prime Minister's vaunted control of things does seem to be slipping away from him.

His party has less time for the antics of his people and frankly, he seems distracted from his duties and less able to control them. This is one in a line of bad mistakes he and his team have made in recent months. It makes you wonder who is minding the store?

John Capobianco:

I think it is typical of Liberals to try and find any little thing that may go offside with the Conservatives and try to make it into a huge issue. Richard is extremely clever and the Liberals are lucky to have him... but to say that this in anyway means more than someone who put love ahead of politics is offside.

It is unfortunate that Dimitri had to resign or was asked to leave because those of us who know him and have worked with him know him to be very good at politics and he would have been a terrific campaign manager. Folks knew there was a potential conflict, they even had it written in his contract, but the pressure for Dimitri to stay away from the nomination battle proved too much and it reached a breaking point with the PM.

The key thing to remember with this situation and with others that Richard alludes to is that when the PM senses conflicts or trouble he acts on them decisively. That is leadership.

Marit Stiles:

Love and politics, eh? As spouse of a former candidate, I can attest that it's often more difficult for the 'other half' to deal with campaign muck than it is for the candidates themselves.

But let's face it, this isn't a Harlequin Romance. Soudas and Adams are seasoned political insiders and if -- even with explicit contract language amounting to a flashing neon sign proclaiming "Don't go near the nomination" -- Soudas couldn't NOT interfere, that's just plain bad judgment.

When the CEO has to keep firing his hand picked hires (in this case the PM's hand picked appointee) it reflects on the CEO.

Under Harper, the Conservative brand is now synonymous with Duffy, Brazeau, Wallin, robocalls, etc. At some point the buck stops at the top.

Richard Mahoney:

While I appreciate John's slightly backhanded compliment, and I agree with both of you that it is inevitable that a person will support their spouse, I don't think that is the issue here. I think he fired him because, of the alleged misuse of the database.

Mr. Harper already has full-blown scandal on his hands on that front: that is what the robocalls scandal is about- the misuse of a party database of Canadians to commit electoral fraud.

Because of the investigation, and anger and opposition locally, that was bound to come out publically.

So he got ahead of it, and let Dimitri Soudas go. The misuse of database remains an issue, and one under investigation by the police, albeit on another matter.

John Capobianco:

The story here is clear... Dimtri was hired back to help run the pre-election machinery for the party, he had his fiancée involved in one of the nominations and was told to stay away, he ultimately couldn't and was let go - end of story. Making excuses and keeping him there would have been worse - the PM made the decision and it is a one day news story.

Each party has to deal with these inside baseball pre-election issues. The Liberals faced a similar issue when they decided not to allow a credible candidate who is the spouse of a former Liberal MP to run in a Toronto riding which was recently vacated by Olivia Chow. It is not these issues that matter to Canadians - it is how the leaders deal with them that matter.

Marit Stiles:

Well, I do agree with Richard that the database misuse has to be of concern to the party and the PM. And while John may be right that the story doesn’t have legs beyond a few days, it’s another paragraph in the narrative of Conservative scandal and lack of judgment. Though I do agree that there are deeper issues regarding nomination battles that all parties have to deal with...and the Liberals have some issues in particular.

But I’d like to raise another important issue that the Soudas firing brings into focus … the apparent rash of political staff misdeeds and the leadership wiping their hands of it. Another big story this week was the court documents showing that senior political staff in the Ontario Liberal government office gave an outside tech expert access to computers in the premier’s office and wiped them clean, allegedly to cover up the gas plant scandal. Where does the responsibility lie?

Sure you can blame the staff, but leadership has to set the bar higher. It's not enough to talk the talk on ethics, good government, clean government. Someone needs to lead by example. And right now I'd say that's sorely lacking. 

About The Salon

Richard Mahoney is a former Liberal advisor to Rt. Hon. Paul Martin; Marit Stiles is a federal and Ontario NDP strategist; and John Capobianco is a former CPC candidate and long-time party activist in both the federal and Ontario Conservative parties
Posted date : April 02, 2014

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