Going through this list of staffers at the Conservative research bureau (which the Tories have, somewhat inexplicably, rebranded as the Conservative Resource Group) can you spot anyone who has recently been in the news in connection with the party’s questionably legal contentious in-and-out advertising expense accounting scheme? (Hint: Look between “Shibata” and “Stewart”.)
There are, of course, any number of perfectly reasonable explanations for someone ostensibly employed by the party to be listed in GEDS. For one thing, the information in the online directory is notorious for being out of date, although usually, in the opposite direction. It can take months for a new employee to show up in the database; it’s not often the case that a former bureaucrat remains on file months after moving to a new position.
According to The Globe and Mail, Sparrow worked for the party during the last election, and then did a stint as communications director for then-Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, back when she was still considered a potential breakout star in the Conservative cabinet. (Oh, those were the days, weren’t they, Rona?)
He then shows up in – of all places – London North, in November 2006, during a hotly contested byelection, as the campaign spokesman for the Conservative candidate, Diane Haskett, who is probably best remembered for her refusal to speak to reporters, or participate in local debates.
Not surprisingly, this didn’t go over well with the local media, which led to frequent frustrated back and forth bickering between Sparrow and various reporters, as they tried to get Haskett to comment on the issues of the day – or, really, any issues at all – and he pretended that it was perfectly normal for a political candidate to eschew any and all public exposure. (Why, could that be a pattern taking shape?)
As it turned out, the voters evidently weren’t all that impressed either; Pearson, a former firefighter, romped to an easy victory; Haskett, on the other hand, placed second to the Green Party – who, in fairness, were represented by party leader Elizabeth May.
At that point, Sparrow dropped out of sight, at least as far as news coverage. The Globe doesn’t mention exactly when he took up his post at party headquarters, but I’m fairly sure that he was working there last fall, when the in-and-out scandal first broke (thanks to the Ottawa Citizen), and the opposition started agitating for the Procedure and House Affairs committee to investigate the Conservative Party’s advertising expenses during the last elections. As recently as last January, Sparrow still had access to a working parliamentary email address.
All of which raises a few questions as to exactly which spokeshat he may be wearing at any given time. Is he still employed by the Conservative research bureau, or is this just a case of bad info in the online directory? Does he split his time between the two positions? Does the party go halfsies on his salary? And finally, I can’t help but ask: has he learned nothing from past experience, as far as handling the press?