Last week, Coun. Kerrie Reay announced in an intense and emotional statement to Sooke Council that she won’t be running for council in the next election. Her reasons? An intense blitzkrieg of aimless hatred and egotistic vendettas that reached their peak.
In other words, it went beyond politics and became personal.
Reay’s abrupt departure from politics is more startling than most would care to realize. It heralds a time when politicians are no longer safe from the public beyond city hall, which is a problem that works in tandem with the public’s fanatical thirst to question, dissect and accuse their elected government, largely fuelled by social media and innumerable sources of misinformation, who are hilariously misinformed themselves.
No doubt, politicians are expected to have a thick skin. They are at the forefront of public and media criticism daily, because in truth, no matter what they do, they’ll make mistakes. For as long as humans and politics existed, it’s been this way.
Again though, politicians are no longer pounded for their policies and decisions; they’re directly labelled as crooks, liars, the detritus of humanity. In that lies the fundamental difference between criticizing someone and personally attacking them, questioning their moral, ethical and professional integrity.
Sooke people elected Reay. She didn’t just suddenly appear as a phantasm. She even topped the polls in the last election. She gets involved in her community and is regarded by mayor and council as one of the hardest-working councillors around. So why craft a crusade against the very person sworn in to serve the community?
Now it’s clear these campaigns have taken their toll. Reay won’t be the first or the last politician to abandon the arena; more so, what kind of decent politician would want to enter such a toxic environment? Because realistically, no matter who sits in that chair, they will be bashed and hounded by the same people who are repeatedly reactive and dangerously misinformed, and when not given precisely what they want, will stomp their feet and scream at the sky crying foul.
No one won here. To lose an elected official under such circumstances is shameful and unfitting to Sooke’s reputation of selfless kindness and warmth, and disheartening to good people willing to lead this community into the future.
We can dare to do better.