We live in a world increasingly lost in the midst of distortion – where relatively minor issues are magnified and critical concerns are relegated to public obscurity.
Consider recent examples involving our elected officials in Alberta.
This past week the media spotlight shone brightly upon Derek Fildebrandt, MLA for Strathmore-Brooks.
Interestingly, it wasn’t what Fildebrandt directly said that became problematic, but rather his perceived support of a Facebook comment made by someone else.
He claims the error was unintentional. Most agreed it was an honest mistake. He apologized profusely and it should have been the end of the story. But it wasn’t.
Fildebrandt’s online actions were construed as “homophobic” and the events were distorted and magnified to such a degree that Fildebrandt was temporarily exiled from his own Wildrose party. For some of the extensive media coverage, see my “Articles & Links” page.
Meanwhile, little public attention has been given to the online behaviour of Sandra Jansen, the PC MLA for Calgary-North West.
4000+ Albertans gathered for simultaneous peaceful rallies in Edmonton and Calgary on May 14th, concerned about how educational legislation and policies are impacting children in schools across the province.
Many in attendance were families with children, along with grandparents and representatives of many different cultural communities. The crowd included some of Jansen’s own constituents, as well as numerous people who drove several hours from across the province with the hopes of making their voices heard.
As the Progressive Conservative Education Critic, Jansen has a democratic responsibility to engage in respectful, informed and thoughtful dialogue on educational issues in the public sphere.
Instead, Jansen used her Twitter account to personally and deliberately label the crowds of concerned Albertans as fearful, misinformed and intolerant.
Electors fund her salary and look to her for leadership to represent and address their concerns, not to dispense condemnation and disrespectful labels.
Her office was inundated with hundreds of emails and phone calls, including two messages I shared publicly.
I invited Sandra Jansen to provide an explanation for her Twitter comments that could be passed along to Donna Trimble, Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education (PCE) and posted publicly on the PCE website to be accessible to the tens of thousands of rally supporters. However, I have not yet received a reply.
When we cut through all the distortion and media noise, there is an important underlying question that must be addressed:
How is it that we live in a province where an inadvertent error is magnified to the level of a multi-day news cycle, while another MLA is unapologetically and unmistakably disrespectful to thousands of Albertans and there is zero personal and public accountability?
Derek Fildebrandt had a lapse in judgement. He apologized.
Sandra Jansen? Well, maybe she needs a reminder.
Remind her of her own advice regarding how people should be received at the Legislature, as well as the lessons that we want to model for our youth. Both of her comments were made just a few days ago, in reference to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s visit to the Legislature last week:
Sandra Jansen expresses laudable sentiments. But do these same standards apply to her own behaviour?
Thousands of Albertans showed up to the doorsteps of the Legislature and Jansen made them feel quite unwelcome by her comments.
And does Sandra Jansen actually believe youth should follow her example – that they should feel fully justified in disrespecting others for whatever reasons they deem appropriate?
Regardless of whether a person happens to agree or disagree with a particular opinion or policy does not give them license to disrespect others, especially from a position of public office.
In a pluralistic, diverse, supposedly democratic society, it is the job of the people to respectfully hold their elected officials accountable.
Albertans must demand better.
Sandra Jansen has had ample time to provide public explanation for her comments and has chosen not to do so.
Please contact Ric McIver, Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative party (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone number: 403.215.4380 or through Twitter: @RicMcIver), requesting him to make an alternate choice for Education Critic – someone who will actually represent public concerns on educational issues, rather than exploiting a position of public office to malign and belittle Albertans.
In the end, we must demand that all of our MLAs devote more focused energy to informed, responsible governance, and less attention to carnival-like antics.