By Ligia Braidotti
After two Manitoba candidates came under fire for thier controversial Twitter history, some voters are feeling conflicted on whether or not past social media posts matter.
The controversy between NDP candidate Wab Kinew and Liberal former candidate Jamie Hall’s tweets has raised questions about who Manitoba’s politicians are and how they are reaching out to the community.
This isn’t the first time social media has played a huge role in a Manitoba election.
The civic election in 2014 saw similar scandal when a Facebook post made by Gord Steeves’s wife was found referencing a “drunken native guys” and faced public backlash.
Hall and Kinew have tweeted things many have seen as sexist and homophobic. Both candidates claimed people are missing the joke. Hall went so far as to offer a long detailed defense to many of his controversial tweets on his blog, Project by Jamie.
“People do make mistakes, and I’m sure they regret what they said, but I don’t feel sorry for them. Those comments weren’t recently made. Maybe there should be time frames set up,” said Doreen Sanderson, 60.
While some Manitobans think these tweets are alarming, others believe it’s not too late to say sorry.
“I think the issues they brought up in the past aren’t an issue, you know. Their views could’ve changed since then,” said Adam Smith, a 20-year-old student at Red River College.
Hall has resigned and indicated he wasn’t sorry for the things he said in a lengthy blog post. Kinew, however, is confident that people have forgiven him for his derogatory hip-hop songs and bad jokes.
Kinew claimed he was mocking himself and his privileged situation when he tweeted:
Last Friday at a press conference, Kinew was very defensive about his past. After Gordon Sinclair Jr. asked him if he’d apologize specifically to the children he offended, Kinew said he had already apologized to everyone he hurt on his book, The Reason You Walk, a national bestseller.
David Shorr, former executive director of Manitoba Forward, said he experienced Kinew’s defensiveness first hand when he Kinew blocked him on Twitter after retweeting people’s comments about the candidate’s accountability.
“If you’re saying your life is an open book, then you should just keep it open. Because otherwise, you’re hiding things from the voters that would help them make their decision,” said Shorr.
Shorr, who was also a director of media relations for the Manitoba Liberal Party during the 2011 election, said running for a public office is not the same as applying for a job at a coffee shop.
“(Candidates) are applying to be in government. And responsibilities there go beyond skill set or work experience.”
Shorr added that there are other ways to be funny and respectful, allowing people to show their personality without crossing the line.
“Sometimes you might make an off-colour remark or maybe say swear words here and there—I don’t believe that should condemn someone. I think it’s when it speaks of a deeper darkness.”