(Not) Forgetting Tom Flanagan

Turns out that some books – yes, even books about Canadian politics – can make for a far more interesting read the second time around, particularly if written by an eminently quotable former Conservative insider like Tom Flanagan. Fellow gallery bloggers David Akin and Elizabeth Thompson are posting some of the most noteworthy Flanaganisms, culled from “Harper’s Team”, his warts-and-all memoirs of life as a political operative.

Given the current brouhaha over campaign financing, one can almost hear the strangled yelps of frustration emanating from Langevin Block, PMO and Conservative party officials likely believed that they had seen the last of Flanagan’s special brand of trouble once the book hit the remainder bins, but thanks to last week’s raid on Tory headquarters, and the return of the in and out scandal, all those offhand musings on campaign financing have come come back, like Marley’s ghost, to make life difficult for the party once again.

Flanagan was even more candid in conversation with veteran Hill reporter Tim Naumetz, who, working alongside Ottawa Citizen reporter Glen McGregor, were the first reporters to spot the spending irregularities that would eventually become the in and out scandal:

“It was no secret,” he told the Citizen. “Everybody in the world knew it was happening, but I wasn’t part of the discussion of making it happen.”

As far as he was concerned, it was standard operating procedure – not just for the Conservatives, but other federal parties as well. On the legality of the practice, however, the University of Calgary political science professor was a little less categorical, telling the Citizen:

“It looked to me as if this is in conformity with legislation, but I don’t claim to be an expert on it.”

Not only was Flanagan aware that money was being funneled between national and local coffers during the 2006 campaign, but he told Naumetz and McGregor that the party would have done the same thing during the previous election, if only they’d been able to spare the cash:

“We had enough to pay for the campaign, but we didn’t have money that we thought we could start transferring it to the ridings on that scale because we were just coming off the leadership race and the party had newly been merged and things were tighter … By the time we got to 2006, there was extra money, so we thought we could help the ridings this time.”

And, in answer to what could well be the very first question that the Prime Minister will face when the House returns next week:

“I have no idea what Mr. Harper did or did not know.”

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