When the #MeToo movement began to pick up steam last October, most of the men accused of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault were on the political left. As time goes by, more men on the political right are getting caught in this web, too.
In particular, Canada’s right has faced a few recent instances of reported bad behaviour.
Two prominent members of Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario Progressive Conservative government, former interim leader and cabinet minister Jim Wilson, and director of issues management Andrew Kimber, recently resigned after these allegations surfaced. (The government originally said on Nov. 2 that Wilson resigned “to seek treatment for addiction issues,” which was believed to be alcohol. This may be part of the equation, too.)
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Tony Clement, a former federal and provincial cabinet minister, abruptly resigned last week from his political portfolios after an inappropriate online relationship surfaced that had led to an extortion attempt. When it became clear this wasn’t an isolated incident, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer booted him out of caucus.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve been asked by the media on multiple occasions about these allegations and those involving members of other political parties, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. If you’re a political pundit in this country, and there aren’t many of us, they’ll find you!
Yes, I always heard rumours about certain politicians doing certain things with staffers (and others) they shouldn’t have engaged in. Most of the allegations were related to promiscuity and infidelity, truth be told. It was pretty rare to hear tales of sexual harassment and sexual assault, unless there were quite a few drinks on the table and you decided to push the discussion down certain paths.
For the most part, I didn’t want to know. Political gossip bores me to tears and I rarely engage in it. Matters involving other political people of a private nature mattered not a whit to me, either. So it was easier to be out of sight and out of mind.
Was this the wrong thing to do?
In hindsight, yes. But that’s why the impact of the #MeToo movement has probably shocked me more than most political veterans.
I’m also astonished that men (and a few women) still believe they can get away with these terrible deeds in this day and age.
Your digital footprint is everywhere. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, personal/work computers, handheld devices – and cookies created on websites. There are ways to clean up your computer cache and remove some incriminating evidence, but your Internet presence can never be as squeaky clean as you hope or imagine.
So why take the risk?
The thrill of the sexual episode aside, getting caught online is far too easy and could create serious, long-term damage to your political career. (I know that some people subconsciously want to get caught in the act but they’re the exception rather than the rule.)
As well, Conservatives should know better.
We’re supposed to be the standard-bearers for traditional and/or mainstream family values in western society. We’re also supposed to be the opponents of lewd sexual behaviour, immorality, infidelity and deviancy.
Is that too much to ask for any right-leaning party or politician?
It’s possible, considering some of my fellow political travellers have failed miserably in this respect. Several were imperfect beasts to begin with. Others claimed to have high moral standards in public and did the exact opposite in private.
The best solution, therefore, is the most obvious one. Right-leaning males in politics, like left-leaning males, need to treat their female (and, in some cases, male) colleagues with the respect they deserve and are entitled to.
That’s not asking too much, is it?
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.