I keep saying that this election that we are now in is one that will be a good case study somedays, because of the unique circumstances that it’s happening in, namely the COVID pandemic. Obviously, that’s having some tangible effects on how the campaigns are running, how people will vote and how people are feeling about certain issues. But as the campaign rolls out, it’s interesting to see how these circumstances further affect other things that are common parts of the modern political election campaign.

One of those parts is candidate vetting, and the importance of trying to catch potential problematic information or acts by said people to protect the party or leader. No campaign wants to be thrown off for a day, having to apologize for the words or actions of some random candidate who had no chance of winning to begin with. It throws off the national campaign, local candidates are affected by it too and it’s something that a good candidate vet can help avoid all together. So when that vet fails, it’s usually because of a failed vetting of said person. But what might qualify as problematic or to what degree pre-pandemic can look very different now in this context. I’ve been curious to see how this unique context would rear its head on this front and it turns out that we now have an example to test this on, coming out of the Liberal camp:

Everyone, say hello to Jessica Dale-Walker, who is running for the Liberals in Calgary Nose Hill against Michelle Rempel Garner. According to reporting from CBC, Ms. Dale-Walker managed to hit an interesting combo of candidate vet fails. Two tweets were flagged by the Conservative campaign to the media, one which would be a problem at any time, and another that’s really bad in this specific moment. The first came in March 2020 where, when was talking about certain Alberta politicians, she wrote that Alberta needs to “fit in or f–k off. We Alberta need to start fitting in. Because quite frankly, we are not as superior as our government touts.”

Ouch, that’s bad folks, seriously. That’s bad at any time and more than fair grounds to remove as a candidate at any time, but I’ll come back to that in a moment. The second Tweet came in November 2020, less than a year ago. This time she decided to weigh in on COVID vaccines and, well, these words speak for themselves:

“I chose to allow the entitled to flock for the vaccine like they demanded to be the guinea pigs, that way should there be problems those with brains were left behind,” Dale-Walker tweeted in November 2020.

Source: cbc.ca

Entitled guinea pigs? Excuse me? If you want to talk about entitled and sneering, smug behaviour, that’s an awful condescension that is just ugly as Hell. It also puts those comments from March in a different light, as I can imagine those “eff yous” being launched with the same kind of “better than thou” smugness that this damn Tweet drips in. This is particularly ugly given the context in which it happened and that we find ourselves in now. How in the sweet Hell did the Liberals all someone with such ugly comments about such an important thing as getting vaccines ever get on a ballot for them? That’s not just a vetting failure, that’s a vetting fiasco. Seriously, she tweeted that if you trusted science and experts in medical science somehow a part of some entitled flock of dumb people. In her twisted view, only those of her view were truly smart. And she was so “smart”, she Tweeted that out to everyone then decided to run for public office and apparently thought it wouldn’t matter. Arrogance, it clearly knows no ends.

But while all of that blows my mind, let me take a quick detour here to address something else that she had to say in that tweet; she basically called the vast majority of Canadians “entitled guinea pigs”. Clearly Ms. Dale-Walker needs to get out of her high tower of genius a bit more often because she clearly doesn’t know what an entitled guinea pig looks like. You want to see one? Here:

Everyone, meeting Ossie (also playfully called Ossington), my daughters guinea pig. This is one entitled-ass guinea pig. It demands nothing but the finest hay, the best water, premium chips to walk on top of in its spacious cage and more. It’s demands for fresh kale and carrots knows no bounds and when he doesn’t get it, he sneers and glares down his long muzzle at you as if you were lower than low. Yep, he’s an entitled guinea pig, not folks lining up to take medically approved and scientifically proven vaccines to do their part to fight this global pandemic.

But back to the issue for the moment, while the vetting fail here is bad, honestly the Liberal reaction to it is even worse. The Liberal campaign issued an apology on Dale-Walker’s behalf, followed by a statement of apology of her own. In that statement, she said that statement was “certainly not how I feel today.” Yeah, that’s exactly what you’d say now that you’re running for public office. She also claims that she is double vaxxed, which really doesn’t settle this matter either. Does that mean that she admits that she was wrong? That we “entitled guinea pigs” were right all along? No comments on that, just a weak tea attempt to make this all go away.

And that’s what makes this the biggest fail in my mind for the Liberals. As I mentioned at the start, her first comments from March 2020 were bad enough to toss her. Those comments about vaccines that she made mere months later were even worse given this context, making it all the more justifiable to remove her as their candidate. In fact, I would argue that it’s more damaging for her to remain on the ballot than the removal itself. That apology was not fulsome, came at a moment of her highest self-interest and as a result, is suspect. Furthermore, it’s not like this is something she did a decade ago and goofed; the anti-vax comments came like 9 months ago! To say something like that is “certainly not how I feel today” just sounds all the worse because, seriously, how much are we expecting her to have changed in 9 months? And if she had truly changed, why in the Hell hasn’t she removed crap like that when she “saw the light”? All legit questions that are left open here, casting a shadow on that weak apology.

There is no way that this candidate should still be on the ballot and the longer she stays there, the longer this issue will remain a millstone around the neck of Justin Trudeau. This was a real “put up or shut up” kind of moment for the Liberal leader, and he failed on that count. And all of this is because someone didn’t do their homework at the start of the campaign. I’ll be curious to see if more cases like this come out but if they do, other leaders would do well to learn from this response and do the opposite. If you’re truly supportive of public health and stopping this pandemic, you can’t have candidates on your slate out there Tweeting anti-vax crap like that. You’d think that would be a bare minimum right now, but hey, maybe some people are so entitled that they think the laws of political gravity don’t apply to them. That could explain a thing or two here.