OUT OF LEFT FIELD: A new election paradigm for those who commit crimes
I don’t think having a criminal record should discourage anyone from running for public office. What?!?! you say?
Yes, I just said that. If you smoked pot when you were 18, got busted, and now are in your 40s or 50s and being productive and helpful, I’m more likely to vote for you – making bad decisions is an excellent way to learn to make good decisions, and I think the electorate at large is smart enough to make that discernment. Rob Ford notwithstanding.
I’ve covered the issue at great length (see https://castlegarsource.com/news/council-tables-resolution-requiring-criminal-record-check-election-candidates-16673#.VCxruVefZqw , https://castlegarsource.com/news/out-left-field-do-you-have-right-know-if-your-elected-official-has-criminal-record-16297#.VCxr_FefZqw , etc).
The issue never really got any traction at the UBCM (I’m trying not to be cynical in assessing why that might be, as even our soccer coaches need criminal record checks. To let people make multi-million-dollar decisions that totally impact our day-to-day lives without that seems outstandingly irresponsible to me). I think our mayor was as baffled as I was by the lack of interest the idea created.
The truly weird part, for me, is that it’s no secret – a criminal record is part of the public record. I can go online, search any name, and find out if they’ve been convicted of anything. Not because I’m a reporter, but because I’m a citizen. Yet we have, in the past, had elected representatives with criminal records of which no one ever spoke … even though every member of the media at the time was aware of same. I know this because I flat-out asked them.
I stayed silent (to my shame) because I was trying to understand the ethos driving that – I thought maybe it was a cultural thing, and I wanted to respect the values of the people to whom I report. I now acknowledge the gross lapse I made, in that regard.
I’m now covering two cities and several regional districts, and I have to say, the media (myself included) has dropped the ball. If the UBCM won’t require candidates to disclose criminal records, I will.
To the candidates: every single name that comes up in the looming election, I will search in the Justice database. If you have a criminal record, I WILL report it. Not to be mean or adversarial – I think most of those kind of situations, for candidates, are easily explained. So explain them. Let us vote for YOU, not an image you want to project.
But I also think that asking for the public trust requires you offer some trust, as well. So, fair warning, before the nomination papers are in: The Castlegar Source and The Trail Champion will report and publish any criminal record of any candidate for any position.
This is just my take, but I think you’ll have a LOT more credibility if you report it before I do.