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Judge electoral candidates on policy instead of youthful folly

Illustration: Reine Tejares

The latest scandal to grip Canadian politics is the story of an individual who has proven himself utterly unfit to hold public office, by urinating in a cup. In somebody else’s cup, which he washed out with water.

Several other Canadians have also shown themselves to be unfit to be candidates by having made an ill-considered social media posts several years ago. Tim Dutaud, a Conservative candidate was dropped after it was discovered that he had made prank phone calls and posted them on Youtube, and Ala Buzreba, a Liberal candidate who told one Twitter user that they were a “waste of sperm”, are both candidates that were dropped by their parties for comments made previous to their run for office. 

Of all the noteworthy policy issues—the economy, national security, civil liberties, how to deal with crime—we define candidates not by how they would make our country better, but by some harmless, if a bit unwise, acts.

These acts were, for the most part, committed before these candidates were even candidates, and before the permanence of the Internet was fully realized.   

But it’s not just in Canada that candidates suffer this moral outrage over innocuous acts: Britain has been flabbergasted  by  allegations that its Prime Minister David Cameron once pretended to receive oral sex from a dead pig as part of a university club initiation rite.

Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that every Canadian citizen has the right to stand for election in a legislative body. Everyone, be it physicists, lawyers, students, cashiers, or even criminals should have the right to represent us in Parliament. In fact, we shouldn’t expect our MPs to be perfect—they’re human, just like the people they are supposed to represent.

Furthermore, the expectation that politicians be spotless gives us just that: sterile career politicians and endless repetitions of talking points. It promotes a lack of diversity among our deputies, as those who don’t conform to the party line are viewed as potential risks. Not allowing a candidate to run for a certain party is still that party’s choice, if they feel that candidate shouldn’t be representing them.  But people get fed up of the puppet politicians, and then the lure of anti-politicians looms large. We’ve all heard of the rise of politically incorrect politicians like Donald Trump or Nigel Farage and their xenophobic revolutions in the U.S. and U.K.

Not to mention the focus on personality instead of policy allows a celebrity culture to leak into Parliament, in which the successful politician is the one with the nice hair or an outrageous stance on an issue. Restricting candidates based on their actions makes for a dangerous precedent.

Parliament isn’t there to be a moral authority—it’s there to represent the people, protect our rights and ensure peace, order and good government. In fact many politicians  who have claimed to be  moral authorities get caught in scandals. 

It’s up to us to vote for the candidates who we think will best represent us. When it comes to who should be in Parliament, it would be best to worry about the lack of women and minorities, rather than the percentage of politicians who, as shocking as it sounds, have done something silly in their youth.