Sebastien Togneri

Talk about coming back like your proverbial bad penny! Sebastien Togneri just keeps turning up … then having to resign.

He first had to resign in disgrace in the fall of 2010 when he was an aide to Christian Paradis, who in turn was a member of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative cabinet.

Togneri was caught trying to block the release of public information that had the potential to embarrass the federal Conservatives. The problem was, the information in question had already been ordered released to the Canadian Press, which had filed an access-to-information request.

Togneri was accused of “a prolonged effort to block access-to-information requests.” Indeed, the media has said he tried to get federal officials to unrelease information that had already been given to the CP!

At any rate, someone complained to the Information Commissioner, the commissioner looked into it and the next thing you know Togneri had to resign. According to Prime Minister Harper’s office, though, that was the end of it, thank you very much.

Dimitri Soudas, who was the prime minister’s official spokesthingy at the time, told a reporter that: “…The staffer resigned therefore he’s no longer an employee, therefore no longer works, therefore that’s the responsibility that the minister is holding accountable. See, staff are accountable to their ministers and ministers are accountable to Parliament. Therefore Mr. Togneri in this case is accountable to his minister, correct? That’s what we’ve been saying all along. Therefore Mr. Togneri resigned. So for example, the news organization that you work for is accountable for everything it publishes, everything it writes, correct? Now if you write something that is offline, offside, wrong, well then you would be accountable to the organization that you work for. It’s exactly the same thing.”

Have you got all that, people? This sounds an awful lot like a complicated way of saying, He’s gone, and we won’t answer any more questions, so just shut the [BLANK] up!

Well, that was the end of that, at least until Togneri resurfaced earlier this week working on the campaign of Edmonton Tiny Tory Ryan Hastman, the former PMO spear-carrier who is the Conservative Party’s planned replacement for Rahim Jaffer.

Jaffer, as alert readers will recall, was well known as “Canada’s laziest MP” during his years of “service” as representative for the Edmonton-Strathcona riding. Now he’s long gone to Caledon, unseated, to the Alberta federal Conservative caucus’s astonishment and horror, by a New Democrat in the October 2008 federal election.

Jaffer was defeated by the capable and hard-working Linda Duncan, who has been a burr under the Tory saddle ever since. After all, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen here in Alberta! As a result, the Conservatives have been pouring manpower, taxpayer-subsidized Parliamentary mail and lots of money from safe Calgary ridings into Edmonton-Strathcona.

The goal of all this movement of men, mail and money is to buy the election in Edmonton-Strathcona, restore God to His Heaven and rightness (in every sense of the word) to the Alberta universe. The Conservatives have been driving semi-trailer-loads of cash north from Calgary ever since. (Calm down, Rage Machine. That’s just a metaphor!)

And then, just when things were going swimmingly, oh jeeze, Mr. T was spotted helping Hastman cheerlead for the prime minister at a rally in an Edmonton suburb earlier this week. Thanks to the media, which caused all the trouble in the first place, the you-know-what then hit the fan.

See, it turned out that somewhere along the line after they has finished calling the Information Commissioner, someone also called the RCMP, who are also looking into Togneri’s activities back when he was in Paradis’s employ.

So Togneri had to resign in disgrace again, this time from Hastman’s campaign, and the media has since started affixing the appellation “disgraced” to his name as routinely as they describe the South Seas as “shark infested.”

To make matters more mysterious, Togneri has now disappeared from public view again, and Hastman might as well have, seeing as he’s saying nothing at all, which is just another, simpler way of saying, “we won’t answer any more questions, so just shut the [BLANK] up!”

Just at the moment, Hastman appears to be on the run from the media.

Edmonton Journal columnist Todd Babiak cheekily suggested that since Hastman has been handing out government cheques all over the riding, going to official events and generally being allowed to pretend that he’s already the Member of Parliament, he really ought to man up and speak up about what Togneri was doing working on his campaign.

Good one! “We’re giving no interviews on this issue,” a Hastman campaign flunky, who also happens to be a former executive editor of the nutty far-right Alberta Reports magazine, told Babiak. (…So shut the [BLANK] up!)

That’s sort of like reminding Harper that he promised to make Canadian government more transparent.

You see, in Harper’s Canada, there’s no disgrace to being disgraced, as long as the disgrace in question involves bending or breaking the rules to keep Harper in office.

Indeed, if Harper gets his majority, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever have to resign in disgrace again for anything disgraceful like that, because the concept of disgrace itself for the kinds of activities that got Togneri into trouble in the first place will have disappeared right down the Memory Hole.

Togneri will get another Tory job, paid for by Canadian taxpayers no doubt, and this time he’ll be able to remain there and cash his ample cheques to his heart’s content.

That’s because in Harper’s Albertanized Canada, being a Tory means never having to say you’re sorry! Plus, of course, if you’re running for Conservative MP in Alberta, it means never having to say anything at all.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...