There shouldn't be any place in Canadian politics for the penny-ante dirty trick pulled by a Conservative operative this month. And it's disturbing that Jason Kenney, the Minister of Employment and usually one of the party's more thoughtful leaders, would give this pathetic behaviour a seal of approval. It's one thing for low-level partisans to indulge in Nixonian chicanery; it's another thing altogether for a person of Mr. Kenney's stature to associate with it.
We're referring to a blown sting operation in Alberta, in which a young Conservative supporter approached a federal Liberal candidate, asked him a loaded question in a supposedly private conversation, secretly recorded the answer and sent it to a certain government-friendly media outlet. There, an on-air personality used the tape in an opinion piece critical of the Liberals. Conservative backbenchers and Mr. Kenney subsequently picked up what was now a media story and turned it into a planted question in Question Period. That old chestnut.
Except the Liberal candidate in question, Marlo Raynolds, says that it's not his voice in the recording. Another person has come forward and said he was the one talking, leading the media outlet to retract the story. So, did Mr. Kenney and the backbenchers retract their statements in the name of fairness and decency (that old chestnut)?
No. Mr. Kenney ignored a request to correct the record and lit into the Liberals along the lines of the talking point the secret recording had been designed to exploit. A day later, the Conservatives doubled down and said their own analysis of the tape proves that Mr. Raynolds is the man speaking.
When you double-down on a penny ante, you only have two pennies. Why a cabinet minister would want to be involved in such small-change politics is baffling, but the fact Mr. Kenney has done so gives this cheapening of Canadian politics the blessing of the government. There is a price to be paid for this.
This is the third time that a young Conservative operative has ambushed a Liberal candidate or MP. What is it that makes them think the governing party wants them to behave so badly? It is perfectly apt to point out here that Michael Sona, who was sentenced to nine months in jail this month in the robocall scandal in Guelph, Ont., was a 22-year-old Conservative Party staffer at the time the offence was committed. Some young Conservatives seem to think anything goes. Is Mr. Kenney telling them they're right?