Scott Reid, the man who spins the stories for Paul Martin, is now the story. And this is not a good thing for a director of communications.
This week, Mr. Martin was diverted from his message after Mr. Reid said on television that some parents might spend the $25 a week the Conservative Party is promising for child care on "beer and popcorn." The opposition spent much of yesterday outraged over the attempt to criticize their child-care plan.
Mr. Reid, 37, has lain low since Sunday's remarks, which is out of character for the Liberal Leader's top communicator and close adviser. He would not comment for this article. His BlackBerry, which he operates even while walking his dog, was nearly silent.
His friends say he is devastated. He immediately apologized. His best friend, Scott Feschuk, Mr. Martin's speechwriter, said he was "all sheepish."
Sheepish is not a word usually applied to Mr. Reid. Intense, controversial, competitive and brash are better. So is aggressive.
Around Parliament Hill, he has been known to call reporters to yell about stories he doesn't like. He's also been known to try bullying a premier. Last year, the Prime Minister apologized to Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams after Mr. Reid suggested that the Premier's ego was getting in the way of an offshore oil deal.
In his communications role, Mr. Reid makes weekly appearances as a pundit and defender of Liberal policy on national television, not the traditional job of the communications director.
"In my time, the communications director did not have a role in front of the camera," said Peter Donolo, a Toronto consultant who was the director of communications for former prime minister Jean Chrétien.
He said he always tried to avoid the television. "And there are good reasons for that. One is you're not elected and there are elected people . . . who need profile."
Mr. Reid has never been elected or run for federal office, yet he is one of the most influential men in Canadian politics. He has the ear of Mr. Martin, and is one of the so-called true believers, who has been with Mr. Martin since his failed leadership attempt in 1990.
A senior Liberal said yesterday that although Mr. Reid is "110-per-cent" behind Mr. Martin, he is not afraid to challenge him.
And according to Mr. Donolo, who worked with Mr. Reid on two election campaigns, he has good political instincts. "I thought he was clear-eyed, very political, with a good political antenna, very reliable and competitive, in a good way, in terms of wanting our party to win," Mr. Donolo said.
Raised by a single mother in Belleville, Ont., Mr. Reid studied at Queen's University, and got hooked on politics. And he says that his most formative political experience was the Ontario Liberal loss in 1990.
He is devoted to his job. His marriage recently broke up and he is dating another PMO staffer.