Today’s story about Ryan Sparrow and the errant email is many things. But it is not, by any means, a surprise. Nor is it merely testament to a war room gone wrong. Even to call it a gaffe probably puts it too nicely.
Not when the Prime Minister once accused the opposition leader of sympathizing with the Taliban. Not when the Defence Minister has, at various points, questioned the patriotism of Canadians who disagree with the war effort in Afghanistan, accused Stephane Dion of endangering the lives of Canadian troops and dismissed his opposition critics as enemies of the state.
Not when the Prime Minister once casually suggested various opposition MPs were bigots. Not when he once implied there were anti-Semites on the opposition benches. Not when, just a night earlier, he was linking his opponents to Hezbollah.
Not after the nation’s doctors were chastised as unethical. Not after the Premier of Ontario was dismissed as the “small man of confederation.” Not after the Finance Minister deemed the nation’s most populace province to be the last place he’d invest. Not, for that matter, on a day when the Prime Minister was suggesting a carbon tax would break-up the country.
And not, ultimately, when the Tories themselves have drawn a straight line from the PMO to Mr. Sparrow.
“The public face of the Conservative Party as it battles through an election spending controversy is a 26-year-old political science graduate from Edmonton: a young partisan described by one senior Tory as so loyal that he’d ‘literally… take a bullet’ for Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” the Globe reported in April, profiling Mr. Sparrow. “That’s exceedingly high praise for Ryan Sparrow in a political party that perhaps more than any other in Ottawa demands unswerving allegiance from staff.”
Sparrow, Tories explained to the Globe, was only doing as told when he tried to conduct preemptive briefings with select reporters ahead of an affidavit release in the In-and-Out proceedings. “Tories privately say Mr. Sparrow should not be held responsible for communications strategies at party headquarters, saying the Prime Minister’s Office is calling the shots for this hardball approach to the media. ‘If they told him [instead] to go out and buy [reporters] beers every night, he’d do that,’ a second senior Tory said.”
Concluded the Globe reporter: “The Harper government appears happy with Mr. Sparrow.”
In this case, of course, the target wasn’t Stephane Dion, Denis Coderre or the universally reviled press gallery. It was the father of a deceased soldier. (Jim Davis’ mistake? He objected to the Prime Minister’s assertion of a hard deadline on Canadian involvement in Afghanistan. An objection the Prime Minister shared just a year ago. “We can’t set arbitrary deadlines,” he said, “and simply wish for the best.”) And at that, Ryan Sparrow had to take a bullet.
When the Prime Minister got around to commenting on the matter today—after, mind you, the RCMP had been sent after Bob Fife—he placed the ultimate responsibility squarely with himself. “That individual has been suspended from the campaign,” he said. “I want to make it very clear that I have set a tone and an expectation as leader for this campaign. I’m going to make sure that that is followed all the way to victory.”
No doubt he intended to distance himself from the nastiness of today. But however you interpret those remarks, there is likely to be no truer summation of how it is Ryan Sparrow came to be suspended.