Over the years, I’ve heard many politicians complain that their private lives should be left private and not become the subject of public discussion. And, of course, for decades the news media has respected those wishes, leaving out of their reports MP’s and MPP’s various indiscretions.
Recently, along with NDP allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of two former Liberal MPs, we’ve heard reports from members of the Press Gallery in Ottawa that there is a widespread problem of inappropriate sexual activity on the Hill.
We are told that many MPs are away from home and they have above-average access to parties and other gatherings at which there is a free flow of alcoholic beverages. Loneliness and opportunity then combine to lead astray too many of our parliamentarians, it is said. Moreover, their resulting indiscretions are not always played out in private and, therefore, become the subject of gossip among politicians, their staffs and media representatives.
The general public, though, are not privy to such shenanigans—politicians’ private lives being off-limits to us, the very ones who sent them to Ottawa and the very ones who would benefit from the information so we can make a more informed decision when next we have the opportunity to express our will at the polls.
What a politician does in her or his private time, we are assured, has no bearing on their jobs and are, therefore, to be kept private from the general public. And, I suppose, we are expected to believe that politicians who abuse alcohol, cheat on their spouses or sexually harass their staff or peers are still fit to represent us and hold the highest offices in the land.
I believe it is high time that we voters disabuse ourselves of the distinction between our political representatives’ public and private lives.
Politicians have for decades included members of their families—especially spouses and children—in their political activities. Spouses often canvas voters, for instance. And certainly, pols giving victory speeches are more often than not accompanied by their spouses. Moreover, the current practice during Christmas season seems to be to distribute pictures of politicians and their families as greeting cards.
All of which tells me that politicians consider their spouses, at least, to be an integral part of their political team. (“Couldn’t have done it without her/him,” don’t you know.) Which, in my view, makes spouses a part—however small it may be—of my assessment when choosing my MP/MPP. And, to help me make an informed choice, I expect a reasonably open approach on the part of the news media to reporting on incidents of politicians’ misbehaviour—especially where alcohol/drug abuse and harassment or assault is concerned.
I’m outraged that a politician would cheat on his wife, yet use a family photograph that includes her to promote himself. It’s a shameful, dishonourable practice.
Let’s hope that the NDP allegations against MP Scott Andrews are never proven, because he engages in the practice of using his wife and family to promote his political career.
Regardless of how things turn out for Mr. Andrews, I’m pretty sure there are others at Ottawa and Queen’s Park who are guilty of this shabby practice. Let’s hope they see the writing on the wall and smarten up.