It was, sadly, predictable. When Sylvia Gung threw her hat in the ring for the mayor's seat stating that she intended to ban kissing and handholding if elected, she became the media's bizarre election story darling of the day. The story swept through local TV channels and landed on websites such as the Huffington Post and Vancouver Observer. At presstime today, it is still making the rounds.
Even I, as an old cynical editor and a member of the media machine, shuddered.
Gung's platform also includes statements such as: the current job of the mayor in the city "allows nothing for the real job - establishing wholesome society" and banning election campaigns, which she says will "restoring (sic) citizens the sense of responsibility."
It's an old election dilemma.
According to the unwritten rule book of journalism election fair play, all candidates get to use the media as a vehicle for their "platforms" - and I use the term platform loosely. Any other time of the year some of these folks couldn't manage to hold a coherent conversation with someone else in a supermarket aisle, but now they are offered media space to air some fairly bizarre thought patterns.
Over the decades I've been faced with candidates who are running just because they feel wronged by a bylaw officer, who feel they need the extra money, who believe that despite a failed business, an inability to do basic math and an inability to keep their temper in check, they should be elected to a position of responsibility in government.
And why not? It's a free world, and in a democracy anyone is encouraged to take a run at politics. To discourage anyone seems almost unsporting.
I remember one council candidate years ago who had a vendetta against one department in a city. She was determined to get elected so that she could fire the department head. She was a troubled individual who, for whatever reason, sought to dramatize her damaged soul via an election campaign.
And, yes, she had her 15 minutes of local election fame.
There was another candidate who eventually had to be kept away from council chambers with a restraining order.
And, well, we only have to say the name Rob Ford to realize that politics really has no minimum requirements.
Sometimes the lure of media attention for those who are struggling with issues is just too much. They fly into our light like moths to a flame, and, sadly, we shine our light on them just as we do the other candidates.
Is it the right thing to do? I don't know. I watched Gung being interviewed briefly - she is probably a well-meaning, kind-hearted person, who certainly doesn't deserve to be ridiculed no matter her unconventional outlook on affection and life.
But does she deserve to be treated as if she is a serious contender? Do we as media merely add to the circus atmosphere of elections when we focus on the sideshows? Are we that desperate for views or readers that we will give airtime or webtime or print space to those who draw us away from the important issues in our cities and schools?
Yes, we will cover Gung - it is, after all, a Canadian journalism tradition to tell you who is running and why. But we will restrain ourselves from running a survey on hand-holding and kissing in public.
Pat Tracy is the editor of the Burnaby NOW and Record newspapers.