When I finally heard of NDP leader Rachel Notley’s response to the controversy surrounding one of her MLAs, it was followed soon after a particularly pro-NDP pundit proclaiming that it meant “the adults were back in charge.”
I laughed heartily. Not out of malice, not out of a desire to ridicule David Cournoyer,but because I simply couldn’t help it. The proclamation was so bizarre, so at odds with the reality of the scenario, that laughter really was the only appropriate response. The kind of laughter that emerges when ration would suggest that the person speaking simply must be joking, yet the sad realization dawns that ration simply does not apply.
The adults are not in charge of the NDP. If adults were in charge of the NDP, this never would have come to pass.
Let’s start as all things are best started: at the beginning. The NDP set out to nominate a candidate in every ridng… simply so they could have a candidate in every riding. Most of them were never meant to win, and Drever is clearly chief among them. They didn’t do this because they believed it would produce politically virtuous results. They did it just because.
In their rush to do so, they didn’t bother to so much as vet their candidates. Drever had a history that was very easy to find. The NDP simply didn’t bother. Notley herself had every opportunity to instruct a reversal in this party policy, but she didn’t. She didn’t bother to vet this candidate, and as if to make her responsibility for it undeniable, Drever’s nomination papers bear her signature.
Unfortunately it wasn’t until after the election that Drever’s character became known to voters. Much of it seemed to be of little relevance: a picture of Drever posing beside a marijuana T-shirt is personally embarrassing, but not relevant. A picture of a person — be it Drever or otherwise — flipping their middle finger to the Canadian flag is offensive, but only marginally more relevant. A picture of Drever being assaulted for a heavy metal album cover then emerged, and it was then that Drever was said to have pushed the NDP too far.
Notley gave Drever an assignment, and this is what it was: she was to reach out to women’s groups and formulate a strategy to combat violence against women. This was described as “punishment.” This was “adults in charge.”
What was Drever given, really? In reality, she was given nothing that any women’s studies major at any university in Alberta wouldn’t beg for. She wasn’t given punishment, she was given a highly-coveted opportunity.
There was more to come. Just days after Drever was given this assignment, it came to light that Drever had uploaded to her Instagram account a picture of then-Premier Jim Prentice and Ric McIvor, doodled on with the following caption: “gay boyz.”
It was a stunning revelation of some very disturbing character defects in Drever, but more than that it was a revelation of just how committed Notley and the NDP are to not, under any circumstances, vet their candidates. Not even after the fact.
Rachel Notley, faced with an MLA who was already embarrassing both party and province, whose sense of professionalism was very deeply in doubt, not even then undertook the actions that would have prevented it all. Even with every indication that there was more to be investigated, Notley did not investigate her MLA and instead gave her power and opportunity.
There is a parable that is of obvious applicability: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Rachel Notley was fooled by Deborah Drever not once, not even twice, but thrice. And she may be fooled yet again: Drever’s suspension from the NDP caucus may be lifted in as little as a year. Despite the detail that Ric McIvor, about whom Drever made a homophobic slur, is now a colleague of Drever with whom her working relationship will certainly be nothing less than strained, Drever might be back in the NDP fold in less than a year.
Is this really “adults in charge?” Or is Rachel Notley, who is directly responsible for the Deborah Drever debacle, just passing the buck? Waiting just long enough until she thinks Albertans will forget about Drever, then accepting her back into caucus?
That’s not how adults conduct themselves. Anyone who mistakes it for such really ought to know better.