Yesterday, Lawrence Martin asked a question, the answer to which has been obvious since Stephen Harper became prime minister: Does the fish rot from the head down? The story behind those recent robocalls in Saskatchewan gives the lie to the Conservative claims that robocalls in the last election were the work of rogue campaign workers with names like Pierre Poutine:
To date, the Conservatives have tried to pass off any dirty tricks onto ‘rogue’ actors or junior party people like Michael Sona from the riding of Guelph, which is at the centre of the robocalls controversy. Sona in turn has alleged that what happened in Guelph was not isolated but part of what he termed a massive scheme.
This time, the people who are being outed are much higher up on the food chain:
Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski fingered Byrne as the figure ultimately responsible for the party’s surreptitious and deceptive telephone campaign in Saskatchewan in a dispute over the changing of riding boundaries. We can bet loyalist Lukiwski didn’t speak without the prior approval of the Prime Minister’s Office.
It was Byrne who managed the 2011 election campaign:
That so-called clean and ethical campaign saw voters being marched out of Conservative rallies for having suspected minor ties to other parties — and a bogus leak from a senior Tory strategist trying to tie Michael Ignatieff to planning sessions for the Iraq war.
This time, Harper is defending Byrne:
In question period Thursday, Harper said, "There was no violation of CRTC rules in this case, unlike the Liberal Party did in a different case. The fact of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that the party has said there was a mistake here and we have clarified that."
The Conservatives make mistakes. But they never do wrong. The opposition parties should remember what Frank McKenna said when he retired as the Canadian ambassador to Washington: “They are dealing with thugs; they’ve got to fight back and fight hard.”