It’s not a great look if you have to start a campaign to be Canada’s next prime minister by apologizing for your candidates’ racist or homophobic social media posts.
But that’s exactly what Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer spent the weekend doing instead of talking about his party’s policies.
Scheer said that the Liberals who posted about these candidates are trying to “distract” from their “their leader’s lies” by digging up the past. (Although, to be fair, at least one of these candidates’ comments had been written up in the media weeks ago.)
The Conservative leader told reporters Sunday night that he intends to keep these candidate as long as they apologize and disavow their previous views or statements.
Several Liberal candidates and cabinet ministers posted tweets that helped put Scheer on the defensive as he kicked off his campaign.
Scheer was in Ottawa Saturday for an event with his candidate for Kanata-Carleton, Justina McCaffrey, and was faced with questions from the media after a 2013 video of the candidate surfaced showing McCaffrey’s close relationship with Faith Goldy, a well-known far-right activist who Facebook banned for spreading hate.
McCaffrey herself sped off in a car immediately after her photo op with Scheer. The Conservatives put out a statement by McCaffrey, saying that she hadn’t been in touch with the individual “in several years.”
McCaffrey also had to apologize on Twitter after being called out for saying that Justin Trudeau spoke too much French.
Scheer also spent a good part of Friday answering questions from the media about his candidate for Brampton North, Arpan Khanna, who had to apologize Friday morning for an offhand homophobic remark from 2010.
At the same press conference (which was supposed to be about public transit tax credits), Scheer had to defend another candidate—Ghada Melek (Mississauga-Streetsville)—who, as VICE reported weeks ago, was rejected as a candidate by the Ontario Tories for her homophobic and Islamophobic online remarks.
Scheer said that he’s “glad” that both Melek and Khanna have apologized for their mistakes and wants to move on.
As Scheer travelled to B.C. on Sunday for a number of campaign events, Liberal candidate for Vancouver Centre tweeted a post by John Hirst, another Conservative candidate, that featured a gif of Denzel Washington along with a racial slur.
Last Thursday, the Conservatives had to drop their Winnipeg North candidate for discriminatory social media posts, though the party didn’t reveal what the posts actually said.
All four parties have now had to address questions of discrimination regarding certain candidiates, including the Liberals who had to dump Montreal’s Hassan Guillet for supporting a Palestinian militant years ago.
Social media has become the most fertile place to dig up inappropriate posts made however long ago by candidates across party lines. Parties have had to vet candidates and preemptively boot out those they find problematic. The beginning of this year’s election campaign has consisted of all parties having to do a certain degree of damage control.
The NDP dropped a candidate in B.C. after the party found posts he made two years ago as a graduate student. The Green Party did the same thing after an old, Islamophobic post surfaced by one of its candidates in Ontario. The Greens have had to address a number of candidates who’ve made questionable remarks in the past.
Though recent election history suggests the dropout rate will likely slow down in the coming weeks, we may see more surprises yet.
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