We expect a lot from our politicians – both in their political performance and in the personal sphere. When one of them slips in the latter category, people are quick to remark that we hold them to “a higher standard.”
It was startling this week to learn of the sudden fall of three representatives across the country.
For Nova Scotians, the case no one saw coming involved Jamie Baillie, now ex-leader of the Progressive Conservatives, who also has resigned his seat as MLA. Baillie had already planned to leave the top job, but was shown the door after a report within the party said he had sexually harassed a staff member.
That’s a tough blow for any political party.
In Ontario, a similar set of circumstances resulted in an even more crippling outcome. Conservative leader Patrick Brown stepped down following allegations of sexual misconduct.
In that province, with an election coming in June, Brown had been touted as premier-in-waiting, facing a Liberal government grown stagnant after 14 years. The party has since chosen an interim leader and will need to plan its next steps before the vote.
Rounding out this troubling turn of events saw Liberal MP and cabinet minister Kent Hehr accused of inappropriate behaviour. Reportedly, during Hehr’s earlier time in the Alberta legislature, women were warned to avoid situations of being alone with him.
That’s not the interpersonal climate anyone should have to endure.
And it’s not the first time aspersions have been cast about incidents of sexist, sexually harassing and bullying behaviour among those frequenting Parliament Hill. These are people who went around asking residents in their constituency for support. Those voters put confidence in them and expect a lot in return – including mutually respectful behaviour.
In recent years we’ve seen much more of the tactic of digging skeletons from the closet to call into question the integrity of an opponent. Thanks to social media, some of that fodder is fairly easy to find, a thoughtless or callous or off-colour remark posted during a moment of suspended judgment. That’s in contrast to a crudity uttered in the locker room a couple of generations ago that – perhaps a lucky break for the person at that time – wasn’t recorded for posterity.
But in these current cases, the alleged abuses refer to recent incidents and behaviour. If there are indeed still people out there – in a position of trust or otherwise – who don’t get it, it’s time they do.
More mind-boggling is that this can happen during a time when the Me Too movement has more people paying attention to this issue.
These troubling stories should provide everyone a stark reminder that respect for others and decent treatment is expected of everyone, that victims of abuse are more likely to speak out and that consequences are sure to follow.