By now, news of Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson’s letter to the Integrity Commissioner complaining of an incident involving deputy premier Diane Thom at a cabin with people who were supposed to be in quarantine in March – and accusing Premier Caroline Cochrane of attempting to cover it all up – has traveled throughout the territory.
Obviously, implying the health minister was wilfully ignoring best-practices in the middle of a public health crisis is a serious charge, made worse by the allegation that the premier herself lied to the legislature. Included in our story is a draft apology Thom wrote in April to provide an explanation – though I have invited both Thom and Cochrane to explain their side of the story as well.
Her version of events in the draft apology goes over other issues made in the complaint, such as a large group of people partying at the cabin, but there is no mention of being with people who were supposed to be in quarantine. Whether that was intentionally left out or if the minister was simply unaware of her fellow party-goers’ situation remains to be seen.
Now that the case is before the ethics commissioner, I don’t expect we’ll hear much about what happened from either, which is unfortunate. Personally, I don’t have a good gauge of how serious this is in comparison to the other outrageous behaviours committed in our territory’s history, but I for one will not be jumping on a “resign now” bandwagon any time soon. I think it’s important we look at this against the backdrop of what else was happening at the time.
For example, while our own health minister was at the cabin, Alberta’s Health Minister Tyler Shandro was delisting essential services from public health insurance – that the insurance company his wife runs conveniently covered – then made headlines for harassing a private citizen on his own lawn. Then, he used private health-care records to look up a critic’s phone number and call them. He still has his job, even as Alberta and the rest of Canada appear to be on the cusp of a second wave of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, we’re still sitting at a total of five cases and none since April. Certainly it appears Thom made a mistake, but in the grand scheme of things it really is a minor blip.
It’s been my experience that female politicians tend to get unfair treatment in comparison to men when they get in trouble. While many of our male MPs and MLAs are known more for their shenanigans than their leadership, usually women get one strike and they’re out.
For reasons I cannot understand, we expect our female leaders to be perfect, and when that illusion is inevitably shattered we go nuts. The consequences of this bias are clear for all to see. Just imagine what the world would look like right now if the flawed-but-clearly-qualified woman won the last U.S. election, instead of the obviously incompetent man who was screaming racist statements and questioning the effectiveness of vaccines.
So before you condemn Thom and Cochrane for their choices, ask yourself if you would react the same way if it was Glen Abernethy and Bob McLeod in their places right now.