Canada Politics

Amid allegations of a François Hollande affair, we ask: do politicians deserve some privacy?

Canada Politics

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Francois Hollande (Reuters file photo)

If you want your privacy, don't get involved in politics.

The common refrain is that a politician's history is fair game — if you want to serve the public, you need to earn the public's trust by being an open book.

But how far does that go?

There's an uproar in France, this week, over a magazine publishing a story alleging that French President François Hollande was having a secret affair with a well-known actress.

While the president is considering legal action, the issue has sparked debate about how much privacy politicians are entitled to.

[ Related: France's Hollande threatens to sue over report of affair ]

It's probably a debate we should be having in this country as well.

Annecdotally, at least, it appears that media in Canada, are becoming more intrusive.

There's all the Rob Ford coverage; on Thursday the Ottawa Citizen published details of court documents relating to a 2005 family dispute of a Conservative MP; and in 2012, that same newspaper published a story about NDP leader Thomas Mulcair's mortgages.

Criminal allegations or investigations are probably fair game but what else is? Is there a line that media shouldn't cross?

We took that question to the Political Points'' expert panel. Here are their responses:

Gerry Nicholls, Political consultant and pundit:

"Ethically speaking, as long as a politician’s personal behaviour does not impact on his or her job, it should be off limits.

But sometimes the urge to report “gossip” can be irresistible. And anything can be justified by arguing the “public has a right to know.”

The danger is such reporting is that it could keep good people from seeking public office and turn politics into a soap opera.

Fortunately, Canada’s media has a good record in this regard, most journalists know where to draw the line."

Alex Tsakumis, B.C. based political analyst

"Frankly, I think that the mainstream press have missed the public's clear message: Subscriptions are being canceled and ratings are tanking precisely because readers, viewers and listeners want less gutter sniping, not more. Unless a personal story has any value as context of a given public life, it's an utter waste of time.

Does Hollande's alleged affair affect his ability to serve France? The clear answer is no!"

Dan McTeague, former Liberal MP

"My feeling is that personal affairs are hands off. If there's a dispute in the family it must remain there. Affairs in the home belong in the home unless it affects one's ability to do his/her job.

Everyone is entitled to a modicum of privacy even if they're a public official.

Matters that are public that can affect one's ability to do their job -- if you're distracted and drained by a court case -- [are different]. I'm not quite sure where you draw the line with that."

What do you think?

Are politicians entitled to some privacy? Where do you draw the line?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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