Will likely undermine Harper when time is ripe   OTTAWA, July 8, 2002 ( - Stephen Harper is continuing to purge staffers who some party insiders say pose no loyalty threat to his leadership of the Canadian Alliance. Perhaps unwittingly, however, he is replacing them with less-qualified, die-hard Manning loyalists and Grant Hill campaigners. Manningites will soon be ideally placed to undermine Harper as soon as the opportunity arises—likely after a future election debacle against a strong new Liberal leader such as Paul Martin.  Harper recently named Jim Armour, Manning’s communications advisor from 1997 to 2000, as his own director of communications. Phil von Finckenstein, a former Manning staffer, his 2000 campaign manager and a media consultant to Deborah Grey’s dissident DRC, is rumoured to be waiting in the wings. Other Grant Hill veterans linked to Armour include Tim Powers, the party’s CBC pundit; and Tom Jarmyn, who sits on the party’s National Council.  Infiltration by Manning loyalists first began when Harper’s leadership campaign lost two media advisors last spring. Desperate for help, and nervous about hiring experienced Ontario campaigners, Harper settled for Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, a former junior press aide to Manning, Deborah Grey and the dissident DRC. Olsen was fired in 2000 by Manning aide Phil von Finckenstein but blamed Stockwell Day for her misfortune, and is now Harper’s top press assistant.  The most recent firings include Doug Main—formerly the leading pro-life member of Don Getty’s cabinet before the Ralph Klein era, and Stockwell Day’s point-man to restore confidence in the Alliance communications shop last year. Peter Naglik, question period co-ordinator, was also dropped last week—despite being one of few Alliance staffers with any government experience, having served with PC Research in Queen’s Park before Day hired him in 2001. Meanwhile Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary professor with no organizational experience, was named director of operations.  Almost all Harper staffers are now believed to see pro-life staff and party members as a liability to the party, not as one of its few available support bases. “They are repeating all the mistakes of the past,” said a source within the Canadian Alliance party. “Both in hiring Manningites, who tend to be wolves in sheep’s clothing… and in seeing pro-lifers as a problem instead of an opportunity.”

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