Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner December 12, 2021
Something surfaced here in early December that must be commented on.
It is a video made for public consumption in March, 2020 by federal member of Parliament Michelle Ferreri: shocking and offensive in its message and language. Disturbing in its revelations of her ways of communicating, it prompts questions about her suitability to be in an office representing this riding. A story on the front page of this paper described the outburst as a “salty rant.” It was much more significant than that. The subject waves a wine glass while shouting the” F word “eight times in a minute, naming someone named “Karen” who has offended her.
As a feminist for years who has worked to increase the number of women in elected office (now at 30% federally), I am reluctant to speak out critically about any woman politician. But this incident and what it demonstrates about our representative transcends that unwritten rule.
I grew up in a mining town and I taught teenagers: so salty language is nothing new to me. It’s standard in bars and hockey rinks, and maybe in lots of private spaces among many Canadians. But deep differences exist between that usage and this display.
It was made and recorded intentionally for profit by Ferreri (at $6.49 a month) before the election, but left on her page with subscription service still running, post-election. Not a good idea. Possibly against the Conflict of Interest Code too, as the ethics commissioner is now aware. Ferreri needed messages for the four folks who signed up for this deal.
I’m not sure if “Karen” is a real individual or if she’s using it in the pejorative sense of privileged white women “who always want to talk to the manager.” That hardly matters. She takes on in public, constituents who have offended her. Disrespectful is too mild word to describe her response.
Voters must ask some questions now.
What does it reveal about the member’s suitability for public office, her emotional control, her understanding of responsibility to the public, including the young, her judgment, and anger management?
Why, when it goes public, does she issue that nonapology apology, asserting that she indeed has a duty to be “held to a higher standard” and apologizes to "anyone who took offence to inappropriate language I used."
Such an effort to say “sorry” puts the onus, not on the offender but on the one offended. People see through it. Not much true contrition there.
I use Twitter sparingly but since the story was gaining attention and sympathy for us from across the country, I posted a message saying I was deeply ashamed and embarrassed. That drew 100 responses. Two of these responses supported Ferreri. One was from gun lobbyist Tracey Wilson in Ottawa, who said, “Pure gold; stay on it,” and another, a man, “Real Canadian, down to earth.”
But dozens more wrote versions of “I feel your pain: we had to put up with Derek Sloan (eastern Ontario), or “We’ve got some of the rural/urban divide too and it leaves us with Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia), an anti-vax Conservative MP.”
I would love to have been privy to the discussions at Conservative party headquarters, as leader Erin O’Toole saw this episode, a person he had just named shadow cabinet minister for tourism. Did they instruct their member to take down her post? Do they really vet their candidates for their good sense, grasp of issues, and desire for the public good? Does Peterborough have egg on its face once again on account of its electoral choice, as in Dean Del Mastro?
Why at this stage of the women’s movement development, is there is a vociferous, small contingent of women winning office? Often crude and, aggressive. Think Marjorie Taylor Greene in the States. Why do such people appear in right-wing parties?
More to the point, will Ferreri seek and absorb honest coaching on ethical behaviour in public life, for all our sakes?
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<