Painful Truth

Painful Truth: An explainer for our American friends

Explaining to America why we're not that surprised about peegate…

Dear Americans,

I know you haven’t been paying much attention to our politics since Rob Ford, a.k.a. Canada’s political Chris Farley, stepped away from the mayor’s chair in Toronto. We were also transfixed, coast to coast, by the ongoing Rob Ford Show that featured highlights such as crack smoking, ethnic slurs, and numerous bizarre outbursts.

You’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve gone back to being boring old Canada, the neighbour to the north that goes to bed early and never causes trouble unless their hockey team’s losing.

But apparently, there was some kind of Labour Day weekend sale on crazy, as we had two candidates bounced for bizarre activities in less than 24 hours.

First was the saga of Jerry Bance, or as it was known on Twitter, #peegate.

Bance was filmed urinating into a coffee mug by a CBC Marketplace sting back in 2012. They were trying to catch local contractors in overcharging, shoddy workmanship, or general incompetence. No one expected someone to pee in a cup, dump it into a kitchen sink, and then rinse and replace the cup.

To his credit, Bance did actually fix the problem he was called for, and in good time.

It was just hours later that videos made by another Conservative candidate, Tim Dutaud, came to light. The former actor and radio station employee had posted to YouTube several videos in which he made prank calls to women, in which he, um, made obscene noises. I’m sure this seemed hilarious six years ago, but the Tories didn’t think it was quite that funny.

Of course, the Conservatives aren’t alone in having candidates with digital skeletons in the closet. The Liberals’ Ala Buzreba, a young woman running in Alberta, stepped down earlier this summer after it turned out that she had a very combative Twitter style, including suggesting that people she disliked should “blow your brains out” or wishing they had been aborted.

The NDP lost candidate Morgan Wheeldon in Nova Scotia for Facebook comments in which he speculated that Israel wanted to “ethnically cleanse” Palestinians. Not really a good way to phrase that…

But wait, there’s more! The Tories lost Gilles Guibord in Quebec in August. Guibord had been making inflammatory comments on a news site about women, First Nations people, and non-Christians.

The problem is that there are 338 ridings in Canada. The NDP, Liberals, and Conservatives have to find someone to run in each of them, and when you add in Greens, Bloc, small parties, and independents, it means more than 2,000 candidates. Many of whom have access to the internet.

It’s inevitable that a few nuts will make it through the vetting process and that simple Google searches won’t find every eruption of anger, bigotry, or just plain weirdness committed by various candidates.

But it’s not just a modern problem. Politics in Canada may be guided by smooth-talking elites, but it needs a lot of people to function, most of them volunteers and part-time politicians.

Some people may get bounced as candidates, but our tradition of saying weird and offensive things in public goes back at least to our first Prime Minister, functional alcoholic and acerbic wit Sir John A. Macdonald. We expect our politicians to semi-regularly entertain us by being awkward, odd, or openly offensive. It’s just the way we do politics here, in the Great White North.


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