Adam Radwanski

The Giambrone precedent

The Globe and Mail

I was going to play off today's column on why it was a bad idea to abolish Ontario MPPs' pensions, which I'd argue is a useful lesson for government in other provinces and at other levels. But I suspect there may be a little more interest today in a different topic.

In all honesty, I'm not totally sure what to make of the Adam Giambrone sex scandal - four words I really never thought I'd be typing. (My main reaction is that "I knew a long, long time ago about the fare hike" is pretty much the least sexy quote I've ever heard in a sex scandal that didn't involve Prince Charles.)

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It's fair to say Giambrone set himself up for this. If he'd kept his personal life personal - beyond refuting published inaccuracies - it's doubtful this story would have seen the light of day. Because he instead trotted out his girlfriend as part of his image construction, the fact that he was simultaneously dismissing her as "someone political" - to a 19-year-old love interest, no less - can be judged a relevant story.

What remains to be seen is what kind of precedent this sets. If it's a very narrow one - candidates who give their partners a high profile, then belittle them to other partners in writing, will be exposed - that's defensible. But if it's instead taken to legitimize or even necessitate prying into other candidates' personal lives, in Toronto's mayoral race or elsewhere, that's a different matter.

If you cover politics, you regularly hear rumours - some of them quite salacious - about what politicians are doing on their own time. A not insignificant number of them could probably be verified if anyone made it a personal mission. But in this country, journalists generally don't. In fact, as Andrew Coyne somewhat ambiguously pointed out last week, we step very carefully to avoid even some revelations that aren't really very scandalous at all.

Personally, I'm just fine with that. It's difficult enough to attract good people to run for office. (Hey, that reminds me - check out today's column!) To submit them to the level of scrutiny faced in the U.S. and elsewhere - whether it's about their sex lives or their health records or anything else that doesn't pertain to job performance - isn't going to do much to improve our level of representation.

All this is a long way of saying that if Giambrone invited scrutiny of his own personal life, so be it. But here's hoping it's not taken as an open invitation to give everyone else the tabloid treatment.

(Photo: Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)