Former Harper chief of staff Guy Giorno spearheaded an internal Conservative Party investigation that uncovered extensive involvement by Dimitri Soudas in his fiancée’s nomination battle and wrote a report that cost the Tory executive director his job, sources say.
Mr. Giorno undertook this as part of his new role as the top cop within the Conservative Party, a position that stems from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s desire to crack down on rule-breaking within the Tories. Mr. Giorno is now the party’s legal adviser with responsibility for enforcing compliance and ethical rules. His 2014 appointment stems in part from the Prime Minister’s frustration after the Tories were found last year to have broken Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rules in robocalls to Saskatchewan voters.
Both men once worked in the Prime Minister’s Office – their tenures overlapped by two and a half years – and it was Mr. Giorno, a former PMO chief of staff, who played a key role in recent days in the departure of Mr. Soudas, a former PMO director of communications who’d returned to a political job only four months ago.
Mr. Soudas, who had been hand-picked by Mr. Harper to head election planning inside the party, resigned Sunday after it was determined he’d violated a contractual pledge to recuse himself from fiancée and MP Eve Adams’s effort to win a Conservative nomination contest in Oakville, Ont. As executive director of the party, he was responsible for the process of nominating Tory candidates for the 2015 election and was supposed to abstain from showing favouritism.
The party’s first move, before it understood the full extent of Mr. Soudas’s intervention, had been to reprimand its executive director, sources said. This took place late last week.
But Mr. Giorno had insisted on a more exhaustive review and proceeded to comb through phone and e-mail records. “This is what changed the outcome for Dimitri,” a source familiar with the situation said.
He found that Mr. Soudas had placed hundreds of phone calls into the riding over the period reviewed. And he wrote a report for senior Conservative officials that said Mr. Soudas’s involvement was extensive, prolonged and greater than the party had known.
Mr. Soudas declined comment Tuesday when asked to explain why he quit, saying via text message that he was busy with “back to back meetings.”
Sources said the findings of Mr. Giorno’s report were delivered to Ray Novak, Mr. Harper’s chief of staff, and then to the Prime Minister himself.
The assistance extended to Ms. Adams was already causing a groundswell of opposition within the party from MPs, rank-and-file activists and other Conservative stalwarts – particularly within the Greater Toronto Area – who were upset at what they felt was favouritism being shown to one MP, sources say.
Mr. Harper, when presented with clear evidence of Mr. Soudas’s interventions, had no choice but to part ways with his long-time aide.
A source with knowledge of the matter said it was Mr. Novak who ultimately called Mr. Soudas to deliver the news on Sunday.
Mr. Soudas wasn’t the only Conservative Party staffer to leave as a result of his involvement in his fiancee’s nomination battle. His executive assistant, Crystal Kapteyn, also resigned her job at Tory party headquarters. One of the ways Mr. Soudas ran afoul of his party was phone calls to arrange door-knocking campaign for Ms. Adams in Oakville that were made from Conservative headquarters in Ottawa.
The Conservatives continued to distance themselves from Mr. Soudas’s exit Tuesday. Senator Irving Gerstein, an influential party fundraiser who leads the Conservative Fund, left a committee meeting in Ottawa through a back door, avoiding cameras. “I have no comment on the subject, sir,” he said.
Former Conservative Party President Don Plett, now a senator, declined to say what impact Mr. Soudas’s exit will have on the party’s election readiness before walking away from reporters.
Much of the outcry over Mr. Soudas’s intervention was sparked by the departure of Wally Butts, a Conservative Party organizer whom Mr. Soudas dismissed just one day after Mr. Butts said that the race involving Ms. Adams, was putting him in an untenable position – caught between Mr. Soudas, his boss, and the local board, which overwhelmingly supports the candidate challenging Ms. Adams.
However a source familiar with the matter said Mr. Butts’ dismissal was already being contemplated before he expressed concern about Ms. Adams’s attendance at the board meeting in question.