Within the space of a few hours the reputation of one of Canada’s best-known and most iconic conservative thinkers, a mentor to both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, lay mortally wounded.
The first blow came at 9:30 a.m. as Flanagan was driving back to Calgary from Lethbridge where he had made his by now infamous comments on child pornography the previous evening.
His car phone rang. On the line were two officials from the Wildrose party: Vitor Marciano, press secretary to Smith; and Paul Hinman, a former MLA who is now senior adviser to Smith.
To Flanagan, who had been the Wildrose campaign manager in last year’s provincial election, these two men were not just party functionaries but friends and political allies.
And now, here they were on the phone telling him the party was cutting all ties with him. Not only that, Smith was issuing a news release condemning the statements he had made and adding, “Dr. Flanagan does not speak for me or the Wildrose caucus and he will have no role — formal or informal — with our organization going forward.”
Flanagan was reportedly stunned by the call. He didn’t realize his comments had been recorded and posted online — but even then he didn’t think his few off-the-cuff remarks about child pornography were objectionable.
It quickly got worse.
That was the first axe to fall. Shortly afterward, the CBC fired Flanagan as a paid on-air pundit; the prime minister’s director of communication called his comments “repugnant, ignorant and appalling;” and the University of Calgary, where Flanagan has taught political science since 1968, released a statement condemning his comments. U of C president Elizabeth Cannon said Flanagan was already on leave and would remain so until his retirement on June 30.
Of course they were following his own advice
Last November, in a post-mortem of the provincial election campaign, Flanagan said the Wildrose should deal more quickly and brutally with candidates who make stupid comments that embarrass the party. Smith couldn’t have acted with any more speed or brutality this week against her friend and mentor.