Accusations of dirty tricks and smears abounded on the campaign trail on the morning of April 19.
Le Devoir published allegations that Gatineau NDP candidate Françoise Boivin had not left the Liberal party — for which she served as an MP from 2004 to 2006 — because of ideological reasons, but because she was pushed out after hiring her same-sex partner in her office. Boivin insisted that the person in question was simply her roommate.
But while NDP partisans burned up the internet with condemnations of the anonymous Liberals who tipped off Le Devoir as being guilty of outing Boivin, is this a fair assessment of the case?
Boivin isn’t talking. Calls to the NDP campaign headquarters were met with a press release and word that she considers the matter closed.
“It’s completely false, and I have already responded to these deceitful accusations,” Boivin said in the release. “Parliament had no complaints and did not reproach any of my actions during my mandate as MP. This is an unfair and cowardly tactic by frustrated opponents who are void of ideas and afraid to talk about the real issues. The Bloc Québécois leader and candidate tried last week and now someone is trying to question and damage my integrity, without a stitch of proof.”
Both Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Boivin’s opponent in the riding, Steve MacKinnon, disavowed their involvement in leaking the information to Le Devoir.
“I’ve always believed I’ve had very good personal relationships with Françoise Boivin,” Ignatieff told the media that morning. “We would never want to question or engage in personal attacks on people’s personal lives.”
Boivin supported Ignatieff’s leadership bid in 2006, before she left the party.
“I’m unaware of the circumstances surrounding Ms Boivin’s departure from the Liberal Party of Canada,” MacKinnon told the press, also on April 19. MacKinnon, who was once national director of the Liberal Party, asserted that he had long since left that role at the time of Boivin’s departure.
“My campaign has nothing to do with this story, and I can only express my own personal admiration, as I think my leader has done, for Ms Boivin,” MacKinnon added. “People who’ve been covering our campaign in Gatineau know that it’s a positive campaign, a campaign based on ideas. We’ve run a terrific and very energetic campaign in Gatineau, and that’s what I intend to keep doing.”
When Boivin met the press at her office to announce that she would sue Le Devoir and their journalist, Hélène Buzzetti, Boivin said only that she refutes the anonymous allegations, that she knows the electoral and parliamentary rules and respects them, and that the rules are that you can’t hire a common-law partner, which she says she did not, even though they lived together.
The question of her hiring the alleged spouse first appeared in 2005 within the Liberal camp, at which point she said that the person in question was just a roommate. These were the post-Gomery Inquiry days when the Liberals were very sensitive about not only following the rules, but about being seen to follow the rules. An MP’s hiring of a roommate would still have raised questions.
But something Boivin said during her press conference stands out in particular: “Wait until I have to call my family and again say, ‘Oh again, they’re going after you.’”
But when asked what exactly the attack against her family was, the Boivin campaign only responded that she had moved on. And it raises the question of whether or not Boivin is also suing Le Devoir for saying that she is a lesbian.
Boivin has been known to be gay-positive in the past and even served on the special legislative committee to pass the bill on same-sex marriage. But if the allegation is that the roommate she hired was her spouse, and Boivin denies that it was a conjugal relationship, how does her family enter into the picture as being the victim of an attack?
So was this an outing? On the face of it, no. And Boivin has neither confirmed nor denied her sexuality in her public response. But her bringing her family into the picture raises a question that has yet to be answered.