(Sad) future of B.C. politics

This recent provincial election was…interesting. And, historical for a number of reasons: some good, some bad.

First, it’s great that Christy Clark is the first woman to lead a B.C. political party to victory. That is no small feat, considering she was once 20 points behind in the polls.

Next, it was good to see that the pollsters aren’t always right (even though, in this case, I was hoping they were).

The argument that polls should be treated with caution is even stronger when considering that, just over a year ago, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives unexpectedly defeated the Wildrose party for a majority government.

The election was also historical for another big, BIG reason: several people were either fired, humiliated, or both for comments that they had made in the media.

AND, with that, a dangerous precedent was set: if you make an online comment, that comment can haunt you, sometimes more than a decade later.

Let’s go through the list…

  • Dayleen Van Ryswyck: a local NDP candidate made some ‘less than politically-correct comments’ on Castanet’s forums about Aboriginals and French Canadians. These comments were made approximately 4 years ago. After the comments were made public, Ms. Van Ryswyck resigned as a candidate for the NDP.
  • Mischa Popoff, a well-known business person and a former Tory candidate was fired from the BC Conservatives when it was discovered that, in March 2012, he wrote inappropriate remarks about women and the Missing Women Inquiry in Kelowna newspapers.
  • Ian Toothill, a former Vancouver-False Creek Conservative candidate, was fired when it was discovered that he made tweeted some “odd” comments about the Nazis and also tweeted that “men love sluts”.
  • Rob Herbert, a former Conservative candidate, was fired when he called Premier Christy Clark a “bitch” in a tweet.
  • Dr. Jane Shin, the medical doctor and Burnaby-Lougheed NDP candidate, was publically ridiculed when it was discovered that, 11 years ago, she made a derogatory remark about Chinese-Canadians on a video-game website.

Yes, I think that these people made some bad choices. But, I’m not trying to further chastise them: that’s been done a lot already and that’s not the point of this column…

The point of this column is to argue that a dangerous precedent has been set…

In this new age, almost everyone has an ‘online profile’, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or whatever. And, on those websites, almost everyone writes comments or posts photographs. And, I’d be willing to bet that almost EVERYBODY, both young and old, regrets posting or writing something online.

Ask yourself this:

  • Have you ever taken an inappropriate photo of yourself and posted it online?
  • Have you ever argued (online) about a controversial topic and then later changed your mind on that particular topic?
  • Has someone ever taken a ‘less-than-professional’ photograph of you and posted it online?
  • Have you ever said something (online) to someone or about someone that you later regret?

If any of the above scenarios have occurred to you, then you’ve probably hoped that those ‘moments’ remain buried… But, as we’ve seen in the last election, they might not…

And, as we saw in the last election, anything you say online, even if it occurred many years earlier, is ‘fair game’.

So, what’s the downside of that? It may serve to keep ‘ill-suited’ candidates from political office, right?

Well, consider this: do you think respected business professionals or community-minded people will be MORE or LESS likely to enter politics, knowing that their previous online comments or photographs could return to HAUNT them?

Granted, not all great candidates will be ‘turned-away’ from politics because of this issue. But, if some otherwise great people are turned off by this, then who really loses? Obviously, it’s the public.

So, what’s the solution? Well, I don’t have one…

Granted, people should (absolutely) be very careful when posting online. But, who amongst us hasn’t said or done something that they regret?

I’m interested to see future elections, particularly how our lives are increasingly displayed on the Internet. It’ll be…interesting.

**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

Originally posted on Castanet.net on May 28, 2013: (Sad) future of BC politics.

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