Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday April 27, 2021
Politicians behaving badly in the pandemic
What should be done when politicians act against public interest? There are plenty of recent examples, including those who get a kick out of downplaying and minimizing COVID-19 and the health measures employed to fight it.
On Saturday, in Peterborough, People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was ticketed after his speech to an illegal anti-lockdown rally. Also in attendance was independent MPP Randy Hillier, who got into a heated face-to-face debate with local police Chief Scott Gilbert. Hillier and Bernier were charged with breaching the stay-at-home order.
Conservative MP David Sweet went one better — or worse. He had to apologize after issuing a tweet on Friday falsely claiming there is “no evidence” that lockdowns work, and calling them “the single greatest breach” of civil liberties “since the Internment Camps during WW2.”
At first he wouldn’t back down. In a second tweet he said: “To be clear I am referring to Canadian internment camps of innocent immigrants during WW2,” he wrote. “Unjustly, because of their ethnic association had their civil liberties suspended even though they were landed immigrants or Canadians.”
McMaster University assistant dean in the department of biochemistry and biomedical sciences Dr. Matthew Miller nicely expressed the outrage felt by many, saying: “(Second World War) internment camps disproportionately affected a minority racialized community in Canada. And this pandemic, we know, is disproportionately affecting minority racialized communities, equity-seeking groups. And these lockdowns, frankly, protect those groups.”
After a Twitter outrage, Sweet sent a third tweet, claiming he didn’t intend to compare the two issues. Interesting, since his own wording in his own tweets shows that is exactly what he was doing. In any case he eventually apologized “to anyone offended.”
In case you don’t know, about 24,000 people, including 12,000 Japanese Canadians, were forced into internment camps during the Second World War. Men in the camps were often separated from their families and forced to do physical labour, according to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Many lost all their property and thousands were later exiled to Japan.
One expert called Sweet’s claims “disgusting,” and that’s an appropriate description.
Let’s not forget now-ousted Conservative MP Derek Sloan and similarly booted former Ontario Conservative MPP Roman Baber, who also engaged in COVID-19 and lockdown denial, and paid a political price.
And let’s not forget West Lincoln Mayor David Bylsma, who attended anti-lockdown rallies and has mocked public health advice and direction intended to keep his citizens safe. He has faced a storm of criticism from his regional council colleagues and also an integrity commission complaint.
So here is the question: Where do elected officials elected in large part to act in the interest of public welfare and safety get off doing just the opposite? And who is holding them to account? Sweet has already said he is retiring and will not run again. But why isn’t he now out of Erin O’Toole’s caucus like Derek Sloan is? Baber and Hillier were ousted from Doug Ford’s Conservative caucus, but they continue to sit and spew their pandemic denial rhetoric. And Bylsma is still mayor in West Lincoln in spite of all the best attempts by his colleagues to shut him up.
Some will say yes, because they were all elected and serve at the will of citizens. There’s something to that. But there is also something to this: All have blatantly abandoned their duty to promote public safety. That is a cardinal sin and they should pay for it. (Hamilton Spectator)