There are few things in the world funnier than hearing that yet another politician has been caught with their foot rammed squarely into their mouth. It’s not as if it is a rare feat anymore, either – it seems like almost every other week some elected official says something to land them in hot water.
Take the case of Alberta MLA Doug Elniski, who decided to post on his blog the speech that he said he delivered at Grade 9 graduation ceremonies in his constituency. In it, one can find advice such as “there is nothing a man wants less than a woman scowling” and “Men are attracted to smiles, so smile, don’t give me that ‘treated equal’ stuff. If you want Equal, it comes in little packages at Starbucks.”
Naturally, this produced a fair bit of outrage from women’s equity groups. To defend his name, Elniski stated that he was paraphrasing a comedian in his blog. Skipping over the part where elected politicians really shouldn’t be turning Grade 9 graduation speeches into a Second City-wannabe event, one has to wonder why it wasn’t made clear that it was a joke in the first place. I suppose I missed the punchline in the rejection of “that ‘treated equal’ stuff.”
The kicker here is that I would be willing to give Elniski the benefit of the doubt and chalk all of this up to a rookie mistake if I didn’t happen to glance at his Twitter and see some of his philosophical musings regarding this year’s Edmonton Pride parade, including such gems as “i am surrounded by bumping and grinding lesbians wait 20 then send help.” Clearly, this guy is a bastion of integrity.
The one thing that I am grateful for in all of this is that Elniski had the common courtesy to post his thoughts up on his blog for the world to see. Frankly, if an elected official is going to say things that are so ridiculously zany, I’m glad to know about it. Think about it this way: Whether we know about it or not, Elniski seems to be against women’s rights and makes lewd and inappropriate comments. But now that we know about it, people are able to react accordingly (I have a hunch that the typical reaction will be anger).
Frankly, the Internet is the big winner in this one. Why Elniski didn’t think his comments would blow up in his face is a source of great mystery to me. Don’t get me wrong: Free speech is still very important, and people should have the right to post whatever they want on the Internet without fear of being persecuted. The key difference here is that Elniski represents thousands of Edmonton residents – many of who will undoubtedly be furious with the ethical views of their MLA, and rightfully so: They’re completely disrespectful and insulting to a very large section of the population.
I just hope that political parties aren’t going to start banning their elected officials from being able to speak their mind on blogs or clamp down on Facebook and Twitter usage. That would really be the worst possible outcome because then how would we know whether or not politicians are putting forward an archaic social policy? Personally, I think that every politician in this country should have a blog and speak their mind so that we can spot the Doug Elniski’s of this world and vote them out of office.
Politics is not a comedy hour; it is a position for making serious decisions. If people like Elniski want to comment on Pride parades and make joke speeches, they should consider a career in blogging full-time – I’m sure voters would appreciate it.
Matt Schaubroeck is a University of Winnipeg student.
Published in Volume 63, Number 29 of The Uniter (July 16, 2009)