Since the release of Tom Flanagan’s ill-thought through statements on child-porn laws at the University of Lethbridge last Wednesday, condemnation has been universal and remarkably swift. Mr. Flanagan’s immediate apology and resignation from the University of Calgary, and his banishment from the CBC and other forums, are a clear indication of his grasp of the consequences of his statement, but not of his exploration of thought.
What has been most intriguing was the response from entities that have benefited tremendously from Mr. Flanagan’s counsel over the last two decades – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada, for whom Mr. Flanagan has been an advisor and campaign manager; and Danielle Smith, leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party of Alberta, for whom Mr. Flanagan has been a mentor, star speaker and architect of the party’s success. They immediately distanced themselves from Mr. Flanagan.
Ms. Smith, who got her start in politics as a student of Mr. Flanagan and has built the success of the Wildrose party by promoting him and his ideas, suggested she purged him because she has established a moral standard for unacceptable statements from those affiliated with the party.
This is quite a development, given that during Alberta’s last provincial election, Wildrose candidate Allan Hunsperger got caught declaring that gays will “suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell.” Then candidate Ron Leech suggested that he could better represent visible minorities because “as a Caucasian I have an advantage.”
These statements were not enough for the Party to distance themselves and expel these candidates.
At the subsequent Wildrose Alliance convention last November, Mr. Flanagan declared adamantly that the party should expel individuals who expressed intolerance toward minorities, which he blamed for the party’s stunning electoral loss.
“The lesson for the future: message discipline,” he told them. “You’ve got to stick with the script.”
In a strange twist of fate, the first victim of such a stance has been Mr. Flanagan himself.
Mr. Flanagan has been a remarkably polarizing individual in the Canadian political landscape. Had his statement been made by any individual outside of the Conservative realm, he would have been swift in his condemnation, calling for their resignation, and possibly participating in their character assassination via his role as a political commentator.
This time, he is squarely in the crosshairs of his political foes and fully grasps the consequences of his actions. Mr. Flanagan knows that when Conservatives shun their own, it is unforgiving and the expulsion final.
Brian Singh, the president of Zinc Research, is a political consultant based in Calgary.