Above watch: Facebook photos of newly-elected NDP MLA Deborah Drever have caused a firestorm on social media, resulting in three petitions to have her removed from office. Gary Bobrovitz reports.
CALGARY – Facebook photos of newly-elected NDP MLA Deborah Drever have caused a firestorm on social media, resulting in three petitions to have her removed from office, in what one feminism and media studies professor calls gendered harassment.
Three photos of Drever are at the centre of what she called “partisan smears” meant to distract from her political focus: One shows Drever in front of a T-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it, one shows a hand giving the middle finger in front of a Canadian flag, and one is the young woman in a one-piece bathing suit.
FULL COVERAGE: Alberta election 2015
Twenty-seven-year-old Drever is a sociology student at Mount Royal University who lives with her grandmother, according to a campaign biography that has since been removed—along with her Facebook and Twitter profiles. Drever was elected in Calgary-Bow, beating out Progressive Conservative hopeful Byron Nelson.
Drever issued a statement on Wednesday through an NDP spokesperson in relation to the photos circulating on social media:
“I am so honoured by the trust placed in me by people the of Calgary-Bow on Tuesday, and I am so excited by the opportunity to bring change to Alberta as part of Rachel Notley’s team. I will not let these partisan smears distract from my focus on the things that matter to people in Calgary-Bow, including needed investments in education and healthcare. Since being elected last night, I have received many supportive messages from people in Calgary-Bow who are excited about what we can accomplish for Albertans in the coming years. I’m looking forward to getting to work.”
University of Calgary professor Rebecca Sullivan specializes in feminist, media and cultural studies, and says the petitions suggesting she’s unfit for office are a type of harassment seen in higher levels against female politicians.
“The fact that they have found in the course of 26 years, three photos that some people might find objectionable and have decided that makes her unfit for public office? That is harassment,” said Sullivan.
“It’s harassment, it’s gendered, it’s gross.”
Tracy Watson, a public relations instructor at Bow Valley College, says Drever’s Facebook photos should have been monitored before. Watson said now that they’re out there, it’s important to the reputations of both the NDP and Drever to respond.
Watson reminds people that the situation is a good reminder to politicians as well as the public that thanks to social media, “our private life isn’t private anymore.”
When asked if Drever’s Facebook photos were a big problem for the NDP, premier-elect Rachel Notley told Global’s Tom Clark she doesn’t see it as a problem; she sees it as an “opportunity.”
“I think transition and the challenges that come with transition are what happens when governments change, which is something that happens in normal, healthy democracies,” said Notley.
“I know that we have some very good people in the public service…I’m going to work very closely with them to make sure that the government can do the job it needs to do, and we’re able to make that transition smoothly and respectfully of the many people that are committed simply to providing good public service to the people of Alberta.”
Watch below, as premier-elect Rachel Notley replies to a question on whether the “inappropriate Facebook posts” are a big problem.
One petition calling for her resignation says Drever is “not qualified or conducting herself in a manor fit for government…e.g. failing to hide her Facebook, failing to have proper experience.” Another petition shows the photo of Drever with the marijuana T-shirt, and says “Deborah Drever is NOT FIT to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly”, suggesting she’s unpatriotic (referring to the middle finger in front of the flag), a poor decision maker (marijuana T-shirt) and not a team player (based on a Facebook post where Drever said she disliked group projects).
Sullivan suggested the middle finger in front of the Canadian flag is “one of these silly, stupid things that young people do” and that the circulation of such things on social media is a relatively new phenomenon as we see younger and younger people considering public office.
“We see shots of Peter MacKay engaging in what could be objectionable activities while a young college student circulate around, and the answer is, ‘That’s so long ago.’ Well we don’t start then attacking young people who’ve decided to be politically engaged at the highest possible level,” said Sullivan, referring to a photo tweeted by CBC personality Rick Mercer in 2013 that showed MacKay drinking from what appears to be a beer funnel many years ago.
“I think what is more important, what says so much more, is that, at 26 years old, this woman decided to run for political office with a major political party. And is that not patriotic enough for you?”
With files from Tony Tighe