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The Tory Treasury Board President, Tony Clement has been taking some heat for calling a teen a “jackass” on Twitter this week. You can read up on the full details here because I don’t really want to go all over it again. It should be noted that the teen started the interaction by chiding Clement about his spelling. It should also be noted that Mr. Clement claims he didn’t know how old the kid was — I would of checked his profile before DMing him.

It’s a snapshot of the same kind of degeneration we have been seeing in Canadian¬† politics the last decade or so. I’m not going to blame the conservatives because liberals are just as bad. I’m tired of the ad hominem and confrontational nature of people today. We don’t talk with each other, we talk at each other. I’m fed up with the “you right wingers are…” and “you lefties are…” junk. If that’s your opening sentence than nothing you say afterwards even registers with those people you are insulting.

Now, you do have to wonder why a politician would call a potential voter a jackass. I mean, are you that arrogant that you think this is appropriate? I think in this case it’s a combination of Mr. Clement just being himself and the fact that conservative party here has a few years before they have to worry about elections — so yes, they are prone to arrogance. Yet in fairness, the kid was trying to be a smart alec and I don’t expect public figures to be passive punching bags either. I just think a guy with Mr. Clement’s education can come up with a more civil (or at least more creative) Twitter retort.

What really got me about this whole incident was that Mr.¬† Clement replied to the kid via a DM. This suggests that he knew his comment was inappropriate and didn’t want others to see it. In fact, in the article he uses this to qualify his apology — suggesting that since the tweet was private, it’s exempt from scrutiny or perhaps should have been kept private. That’s what I find most bothersome about this tempest in a teapot. Tony Clement is an adult, a public figure and a member of the ruling government in Canada and he should know better. It’s not so much the word he used, it’s the way he issued the insult and what that says about him as a person — a person who currently holds a great deal of influence in this country.

I want people to be real on Twitter. I don’t want every public figure looking over their shoulder. However, is it too much to ask that those who influence others show the kind of judgement which makes it clear they are aware of the influence they carry? Is it so much to ask that we seek a more civil discourse?

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