BLIZZARD: Troubling tale of Liberal hypocrisy in Spadina — Fort York

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The bizarre case of Kevin Vuong — the former Liberal candidate who won in Toronto’s Spadina-Fort York riding in a tight race against the NDP — is deeply troubling.

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Days before last week’s election, news reports revealed Vuong was charged in 2019 with sexual assault, a charge dropped by the Crown later that year.

It was too late to take his name off the ballot, but Liberal Party officials initially asked Vuong to “pause” his campaign. Whatever that means.

Like the cynical Captain Louis Renault in the movie Casablanca, I’m “shocked, shocked,” to find a Liberal candidate accused of sexual impropriety in the middle of an election.

This is the same Liberal Party whose leader apparently forgot to tell party officials he’d posed for the camera wearing blackface. This is the same Liberal Party whose leader was accused of groping a young reporter in BC. She had the courage to go on the record and put her name to the allegations. 

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Justin Trudeau sloughed it off, saying she, “may have experienced it differently.”

It’s breathtakingly hypocritical for the Liberal Party, that’s glossed over so much inappropriate behaviour on the part of its leader, to now express so much dismay about Vuong.

Vuong denies any wrongdoing and there’s no proof anything happened — just rumours and one anonymous accuser. Interestingly, no other women have come forward making similar claims against Vuong since this came to light, as often happens in cases of alleged sexual misconduct.

“I understood everything to be consensual and was always respectful of her boundaries,” Vuong said, in part, in a statement after the election.

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In this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty. If now you’re barred from running for office because you were once charged and the charges were dropped — or you were tried and found not guilty — that’s setting a whole new high bar for politicians. And it’s one open to abuse. 

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Liberals are outraged that Vuong lied to them during the vetting process, presumably for not disclosing the incident.  How can he disclose something that legally didn’t happen?

Vuong says he won’t quit and will sit as an independent. That’s his right.

The seat belongs to the person, not the party. And his party was shockingly quick to denounce him. They should have stood by him and let him take his seat as a Liberal until a full investigation either cleared his name or resulted in charges.

If the allegations proved to be true, they should have asked him to step down at that point.

The Liberals need to apply the same standards of vetting to all their candidates. If Vuong is dropped for an accusation, then Trudeau should also step down.

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Without a trial or conviction, Vuong can’t even apply for a pardon. You can’t pardon what hasn’t been proven in a court of law. How can he ever clear his name?

 A case that never went to court has now ended a man’s political career. This sets an unfortunate precedent and paves the way for future political takedowns.

Men, particularly, may now be vulnerable to scurrilous accusations by nameless, faceless accusers — founded or unfounded. It leaves them vulnerable to smear campaigns. Politics is an ugly business and some candidates will do anything to discredit an opponent.

The word candidate comes from the Latin, “candidus,” meaning shining white. In ancient Rome, candidates for office wore white robes. They were supposed to be unsullied.

In this country, we expect an exemplary standard from our elected officials. But we also shouldn’t throw mud at people who stand for office if there’s no direct evidence of wrongdoing. 

It’s open season on the unwitting. Take your best shot.

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