Soudas's exit leaves Harper scrambling to contain fallout
The abrupt departure of longtime Stephen Harper loyalist Dimitri Soudas as executive director of the Conservative party has left the prime minister scrambling to limit the political damage to the party, the government and his own reputation.
It also raises more questions about Harper's judgment, opposition parties say, as another one of his handpicked appointees has left amid controversy.
The prime minister and party were forced to move quickly on the Soudas matter after Conservative caucus members raised serious concerns, along with the rank-and-file.
Soudas was forced out Sunday as executive director of the party after he became personally involved in the nomination battle of his fiancee Eve Adams, a Conservative MP. She had been looking to carry the Tory banner in the Toronto-area riding of Oakville North-Burlington, which she does not currently represent.
Soudas had only been in the job about four months.
Soudas told The Huffington Post Canada on Monday that he is "madly in love" and needed to "stand with the woman whose hand I'll be holding when I'm an old fart."
His sudden exit, and mounting controversy about how other party nomination contests have been run, raises political problems for the Conservatives as they prepare for the 2015 election campaign, according to some longtime party stalwarts who say they are simply fed up.
Dan Morrison, a former Conservative party riding association president recently disqualified by Soudas in his attempt to challenge Calgary MP Rob Anders for the nomination in Calgary Signal Hill, says there is "massive disappointment" with the party among grassroots members in his constituency. They're upset with Soudas's meddling in the Ontario race and how the party (and Soudas) favoured Anders in the Calgary nomination, he said. "Very simply, Stephen Harper has a responsibility to protect this party and so does (party president) John Walsh, and they are allowing things to occur that are going to destroy them next election," Morrison said Monday.
Harper must quickly find someone new to spearhead the Conservative party's election preparedness for what is supposed to be a fall 2015 campaign.
The story of how Soudas ran afoul of Harper is not complicated, Conservative sources say.
They say that when Soudas was hired in December to become the party's executive director, both the party and Harper made it very clear that he could not violate standards of basic fairness. At the time, it was clear that his fiancee, Adams, would be seeking re-election in the 2015 campaign and would likely have to run in a contested Conservative party nomination in a Toronto riding.
Soudas was explicitly instructed that he not become involved in a nomination battle involving Adams, and he agreed, sources say.
But in recent days, as news stories broke about her efforts to gain the nomination in Oakville North-Burlington, there were signs Soudas had also become involved. Harper determined that the agreement had been violated and that Soudas could no longer hold the job of executive director.
Soudas's exit leaves Harper scrambling to contain fallout (external - login to view)