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Two Views on Helena Guergis: 1) R-E-S-P-E-C-T April 16, 2010

Posted by Jarrah H in Can-Con, feminism, Politics.
Tags: ,

It’s pretty hard to find Canadian media not talking about Helena Guergis, and we’re not going to be the exception. Today we have two differing viewpoints on the continuing coverage of the scandals surrounding Guergis. To start, here’s a piece from E. Cain.

Helena Guergis

Helena Guergis: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Last month I wrote about the biased, unfair media attention which plagued Conservative MP, Helena Guergis in response to her ‘emotional outburst’ at the Charlottetown airport.

Since then, media fascination with Helena Guergis has not subsided. The scandals have kept coming:

Guergis’ office assistant was caught sending letters praising the Minister to the local newspaper posing as a regular voter. Guergis claimed to have had no knowledge of these letters. 

There were accusations that Guergis was given a mortgage for the full $880,000 amount for a home in Ottawa. This alleged arrangement reeked of preferential treatment which would have been in violation of the conflict of interest code. Liberal MP, Marlene Jennings wrote to the federal ethics commissioner asking her to look into this matter.

Last week reports surfaced that, Guergis’ husband, Rahim Jaffer was boasting to business contacts about his access to Harper’s inner circle and made promises to obtain government funds for them. This directly impacted Guergis because it is reported that Jaffer wrote personal emails using one of Guergis’ parliamentary accounts on a government issued blackberry.

Opposition MPs have been calling for Guergis to resign for over a month and just last week they finally got what they have been asking for – Guergis resigned from her cabinet position. She will remain MP for Simcoe Grey but she was asked by the Prime Minister to sit outside the Conservative caucus while the RCMP investigates ‘serious allegations’ over her conduct (no more specifics were given).

So, what’s to make of this Guergis saga?

There is absolutely no doubt Guergis made mistakes – some of her own doing and I also believe the actions of her husband contributed to her demise. However, the media coverage which plagued Guergis has been nothing short of humiliating and it has been going on for months. I have a really difficult time understanding why our society has so much interest and fascination in watching the demise of a female politician. What happened to respect, compassion, empathy and all that good stuff?

I also find it particularly disheartening that with all this discussion about the Minister of State (Status of Women) there has been hardly any discussion about the real issue – her job. In particular, how well she is doing her job? What has she been doing to improve the status of women in this country? This is what should be considered newsworthy

Guergis will answer for her actions in the next election, should she decide to run again. In the meantime, I am still hoping we will be able to move on and focus on the real political issues.

-E. Cain

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1. Andy C. - April 17, 2010

To me, the issue isn’t that she’s a female politician. The thing that makes me mad and care about this situation is:

1) She may have broken the law. We don’t know.
2) We can’t get any answers about what she may or may not have done
3) Harper lied when he said he had asked the ethics commissioner to look into the allegations against her

When you have a government minister who may have broken the law, we the people have the right to know.

I’m not saying that she definatly broke the law. We don’t know.

But to me, it’s a “real” issue.

2. E. Cain - April 17, 2010

I see your point and you may be right, with the RCMP investigation the Guergis saga might develop into a ‘real’ political issue.

But, I call it a Guergis-saga because this has been going on way before the RCMP investigation.

Guergis has been on a downward cycle for months. The issue for me is that the way she has been treated in the media (even if she did bring it on by her own actions) is wrong and very gendered.

They say women in politics require a ‘thick skin’ well, I think Guergis she is living proof of that.

3. Ernie Hilts - April 17, 2010

Well put, and I agree there is media hounding, however there has been focus on her job. Not only is her husband seen wrapped up in drug hypocrisy, but she is now too; along with prostitution. Let’s not forget this isn’t the first time she’s been in the media with negative tones. Rick Mercer has included her in his rants for years now. From … See Morepotentially-tipping off Dion’s visit to Afghanistan, to cocktail partying in Mexico without addressing the Brenda Martin affair, and local issues inbetween; such as her and her husbands relation to Site 41. Is the Helena Guergis affair designed to blow up, and then be brushed off? I doubt it. Besides her given status to represent the status of women, behind the glitz and glam of photo ops and hand shaking, how well has she represented and respected women? From what I’ve been hearing from women, she hasn’t been doing her job well. Aside from her former cabinet position, she’s been wasting our tax dollars from taxiing her husband around in her government issued car, to claiming socks as a campagin expense. A poll taken by a Collingwood, Simcoe–Grey, radio station, showed the majority of the people want Helena to resign as their Member of Parliament. Not only are the opposition parties calling for her resignation, her constituents are too.

4. E. Cain - April 17, 2010

I agree with a lot of what you said but I still feel like her job isnt talked about as much as Id like. If she was in the news everyday for her failure to address the missing aboriginal women, or her failure to take action on pay equity or poverty of whateverthat would be great and I would be applauding the meida. But the reality is that those issues arent as “newsworthy” or “attention grabbing” as questionable mortgages or fake letters to newspapers.

Also, aside from policy and even party politics, I feel the need to write about the way she has been treated in the media because I think its very gendered. Ive never seen anything like this before – she has been in the news for months and it has all been negative attention. I really just have such a problem with ppl taking so much pleasure and interest in watching a woman live out her nightmare.

5. Carla - April 17, 2010

I was wondering if you guys were gonna have more on this. I dunno if you saw this thing http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/helena-guergis-affair-puts-dignity-in-doghouse/article1531221/ from the Globe & Mail but it shows this thing comparing Helena to a dog from the front pg of the sun. In my mind that is totally uncalled for! I mean I like both perspectives here and I think Helena doesn’t have any excuse for her behaviour, but we just don’t see things like this with guys…not the actions but the coverage.

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