Warren Kinsella fancies himself a bon vivant, a punk rocker and the so-called “Prince of Darkness” of Canadian politics. His political books are thick with tales of dirty tricks and nasty business in Ottawa’s corridors of power, and he is an admitted and most gleeful practitioner of both. His reputation and methods have brought him to the helm of Michael Ignatieff’s “war room,” where he will presumably ply his trade in the Liberal leader’s next election campaign.
Kinsella’s return to the Liberal fold–he went into quasi-exile from the Liberal Party during Prime Minister Paul Martin’s regime, and has an ongoing defamation lawsuit against Martin–has riled the Conservative government enough that party MPs have invoked Kinsella’s name 36 times in the House of Commons in an apparent attempt to discredit Ignatieff. “Kinsella’s thuggish antics have been approved and condoned by the Liberal Party,” said Conservative MP Lois Brown in one typical screed. The attention has at once delighted and inflamed Kinsella, who catalogued the outbursts on his blog. “[T]hey do all that they know how to do: attack, vilify, smear,” he wrote earlier this month. Coming from Kinsella, who once wrote that “negative politics work,” this might well be a compliment. “The political folks I work with know who I am and what I do,” Kinsella wrote in an email to Maclean’s. Apparently so; publicly, Liberals responded with a collective shrug–for the party, Kinsella’s campaign muscle is seemingly worth the dust he kicks up. “Warren’s a great guy, I love him,” said senior Ignatieff advisor Alfred Apps.
In 2001′s Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics, Kinsella wrote about the efficacy of intimidation; earlier this year, Shimon Fogel witnessed Kinsella’s tactics first-hand. Fogel, who is CEO of the Canada-Israel Committee, says he received an email from Kinsella in February in which the self-styled political ass-kicker said he would effectively reduce the CIC’s influence within the Liberal Party if the organization didn’t do his bidding. In an email obtained by Maclean’s from a source in the organization, Kinsella said the CIC “would be making a huge mistake” that it “will regret profoundly” if it proceeded with inviting two right-wing bloggers, who are in the midst of a protracted war of words with Kinsella, on one of its “study missions” to Israel. (These missions, which aim to educate members of the public and the media on issues facing Israel, are often, though not always, paid for by the CIC.)
“As far as the LPC [Liberal Party of Canada] goes, if [I'm] asked for my advice–and I am all the time–I will say that the CIC has utterly marginalized itself, and that it is not a voice we need to necessarily heed going forward,” Kinsella wrote to Fogel. “[I]f the media contacts me about this, I will not observe silence.” Kinsella further promised to “contact friends in Israel to suggest they not be permitted entry.” Fogel later characterized Kinsella’s emails as “threats” and “blackmail” and suggested to the CIC that it not give in to the Liberal strategist.
When contacted by Maclean’s, Kinsella would neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the emails. But soon after, he posted an item on his blog suggesting the magazine was writing a “hatchet job” on him. And Kinsella’s lawyer served Maclean’s with a notice indicating that Kinsella had resigned from the Canadian Jewish Congress, where he had served as a volunteer–although Maclean’s hadn’t asked about Kinsella’s relationship with the CJC, which is wholly independent from the CIC. For the Liberal Party’s part, spokesperson Daniel Lauzon said Kinsella “was speaking in his own name, and not for the Liberal Party of Canada” in the emails to the CIC. The Liberal Party, Lauzon later added, was never involved in Kinsella’s attempt to block the two bloggers from travelling to Israel.
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