Brampton North Conservative candidate latest to be tainted by unearthed cyber-skeletons, as news focuses on personality not policy 
Photos by Andre Forget/Conservative Party of Canada

Brampton North Conservative candidate latest to be tainted by unearthed cyber-skeletons, as news focuses on personality not policy 

A Brampton Conservative candidate is the latest to face mounting calls to step down over social media comments he made years ago. Arpan Khanna, contesting the Brampton North riding, used a slur considered deeply offensive around the world and is now being asked to quit his bid to represent Canadians in Ottawa.

It's the latest case in a growing list of examples of questionable past behaviour by vetted candidates.  

During the election period, the eyes of the whole country are drawn to those who hope to represent Canadians on the national stage. Through press coverage and debates, scrutiny is applied to party leaders, while – in our online world – people, often working for the other side, also search for skeletons lurking in cyberspace. 

Three days into the official campaign period, several candidates across the country have already been forced to step down. Two NDP candidates resigned at the start of the campaign, with one accused of domestic abuse and the other of “problematic” comments made on social media. 

Just weeks before the writ dropped, the Liberals in Quebec were forced to distance themselves from now-former candidate Hassan Guillet, after allegations of anti-Semitism. Yesterday, the second day of the campaign, the Conservatives and Greens also had to take action, both over Islamophobic social media posts: In Manitoba, Conservative Cameron Ogilvie was forced to resign after posts that included one in which he said he was “proud to be white”; in Ontario, Erik Schomann ended his bid to become a Green MP after an old social media post was found that showed him roasting a pig with a caption that said its leftovers should be sent to Denmark in support of critics of Islam.

Another Green candidate, Mark Vercouteren, running in the Ontario riding of Chatham-Kent-Leamington, is now being “re-vetted,” according to  Leader Elizabeth May, because it was learned he had once declared an anti-abortion stance. 


Arpan Khanna, right, in India last October with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, after he was nominated in Brampton North


Now online scrutiny has reached Peel, with Brampton North candidate Arpan Khanna apologizing Friday morning for a homophobic slur made in a Facebook comment he posted in 2010. The Conservative said he “deeply regret[s] the offensive language I used when I was a teenager.”

“Over the past decade I have come to understand that creating safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ people in Canada happens in our homes, workplaces, on social media and in the conversations we have every day. I apologize unequivocally,” he said in a Twitter apology. 

Meanwhile, Ruby Sahota, the Liberal incumbent for Brampton North, made reference to Khanna’s post and on Twitter questioned his fitness for public office given the past remarks. (A warning to The Pointer's readers: the following Twitter post contains offensive remarks, including profanity that some might find inappropriate.)




With the Conservative candidate just the latest in a string of Ottawa hopefuls resigning or being pressured to step away from the race across the country, questions will no doubt be raised about party vetting processes. While it may be difficult to painstakingly scrutinize the character of those who wish to be elected, political observers suggest it's suprising to witness the major party machinery fail so badly at blocking people with problematic records. It took the media and members of the public mere hours to unearth the problematic comments and acts that have already been revealed, suggesting that candidates should prepare to have millions of eyes picking apart their digital and non-digital histories. 

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was in Mississauga Friday morning to announce plans for transit funding, before heading to Brampton North to campaign alongside his under-fire candidate. The plan was to announce a Green Public Transit Tax Credit at a Mississauga GO bus garage, before knocking on the doors of residents in Brampton to hear about what matters to them. 

Andrew Scheer meets with Mississauga GO Transit workers in Mississauga Friday morning


However, the discovery of Khanna's online comments will likely distract from policy announcements. Instead of media and public scrutiny being directed at the promises politicians are making, efforts are already focusing on the debate over ethics and morality in the modern age, when campaign words often don’t match past actions. Journalists, opponents and members of the public will be asking if someone should resign for comments they made years ago. 

For example, today’s tax credit announcement is certainly good news for Mississauga and all who commute by transit through the GTA, if Scheer wins. However, federal neglect of infrastructure in Brampton and Mississauga means that the announcement stops well short of solving issues extremely pertinent to both cities. The 15 percent tax credit will doubtless be appreciated, though it’s not clear how it will speed up long and badly timetabled journeys for Brampton and Mississauga-based commuters. 

An announcement made yesterday by the NDP — again in Brampton North — was also overshadowed by resignations. After Jagmeet Singh committed to funding a much-needed new hospital for Brampton, the NDP leader was forced to spend some of the media scrum fielding questions about candidates who had resigned in another province — time spent on the soap opera of politics and not the lives of the people of Brampton. 

The failure of the Conservatives, NDP and other parties in their vetting process ultimately affects cities like Brampton and Mississauga as much as it does individual parties. Khanna’s comments may shift opinion in Brampton North, but they’re unlikely to help refocus on the backyard issues being faced by taxpayers in the riding. 

Sahota has already begun her campaign to attack her opponent’s past comments, instead of focusing on her own plans for the future and explaining why she and other local Liberal incumbents failed to get desperately needed federal dollars for Brampton’s aging infrastructure. Meanwhile, voters have to waste valuable time that should be spent establishing exactly why they should support Andrew Scheer, Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh or Elizabeth May and their local candidates. 


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Twitter: @isaaccallan

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