News Views: Election issue

As the municipal election races heat up, incumbent politicians and aspiring ones would be well served to remember Paul Reitsma.

For those not familiar, the Parksville-Qualicum Liberal MLA was forced to resign in 1998 after it was revealed by a community newspaper that he was writing letters to editors under an assumed name, praising himself while criticizing his political opponents.

More than a decade later,  the internet and social media have changed the way campaigns are run. Facebook and Twitter, blogs too, are affordable, far-reaching alternatives for candidates to spread their messages, unfiltered.

Commenting platforms on media web sites are yet another free alternative, and monitored differently than letters pages. Often, only an email address or web site are needed to establish an account, and writers can use any display name, creating anonymity for commentators. That can lead to some unruly posts, but also frees up dialogue that doesn’t occur in print.

That anonymity can also be abused. We hope candidates and their supporters respect the opportunities afforded to them enough to not take unfair advantage of them, but it would be naive to assume all will.

We’ve already seen in other markets a mayoral candidate sometimes use his real name as an online handle and other times an assumed one, both under the same IP address. Could someone else be using the same computer? How do you prove that?

That is where trust and integrity come into play. We’ll judge as best we can to filter biased, planted and slanderous comments. But for the most part, we’ll leave the commenting platform on our website open to everyone.

The letters page, however, will be closed to candidates until after the elections. We’ll reserve that for voters, to share ideas and discuss issues. We want readers to be informed, to participate in the conversation, to get out and vote on Nov. 19.

Hopefully, we’ll end up with well-rounded, responsible governments that help our communities reach their potential, make them better places to live, play and work.

It’s OK to disagree, to have competing views. But be thoughtful, informed, and honest.

So remember Mr. Reitsma, and if you’re going to say something, put your name to it.

– The News