Editorial: Truth matters in B.C. politics


It’s a measure of the state of politics these days that some British Columbians waited nervously to see if Premier Christy Clark would apologize for telling a whopper, or would double down.

She apologized, so old-fashioned notions about truth and accountability are more than just nostalgia. Let us hope they still have some life in them as we move into election season.

Clark jumped into the deep end last week by blaming the NDP for allegedly hacking into the B.C. Liberal website the previous weekend.

The B.C. Liberals had announced the alleged hacking on Feb. 6, claiming that over the weekend their “opponents” gained access to supporters’ feedback on the party’s Vancouver Island platform. The hackers also obtained the supporters’ names, email addresses and postal codes, the Liberals said.

When it appeared that the hacker had used a computer inside the legislature building, Clark leaped to the conclusion that the NDP were the culprits. Challenged on it, she could provide no evidence that the New Democrats were involved.

And with good reason. First, because the NDP didn’t do it, and second, because there was no hack.

Clark said: “I jumped to the conclusion that almost everybody else jumped to, which was: Somebody in the B.C. legislature has malicious intent and they’re trying to harm the B.C. Liberals.”

On Friday, she apologized to NDP Leader John Horgan, who had threatened to sue her over the allegation.

“It is further proof of the fact that when we jump to conclusions and we make a mistake we should own up to it. And I have no problems saying sorry because I made a mistake, and I shouldn’t have jumped to those conclusions as quickly as I did,” Clark said.

Independent MLA Vicki Huntington revealed Friday that one of her staff had found the information sitting on the Liberal website, unprotected. The “hack” was nothing more than sloppiness on the part of the Liberals.

In the days before Clark apologized, she and the party clung to the accusations without any proof that they were true. The affair seemed to echo the bizarre assertions of U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his officials, who offer unsupported allegations, but refuse to back down. Instead, they repeat unproven statements or outright lies, in defiance of the conventions of civilized discussion.

While we are in favour of trade with the United States, that’s one product we don’t need to import from our southern neighbours.

Everyone from party workers to voters to politicians should try to support their arguments with facts. If someone makes a mistake, acknowledge it and correct it. If someone gets caught in a lie, they must admit it and apologize.

Politics can be a dirty business, and emotions run high, especially at election time. These days, political differences seem as bitter as wartime hatreds. But if we want to maintain a strong and viable democracy, those emotions mustn’t overwhelm our basic respect for the truth.

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