Sunday, March 18, 2007

spy vs. dion

'Tory spy' outed online in YouTube video
Conservative staffer shadowed Dion at events in Ontario

The Gazette

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Conservative staffer is being paid through the House of Commons budget to shadow Liberal leader Stephane Dion.

The revelation, complete with video footage of James Murray, a Conservative Resource Group senior researcher, shadowing Dion at an event last week, has been posted to the popular video website YouTube by the Liberals.

Titled Tory Spy Revealed, and set to the catchy Pink Panther theme music, the video shows Murray at the Bradley Museum in Mississauga, Ont., where he videotaped Dion's speech. The video then shows Murray, wearing sunglasses and a big green coat, beating a hasty retreat once he is spotted, only to turn and point a camera at Liberal Mick Gzowski, who was filming him.

In the script, the video focuses on the fact Murray is paid through the research budget the House of Commons allocates to the Conservatives.

"He is a House of Commons employee," the video flashes in black and white. "Your tax dollars at work. Shadowing Dion across Ontario and filming Dion in the House of Commons. The government is spying on the official opposition."

The video then cuts to a picture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a quotation from him in December 2005: "These guys can't tell the difference between right and wrong."

The video wraps up with: "They're getting nasty things done. With your money."

The video, posted by a subscriber called liberalvideo, had been viewed hundreds of times by press time and was beginning to be talked about on the Internet as a message originating with the Liberal Research Bureau.

However, that paled in comparison with the number of viewings of the Stephane Dion attack ads that the Conservative Party posted to YouTube.

Jean-Francois Del Torchio, a spokesperson for Dion's office, said the Liberals first noticed someone was following them last week.

"We find it a bit strange for them to send someone to spy on us during our trips."

Del Torchio said he spotted Murray at a series of events where Dion was speaking last week and recognized him from Parliament Hill.

Murray has worked in Ottawa as a freelance researcher for a number of clients, including The Gazette.

While the Liberals were themselves caught hiring people to observe and record activities of Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in 2004, Del Torchio justified it, saying it was done during an election campaign.

Reached yesterday, Murray's sole response when informed about the video was, "Oh, s--t," before referring all questions to Conservative Party communications officials.

A Tory spokesperson made no attempt to deny Murray had been following Dion, or to make any apology for it.

"An opposition researcher does opposition research," Ryan Sparrow said. "It would be irresponsible to simply rely on media reports to track the missteps of Stephane Dion."

The term "opposition research" is known in the trade as gathering information to attack one's opponents.

Sparrow refused to explain why Murray's activities were being paid out of the House of Commons research budget rather than out of party coffers.

A Conservative insider, who asked that his name not be used, said Murray's filming of Dion's appearances is just part of the Conservatives' secretive "black ops" - shadowy activities of a kind the insider said the Liberals also indulge in.

"You think they don't do this stuff?" the insider asked. "This is something that all parties do. We place our people in their events and they place their people in our events."

In fact, the Tories have been tracking Dion for some time, the insider said. The were shadowing various Liberal contenders during the leadership campaign.

"The material gets used for many different reasons and different sources," the insider said, pointing out ammunition for attack ads is just one possible use.

The insider said there are people in the Prime Minister's Office, in the Conservative Party and in the Conservative Resource Group who were aware Dion was being shadowed.

"We make sure that what he says in one part of the country is what he says in another part, and make sure there is no hypocrisy on their part."


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