Monday, January 22, 2007

A necessary charge

Sun Media reports that some of the electoral tricks which may have helped the Cons in 2006 are set to be fully aired, as a supporter of Con MP Colin Carrie has been charged for claiming in a flyer that NDP candidate Sid Ryan had links to the IRA:
A former campaigner for Oshawa Conservative MP Colin Carrie has been charged by Elections Canada over election flyers that allegedly implied NDPer Sid Ryan was an IRA terrorist.

Alan Clarke, a former campaign worker for Carrie's successful 2006 re-election bid, faces charges over flyers he allegedly distributed showing the Dublin-born Ryan shaking hands with Alec Maskey, the former lord mayor of Belfast.

The leaflets also asked "What Do You Really Know About Sid Ryan?" and featured photos of a gun-toting IRA militant and a picture of what appeared to be the 1998 Omagh bombing that killed 29 people...

Ryan lost to Carrie in 2006 by about 2,000 votes. In 2004 Carrie beat Ryan by a mere 400 votes.

Ryan met Maskey at an Ireland Fund of Canada dinner to raise funds for the respected non-political, non-sectarian charity. Ryan was also once part of an all-party peace delegation to Northern Ireland.

Clarke also faces a $1-million lawsuit filed by Ryan.
Now, it's not quite clear why it took so long for charges to be laid. And plenty remains yet to be brought into the public eye - both in terms of Clarke's own actions under the charge, and what links he had to Carrie's campaign at the time.

And it's the latter which looks to present the most interesting question. When the flyer was first made public, the Cons tried to distance themselves from Clarke, claiming that while he was involved in the riding's campaign in 2004, he had no connection by 2006. (Not that there's any indication who else Clarke could have been working with in the most recent election.) But Ryan's press release suggests that Clarke was later acknowledged to have participated in the 2006 campaign - which can't be confirmed since the riding's site is "closed for maintenance".

As the charges go forward, there seems to be at least some chance that the Cons will be forced into a long-overdue apology for their supporter's tactics. But the bigger question is whether the proceedings will serve to discourage similar smears from all sides in the future - both due to any penalty following Elections Canada's own prosecution, and electoral consequences to the wrongful beneficiaries.

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