Three Nova Scotia MLA candidates have either resigned or been dropped from their respective political parties this month due to offensive online comments.
Former MP Peter Stoffer suggested on Wednesday that there can be room for leeway.
“I think if a person is truly forgiving and they truly understand the error of their ways, it shouldn’t necessarily delete them from the race,” he said in Fall River, N.S.
Stoffer said that that’s only applicable if the comments were made a significant time ago.
“If you scour Mr. McNeil‘s background, Mr. Baillie‘s background, even Mr. Burrill‘s background —you go all the way back when they were kids and anything they ever said or maybe written in the past somewhere, that’s not on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. I guarantee you, they would probably regret what they said back then — but they’re not like that now, and that’s the key to it,” he said.
Stoffer, who has been helping his local provincial NDP candidate in the ongoing campaign, made headlines for calling another MP at the time a d–khead. He said he still won’t apologize for it.
Anita Kirkbride, who owns Twirp Communications, said she’s been following the stories of the candidates’ online “missteps.”
“Free speech is your right. You can say whatever you want, but free speech doesn’t protect you from the consequences,” she said.
The offensive comments should have been found by the parties and removed well before the campaign began, Kirkbride said.
Still, like Stoffer, she said the candidates should be offered some leeway.
“I think by just simply cutting [the candidates] off, we’re kind of shutting down that conversation, and that ability for people to learn from their mistakes,” Kirkbride added.
Stoffer, who doesn’t use Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, said he’s made offensive jokes about several different groups of people decades ago.
“I think there isn’t a person over 40 in this country who hasn’t used the N-word, hasn’t said something disparaging about gay and lesbian people,” he said, going on to mention other groups.
Stoffer added that he’s glad those “stupid” comments are becoming a thing of the past.
His advice for people running for public office is to think before you tweet, and own up to what you do.
“To ‘Scarlett Letter’ every single person for every comment they’ve ever made, you’re not going to have any politicians in the future, if that’s the high standard you’re going to hold,” Stoffer said.
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