Sudbury

'Ticking time bomb' of sexual misconduct forces parties to pick candidates carefully

The sexual misconduct scandals hitting Ottawa, Toronto and other capitals are changing how politics is practiced in this country. And for party operatives in northern Ontario, one of the big changes is how they pick who they put on the ballot.

Political parties to focus more on vetting potential candidates

Northern Ontario political organizers believe the sexual misconduct scandals that brought down PC leader Patrick Brown and others will change how parties choose their candidates. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

The Conservative Party of Canada has a 54-page script to put potential candidates through.

"Is there anything in your personal, professional or business background that could cause embarrassment for the party?" reads Timmins-based organizer Steve Kidd.

But he says that catch-all question wouldn't necessarily snag all of the sexual misconduct allegations that have been surfacing in the past week and ending the careers of prominent politicians, most notably Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown.

"If you want to be a candidate for a political party in an election, it's like taking a shower in front of the world," says Kidd.

He does feel that party operatives in northern Ontario and other smaller communities have an advantage because they usually are recruiting people who they already know to run.

But Kidd wonders if a third party ombudsman is needed to investigate these complaints before they make the news.

Former northern Ontario NDP organizer Richard Eberhardt says allegations of what today would be called sexual misconduct have come up in past campaigns he worked on.

Former NDP organizer Richard Eberhardt, who recruited federal and provincial candidates in Sudbury and across northern Ontario, says vetting candidates used to be a tedious chore.

But he says the fear of a sex scandal is now turning it into a high risk game for political parties.

"Alright we got a tip: There's a ticking time bomb in this building. We don't know how many there are, how big they are, when they're going to go off. You got to go find them."

Eberhardt says these kinds of allegations have come up in past campaigns that he worked on.

Without going into details, he says they were investigated by the party and dismissed.

Eberhardt says society is changing how it views sexual behaviour and the world of politics has to keep up. 

"Things that might not have been sexual misconduct in past campaigns is now absolutely for sure sexual misconduct and there are victims that are coming forward with truthful tales that have been pushed aside and swept aside and we're going to expect to see more of this, not less," he says. 

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