Mind your own business!

Graphic by Sean Kershaw
Graphic by Sean Kershaw

South of the border, the raging war of words known as the Republican primaries is tearing cities, towns and families apart. Between the four major candidates―Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul―it is almost impossible to focus on the issues, as campaign ads and speeches sling dirt on other candidates. While dirty politics of this kind have been the norm in the U.S. for quite some time, the situation has been a lot more docile here in Canada.

Political grandstanding and attacks are prevalent in Canadian politics as well, but the general rule of thumb has been that one’s personal life is off limits. This, of course, is negated if politicians’ private lives involve shady, illegal dealings. An MP spending his or her office budget on their personal home would warrant whistleblowing, but revelling in the details of an MP’s divorce would not.

Former Liberal staffer Adam Carroll was behind a Twitter account named Vikileaks that revealed the juicy details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ divorce. Created in response to the draconian legislation of Bill C-30, Vikileaks tweeted information found in a Winnipeg courthouse that was available to the public. The account gained popularity when mentioned by Liberal MP Justin Trudeau to his 116,000 Twitter followers.

Regardless of whether the information was public or private, reaching into the personal lives of politicians to dredge up dirt on them is both tacky and tasteless. Citizens, instead of focusing on the issues at hand, are now subjected to a TMZ-like circus, which takes away from the political process.

“Just as interim Liberal leader Bob Rae was building up a real head of steam levelling credible allegations of electoral tampering against the Tories during last spring’s federal election, his own party’s dirty tricks pulled the rug out from under him,” wrote Calgary Herald columnist Licia Corbella.

Some might argue that Toews should have been prepared for any subjection to public scrutiny, especially given his heightened notoriety due to his staunch defence of Bill C-30. I say to those people: mind your own business. We need to criticize politicians based on their political words and actions, not their personal lives.

Sometimes people fail to realize that politicians are people, too. Why should we care whether Toews’ had a messy divorce or a mistress? For all intents and purposes he may be a bad person, but that really is not our business. Unless he is breaking the law, it is not of our concern. Would I enjoy seeing my personal life spewed over a Twitter account for everyone to peruse and scrutinize? Absolutely not and neither would you.

Now, all the efforts made to educate the public on Toews’ legislation has been torpedoed. Instead of focusing on the issues of Bill C-30, the Conservatives now have the perfect retort with Carroll’s actions.

Postmedia News columnist Michael Den Tandt said it best: “Vikileaks, and Trudeau’s early, tacit endorsement of it, notwithstanding his denials of same, are the reason why what looked to be an unbeatable Liberal thrust at the Tories’ soft underbelly, has now devolved into big a pile of mush. Last week the Conservatives were rocked back on their heels. Now they’re firmly planted and counterpunching.”


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