Skip to main content

Dimitri Soudas’s interference in fiancée Eve Adams’s Oakville nomination race cost him his job in the Prime Minister’s Office.Cynthia Munster

Dimitri Soudas lost his job for being the heavy for the wrong person.

He was for years a loyal operative for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, willing to get tough with journalists, MPs, and party officials, to fire blasts of venom and throw his weight around. It's when he started doing such things for his fiancée, Conservative MP Eve Adams, that he had to go.

Mr. Harper has a track record of appointing or promoting people who are willing to do a little messy work for the leader. A number have ended up in trouble – some when they crossed the line to help Mr. Harper, and some when they crossed the line to help themselves.

Mr. Soudas's sin was putting the thumb on the scale to help Ms. Adams, a Mississauga MP, win a Tory nomination in another constituency so she could switch to a riding in Oakville.

Fiddling with a nomination isn't usually a capital offence – there are many tales of candidates disqualified because their form arrived an hour late or a signature was sent by fax instead of e-mail. All is well for party officials if it's believed they're doing the bidding of Mr. Harper.

But assisting Ms. Adams was obviously more personal. A local party organizer complained about the interference, and, as it happens, Mr. Soudas fired him. Even Mr. Harper, no longer a new leader, can't afford to have his party believe he'll allow his lieutenants to have their way with the Conservative Party for their own personal gain.

It wasn't the first time that Mr. Soudas was accused of rough and ready behaviour, it's just that in the past, he was acting in the service of the leader.

Many journalists resented him because he handled "the list," an attempt in Mr. Harper's early days to control press questions by dictating who would ask them. As press secretary and communications director, he sometimes called reporters' bosses at night. MPs disliked him for giving orders, and ministers said he meddled. But all that was to serve the PM.

He wasn't the only rough PMO battler; it was the culture.

Other prime ministers have had tough operators on their staff. But Mr. Harper has had a heavy tendency to reward those who've done a little dirty work. Ambitious MPs who are sent out to absorb beatings when Mr. Harper is under fire, and fight back with rough counterattacks, are being tested.

That's been the task of Mr. Harper's parliamentary secretaries, such as Paul Calandra, ridiculed for rote responses over the Senate scandal – but he can look to predecessors such as Pierre Poilievre, who played the partisan hitman and was rewarded with a cabinet post.

In 2008, when a Surrey, B.C., reporter, Tom Zytaruk, wrote a book about the late MP Chuck Cadman that said the Tories offered him a $1-million life-insurance policy if he'd vote to defeat Paul Martin's government in 2005, Mr. Harper faced questions about a recorded interview in which he appeared to acknowledge he knew about the offer.

The Tories sent out B.C. MP James Moore, armed with expert analyses, to allege the tape had been edited. When he didn't go far enough, Mr. Soudas called reporters to say it had been doctored to change the meaning of Mr. Harper's answers. When it blew over, the Tories dropped it – but an expert the party hired determined there was no evidence the tape had been doctored. Mr. Moore went into cabinet soon afterward.

The Senate scandal, too, stemmed from appointees who were willing to do the bidding of party and PM: Patrick Brazeau, who had headed the small Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, was a Tory ally who criticized the larger Assembly of First Nations. Mike Duffy was willing to trot to endless fundraisers, and pop out for occasional partisan attacks.

Perhaps it's just politics, and those who serve the leader get ahead. But it can hardly be that surprising, in a political culture where advancement comes from rough tactics in the service of the leader, that some use them for their own ends, too.

Campbell Clark is The Globe's chief political writer in Ottawa.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow the author of this article:

Check Following for new articles

Interact with The Globe