The Liberals have admitted that a staff member in their research bureau was responsible for publishing personal details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's divorce on Twitter – an embarrassing admission at a time when the party is accusing the Harper government of its own dirty tricks.
Interim Leader Bob Rae told reporters that Liberal staff member Adam Carroll was responsible for the "Vikileaks" campaign that relayed personal attacks on Mr. Toews in retaliation for the introduction of a Conservative bill that would give police new Web-snooping powers.
Mr. Rae said it was the Clerk of the House of Commons who had told the Liberals that Mr. Carroll's name had been linked to Vikileaks after Mr. Toews asked for an investigation. The Conservatives had initially accused the New Democrats of being behind the site.
"I met with Mr. Carroll this morning. We went over what he did. He was extremely apologetic," Mr. Rae said. "He's a perfectly nice, hard-working individual who showed a real error in judgment."
Mr. Carroll was particularly upset by Mr. Toews's accusations that anyone who did not support Bill C-30 was siding with child pornographers and also at earlier statements by a Conservative MP who compared gun-registry supporters to Adolf Hitler, according to Mr. Rae.
But "that was no excuse," Mr. Rae added. "Nastiness begets other forms of nastiness. At some point you have to stop."
Mr. Rae rose in the House of Commons Monday to personally apologize to Mr. Toews. "I discussed the matter with that individual this morning, he offered his resignation and I have accepted his resignation, and I want to offer to the minister my personal apology to him for the conduct of a member of my staff."
He told the House one of the things that makes public life difficult is when political attacks become personal.
"I have tried in my political life to make it very clear that matters of personal and private conduct are not to be the subject of political attack or political reference," Mr. Rae said. "We did not meet that standard with respect to the establishment of that site by a member of that research bureau."
Mr. Toews said he accepted the personal apology of Mr. Rae. "I think it is a heartfelt apology and is worthy of acceptance," he said.
But he pointed out that other Liberals – including Montreal MP Justin Trudeau, though he wasn't named directly, promoted Vikileaks material. He asked Speaker Andrew Scheer to look into their actions.
When Vikileaks first came to the attention of the public, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird accused the NDP of engaging in a "dirty, sleazy Internet game" and demanded the party identify the culprit. In the House Monday, he also apologized, saying he "unequivocally and unconditionally" retracted his comments about the NDP.
Bill C-30, which the Conservatives have named the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, would require telecommunications service providers to give police a person's name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address and Internet Protocol address – which identifies a person on a computer – upon request and without a warrant.
The Harper government said it is now prepared to accept a broad range of changes to the bill and is temporarily parking the controversial legislation while it consults on how to rewrite it to assuage privacy concerns among Canadians and within caucus.
The process of sending the bill to MPs for study is not scheduled to start this week, and sources familiar with the government's plans say the Conservatives are in "no rush" to pass the legislation. They said the bill is unlikely to be moved forward in the next couple of weeks.
Companies would also be forced to adapt their equipment so that authorities could monitor the actions of subscribers. Those authorities would have to obtain a judicial warrant, however, before they could track the mobile-phone movements and online activities of people suspected of committing a crime.
With a report from Steven Chase