KAMLOOPS — William Shakespeare was way ahead of his time. When he wrote one of his best comedies “Much Ado About Nothing” in the late 1500’s, he didn’t realize that the themes of the play would recur so many times throughout history. I find it playing itself out now as we see much ado about nothing when it comes to ethics, politics, conflict of interest and perception of what is right and wrong. We all know that perception of right and wrong is critical in politics, but we are getting to the point of the ridiculous.
Just before Christmas, the federal ethics commissioner cleared Health Minister Jane Philpott of a purported ethics breach. She used a driving service owned by a Liberal party member. No breach of ethics was found. And then there is Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar, who was urged to step aside from any discussion or voting on the Ajax mine proposal because he is now a Liberal party candidate for May’s election. Much ado about nothing, at least at this point.
We often hear comments from third parties that a particular politician or public servant has broken the rules and done something wrong. The media quotes these third parties, who could be misinformed, ill-advised, or just looking to discredit someone for their own purposes, and all of a sudden there’s a major brouhaha erupting when in fact it is, indeed, much ado about nothing.
Do we really think that someone like the Premier, a Liberal party member, should not be allowed to attend a Liberal party fundraiser? Do we feel that the Health Minister shouldn’t be allowed to use whatever driving service she wants as long as rates are comparable to other services? I don’t mind people asking reasonable questions, and there is no doubt that, on some occasions, we do uncover instances of misuse of influence or funds. But in general we spend far too much time crucifying people for no reason other than the satisfaction of our own motives and desires. No wonder so many people hesitate to enter into public service.
And if a person does make reckless accusations, should there be some sort of punishment if the accusations prove false? There’s a difference between whistleblowing and unfair accusation. I guess the problem is, where is the line? Is it fair to let people make accusations based on personal bias or should we hold them to some similar standard to what we hold those being accused? Fair comment is one thing, but unfair accusations, particularly when words like “unethical”, “evil” or “dishonest” are used, is carrying things beyond the scope of asking reasonable questions.
We need to be very careful how we raise points of interest. And let’s make sure the “ado” is about “something” and not “nothing”. Although “Much Ado About Something” really wouldn’t be nearly as good a play.