Plecas, Politics and Social Media: We Can All Do Better

By: Justin P. Goodrich, LL.M

As I have written on before, though I have been a lifelong member of the Conservative Party of Canada (going back as far as pre-merger), I had at one point cancelled my membership with the BC Liberal Party.  I did so as a matter of personal loyalty and principle, putting people and service before party politics. I also did so because I felt that as a lifelong federal conservative no one could ever question my political ideologies or my personal loyalty, and I could therefore stand firmly by my decision at a provincial level without loosing too much political and/or social capital – geez, was I naïve.

Fast forward several years it is safe to say that the older I get the more I have come to realize that the best way to influence change is from within.  Whether that change is political, social, or otherwise, working within established organizations and systems lends itself to the most effective means of influencing change.  Thus, because the BC Liberals are a grass-roots party, and because I believe in their platform, I returned to the party a few years back and have since given generously of my time, energy and finances.  Enter the events that took place last week with the election of Dr. Darryl Plecas as the new Speaker of the BC Legislature.

Dr. Plecas is a man who – as I have stated before – I consider a good friend.  Subsequently, both because of our personal relationship, and as the Vice-President of the Abbotsford-South Riding Association for the BC Liberals, I was disappointed to learn of his decision via my social media newsfeed.

Since then we have spoken at length and I now understand why he kept those closest to him at arms length for the weeks leading-up to his decision.  The thoughtful man that he is, Dr. Plecas wanted to make sure he protected those of us who are close to him (most notably his friends, and his constituency staff).  Indeed, he knew that he would receive some harsh criticism if he accepted the Speakership, and wanted to protect those of us who would be ‘guilty by association.’

For The Record…

I am not going to dissect the events of last week.  Indeed, as I intend on remaining loyal to both Dr. Plecas personally, and the BC Liberal Party professionally, I would just find myself in a world of hurt if I attempted to traverse those events in print.  I would, however, like to address the role of social media within modern-day political discourse, using these events to illustrate the point I will be making at the end of this column.

As I stated in the first half of my column, I first heard about Dr. Plecas’ decision on my social media newsfeed.  As I scrolled through the headlines what struck me first was how the media quickly categorizing the events that had taken place.  The word used most frequently was “defection”, thus implying that Dr. Plecas had crossed-the-floor (i.e., gone from the BC Liberals to the BC NDP) when what he actually did was accept a non-partisan, non-voting position.  Moreover, it was actually the party that decided to terminate his membership via a statement they released the following day.  Nevertheless, with little context and heated emotions, facts seemingly became irrelevant and social media went crazy!

What was most difficult to see were the comments that people made that failed to take in to consider the kind of man Dr. Plecas is.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, his close to forty years in academia didn’t matter; the hundreds of lives he positively influenced as a Professor – mine included – didn’t matter; his international reputation as both a well respected academic and individual, didn’t matter.  No, as a result of one decision and the power of social media, Dr. Plecas was suddenly a selfish politician who lacked integrity, couldn’t be trusted, and was only in it for the money.  Granted, if we were to take this one situation in isolation then Dr. Plecas could very well be all those things he’s been accused of.  However, when put in to a greater context it is exceedingly evident that nothing could be further from the truth!

Again, I’m not going to comment on who is right and who is wrong.  My point, however, is this: in this day-and-age of hyper connectivity it seems that we are becoming more and more comfortable cutting people down.  Indeed, whether it is out of anger, frustration or cynicism, we are quick to immediately judge someone without knowing all the facts, and without taking in to consider all the things that have historically defined their character.  Thus, regardless of whatever the situation may be, let us all do better moving forward for the sake of humanity.  After all, time always reveals the truth!

Previous issues of ‘For The Record’ can be found online at:

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