This last week has been a crisis in our community. A local MLA, well known and well regarded, was charged in a prostitution sting while in Minnesota on government business. This incident was deeply troubling, no doubt, and deeply painful to many in a community that despite what others may think is tightly knit. The shock waves travelled deep and far, and it has been a painful time. And what has not made it any better is the political opportunism it seems to have inspired.
Just two days after the news broke the official opposition began a series of automated phone calls to determine community reaction to the incident. Never mind that a good number of the public polled hadn't even had the chance to learn about the matter yet, or give it any serious thought. Never mind that many who did know were still in the early stages of sorting through the fallout, and trying to formulate their thoughts. That was all immaterial in this political game, one that sought to capitalize on a deeply troubling incident. I am not sure if anyone in opposition gave any serious thought to these tactics, as all it did was deepen a very fresh wound. Those who did know about the charges were still reeling from the shock, and hadn't even moved on to thoughts of what should or must happen. But opportunism waits for no man - or constituent - and on it rolled, with a Twitter campaign.
The Twitter campaign was designed as another poll of sorts, but one in which all could participate, whether they reside in Mike Allen's constituency or not. And so they did, retweeting the request that he resign as MLA immediately, ignoring the fact that this is between him and his constituents, not between him and every voter in the province. This is a local matter, and one where we, the people of this region, should decide if we wish to have him resign or stay on as our now-independent MLA.
To be very honest I am of very mixed thoughts about all of this, seeing validity on both sides of the argument of whether to resign or stay on, but one thing I am very clear on is this: a crisis in my community is not a political opportunity for others, and it should not be viewed that way. Those who wish to capitalize on a painful and difficult time are no better than the others who have abused this community through slanted media reports. This is a time when those who are members of this community must come to a decision, and one made without the "helpful" influence of outsiders who offer their opinions on what we "must" or "should" do. Call me belligerent, but one way to get my back up is to tell me what to do - and I suspect a whole lot of Fort McMurray is a lot like me in this one respect.
So, to those who think this is a time to push or pull us in one direction or another - stop. This is a time for those within the community to arrive at a decision, whether you like it or not. This is between us, and each other, and our MLA, and not part of a little political game. I do not like seeing my community used as a pawn, and it makes me seethe with anger to see others think they can infringe on our rights as residents and constituents as we make this decision. The decision as to what happens now does not rest with the opposition, or the government, or anyone BUT the people of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, and our MLA. I respectfully ask that you allow us to exercise our rights in this regard, and allow us to determine our own future. My community crisis is not your political opportunity - and I suggest you take note of this for future reference, whomever you happen to be, and whatever angle you happen to want to pursue. This is a community, proud and united and, right now, hurting a bit, and I think we would appreciate being allowed the time to come to grips with the past - and our future.