Should Candidates and Officials Disclose Criminal Records?


QuestioningSome questions about openness and truth to consider as we start a year in which we have both a provincial and municipal election coming…

  • Should a candidate for office disclose their criminal records when they campaign?
  • Should they disclose it only if they were convicted of an offence or should they disclose charges as well?
  • For full public transparency and accountability, should officeholders disclose any charges and convictions?
  • Should candidates or officeholders disclose when they have been or are being sued and why?
  • Would you vote for a candidate in an election who had a criminal record?
  • Are there some crimes you would tolerate in a candidate and not others? What about a conviction for break, enter and theft? Or driving under the influence? Or assault?
  • Would you vote for a candidate who had served a jail sentence? What about probation? Or a suspended sentence?
  • And if the charge is, say, more than 10 or 20 years old, does it cease to matter?
  • Would you still trust that official if you learned about their criminal record after you voted them into office? What if they tried to cover it up and you found out?
  • Would you vote for a candidate who was being sued for, say, professional incompetence in their previous employment? If the lawsuit is ongoing and has had no judgement, should it matter to voters? How would you feel if you found out after you voted for them?
  • Should personal details, such as an official’s or candidate’s messy and contentious divorce, be made public?
  • What about a candidate’s or officeholder’s financial situation (business or personal), including bad credit rating, bankruptcies, repossession, lawsuits for payment, etc.?
  • Should the media request police, business (financial), or court checks on all local candidates in an election (municipal, provincial, and federal)  and publish any evidence of charges, lawsuits, bankruptcies, and convictions?
  • Should the media ask candidates about criminal charges and lawsuits when interviewing them or during debates?
  • Should residents ask candidates questions about any criminal record and lawsuits when campaigning candidates come to the door?
  • If a candidate or elected official fails to disclose their criminal record or lawsuits, but a member of the public or media learns of it, should the latter disclose the evidence?

Elections and public office depend on trust. What happens to that trust if the public learns about an official’s secrets after the election? Should that official be held accountable for their deception? Shouldn’t we hold elected officials to a higher standard?

Every employer has the right to know if their employees or potential employees have a criminal record. We, the taxpayers, are the employer. Shouldn’t we have the same right?

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  1. MoS

    Be careful what you ask for. I did a fair bit of fraud work in my legal career. I dealt with some very high end rogues. A good many of them had unblemished records. They were sufficiently clever to foil investigators. No charges, no convictions.

    This was especially true of stalwarts from the local Christian businessmen’s association. As a rule, the more devout those guys appeared, the more likely the Devil had them by both lapels.

    A charge that is not prosecuted, much less proven, ought to be considered irrelevant. Charges can be brought for a variety of purposes, some of them less than honourable.

    A criminal conviction is another matter. A candidate with a criminal record should, at the very minimum, be afforded an opportunity to respond and be heard.

    Hard and fast rules are problematical. They’re rarely fair because there’s little concern for balance and equality.

    There is a reason the A-list talent is no longer drawn to politics. Bear that in mind.

    • Mark A Stewart

      Lol…one of the most disreputable business owners in this town broadcasts his Christianity at HD volume. Has town hall wrapped around his pinky Trip all over each other to honour him with awards. A deaf ear to the thousand of folks he fleeced.. I will happily do business with Muslim, mainstream Protestants, Jew, Hindu, Singh or atheist. Hang out your “Christian businessman” (usually sexist) shingle and I run a mile

  2. I’m still waiting to see if local media start asking council members which one of them has a criminal record… or to ask why the mayor is being sued. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for them to actually do their job.

    Maybe one of cour council members will come forward and disclose their past while I wait…

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