EDITORIAL: Democracy online

People can be rude. And that is doing serious damage to our democracy.

People can be rude. And that is doing serious damage to our democracy.

They hide behind the anonymity of social media and fire hurtful barbs at those in power. Oh, they may put their name to their comments, but they certainly don’t deliver their critiques face-to-face.

And these words hurt.

An expert on municipal government says in a story in today’s paper this kind of culture change is one of the reasons why more than a quarter of all towns, cities and regional districts in this province have searched for a new chief administrative officer (CAO) this year.

The Town of Qualicum Beach (less than two years ago), Parksville (this year), the Regional District of Nanaimo (this year), the City of Nanaimo (this year) and Lantzville (this year): CAO turnover in all of the communities within 30 km of Parksville’s world-famous beach.

Perhaps you believe a thick skin should be a qualification for a top job at city hall that carries a salary of $150,000 or more. Perhaps you believe the trend being noted where councils are digging into more detail, getting more involved in the day-to-day operations of municipalities, is a good one.

Councillors and mayors are accountable to the taxpayer. If there’s a sense the taxpayer (voter) wants councillors and mayors to pay more attention to the details of municipal operations, the politicians are likely to conduct themselves in that manner.

So, staff are under a microscope from politicians while getting hammered online by the proverbial guy in his boxers with a laptop in his mother’s basement. Hmmm, $150,000/year doesn’t sound like that much anymore.

What’s worse is how irresponsible, unaccountable social media comments are affecting the quality of the pool of people who would seek office.

What person in their right mind would take that kind abuse for a town councillor’s salary? The answer to that, sadly, is someone who has an ego to feed or a specific agenda to push or a personal axe to grind with another councillor or group of councillors.

Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights in our society. Like all freedoms and rights, it should not be employed in a manner that restricts the freedoms and rights of others. As long as there continues to be no reprisals, no accountability, the social media free-for-all that’s prevalent now has a chance to seriously erode our democracy.

— Editorial by John Harding

Just Posted

Fill the fire engines in District 69 for 2018

Firefighters set to conduct annual food and toy drive

Grandmothers to Grandmothers host annual Christmas Extravaganza

Crafts, baked goods, knitting and many more homemade treasures available at fundraiser

Vancouver Island brewery re-brands again after cryptic new logo failed

Victoria-based brewers said goodbye to confusing hexagon logo

Gridiron Whalers go marching past Saints

Ballenas defence holds off surging Langley to secure spot in playoff quarterfinals

VIDEO: Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee dies

Marvel co-creator was well-known for making cameo appearances in superhero movies

Surging Rangers beat visiting Canucks 2-1

Goalie Lundqvist ties Plante on all-time wins list

VIDEO: Newcomer kids see first Canadian snowfall

Children arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings last week from Eritrea

Calgary 2026 leader expects close vote in Winter Games plebiscite

Residents to choose in a non-binding vote on Tuesday whether they want city to bid on 2026 Olympics

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

B.C. health care payroll tax approved, takes effect Jan. 1

Employers calculating cost, including property taxes increases

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

Most Read