In the May 5 provincial election, the Alberta New Democratic Party broke the 44-year reign of the Progressive Conservatives, winning a majority government with 53 seats. Not everyone was happy about this.
Almost immediately, disgruntled conservatives went to work uncovering the scandals of their orange-clad successors. An obvious target became apparent — the social media histories of the young, inexperienced MLAs that were elected.
One of these MLAs was 26-year-old Deborah Drever, who made headlines after conservatives began sharing pictures found on her Facebook page. These included a picture of Drever flashing a peace sign next to a shirt adorned with a marijuana leaf, along with another picture of someone flipping off a Canadian flag.
These photos were passed off as supposed evidence that Drever is unfit for her position, prompting finger wagging and tut-tutting about the dangers of letting young people hold political office.
Which, of course, is nonsense.
If standing next to something with a pot leaf on it or giving something important the finger is all it takes to make someone ineligible to hold public office, then anyone who has ever been 20 can kiss their political careers goodbye. Politicians have been doing dumb crap like this for decades. Even President Obama has smoked weed.
The only difference is that these poor choices now wind up on the Internet, where they wait for years until an enterprising political enemy digs them back up. Social media can capture us at our least thoughtful, and young people are the ones most likely to have an embarrassing photo or two on Facebook or Twitter.
This type of public shaming will only become more common. As more young people enter the public sector, their political opponents will use these temporary lapses in judgment to discredit younger candidates.
Young people are often encouraged to get involved in politics, but we’re criticized as soon as we go beyond volunteering to knock on doors. It then becomes a matter of experience or maturity — qualities rarely brought up with any candidate past the age of 40.
The truth is that these young candidates are no more or less experienced for their positions as anyone else running for public office for the first time, and they shouldn’t be treated like liabilities just because they still get carded at bars.
These MLAs are young, but they were elected to hold public office. Criticize them for what they do when they get there.
Sean Willett, Gauntlet Editorial Board