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federal election 2015

A gaffe, said Michael Kinsley, is what happens when a politician accidentally tells the truth – "or more precisely, when he or she accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head." A former editor of The New Republic, Mr. Kinsley thought gaffes were instructive. In a political culture that's getting more risk averse and stage managed all the time, accidental honesty is often the only kind that's available.

If he's right, Facebook might be the greatest boon to political transparency since the tape recorder. The social network has unleashed a geyser of verbal indiscretions this campaign that has revealed a number of candidates to be flaky, morbidly insensitive or downright bigoted. While opinions differ on the justice of their fates – many have been swiftly dumped by their parties – it's unquestionable that there's more accidental truth in this election than in any before.

1. Godwin's Law is a rule of thumb for online argument that says the likelihood of someone making a Nazi analogy increases over time. Soheil Eid, the Conservative candidate for the Quebec riding of Joliette, wasted no time reaching that point in an August Facebook post that began with a quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister. "Mentez, mentez, il en restera toujours quelque chose!" ("Lie, lie and something will always remain.") Mr. Eid was trying to link the saying to NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair for his ambiguous position on the Energy East pipeline, which is unpopular in Quebec. The Tories apologized for Mr. Eid's rhetorical excess and kept him on the ticket.

2. Not to be outdone, Liberal candidate Chris Austin, standing in the Alberta riding of Sturgeon River-Parkland, referred to the RCMP as the "Canadian Gestapo" – shortly after the Parliament Hill shootings, no less. (He also opined that Stephen Harper had a "thirst for war.") Comparing Mounties to the Nazi secret police was "irreconcilable" with party values, the Liberals determined, as they announced that Mr. Austin was no longer running.

3. As an author and public intellectual, Noah Richler's job was to stir the pot. As a candidate for the NDP in Toronto, his job is to toe the line. It was the distance between those two that Mr. Richler tumbled into last week when journalists started reading his Facebook page. After the Islamic State threatened Canada in January, Mr. Richler took to the social-media site and called Stephen Harper "a pathological psychopath" who secretly wished for a terrorist attack on Canadian soil to vindicate his foreign-policy views. The New Democrats, who hope Mr. Richler can best long-time Liberal incumbent Carolyn Bennett, kept him in the race for Toronto-St. Paul's.

4. It's not clear which of Cheryl Thomas's Facebook posts led to her removal as a Liberal candidate in Victoria. It might have been her description of mosques as "brainwashing stations." Or her remark that "the oppressed of the Warsaw ghettos and the concentration camps have become the oppressors." Then again, the final straw might have been her speculations about the ethnicity of St. Nick: "Santa has to be white!!! You can't have a brown guy with a beard sneaking into your house in the middle of the night! You'd be calling the bomb squad!" Ms. Thomas resigned last week.

5. Adopting the Kinsley rule, Danielle Landreville, the NDP candidate for Joliette, got in trouble for writing on Facebook that she found the niqab at citizenship ceremonies "troubling" as a feminist. She was, of course, voicing an opinion widely shared by the party's Quebec caucus, which has struggled to square the NDP's position on niqabs with public opinion in the province. The post, accidentally truthful to a fault, was quickly deleted.

6. NDP candidate Ethan Rabidoux coined a phrase and minted a controversy when he used a vulgar acronym to describe former U.S. vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The 2008 Facebook post was discovered by The True North Times, a muckraking website, prompting Mr. Rabidoux to apologize, but his candidacy in Perth-Wellington soldiers on. Less vulgar but perhaps further off message for a New Democrat was another one of his Facebook posts from that year: "The next person to talk to me about global warming is getting 50 punches to the head."

7. The Bloc Québécois seems increasingly comfortable playing wedge politics, strongly backing the Conservative government's policy forcing women who wear the niqab to uncover their faces during their citizenship ceremony. But links to the far-right nationalist parties of Europe are still beyond the pale for the embattled separatists. So Jacques Tremblay learned recently, when he was dumped by the Bloc in the riding of Montcalm after the Montreal newspaper La Presse dug up a Facebook post the candidate wrote in January cheering on France's far-right, anti-immigrant Front National in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

8. Political scalp-hunters have proliferated this campaign. The True North Times is among the most prolific. Last week, they published a Facebook post by NDP candidate Stefan Jonasson comparing the treatment of women by ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews to the Taliban. The NDP gave him the hook in the Manitoba riding of Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley. Mr. Jonasson did not go quietly. Instead, he wrote a screed against gotcha journalism and published it on – where else? – Facebook. "I fear that we are living in an increasingly Orwellian age," it read. "Character assassination masquerading as reportage is a hideous poison that is destroying our public life and if good people fail to speak up against it, our very democratic institutions will be in peril."

9. The Liberals favour legalizing marijuana. But, mindful of Conservative attempts to brand them a party of potheads, they shy away from candidates who sing social-media hosannas to the glory of ganja. Joy Davies, the erstwhile Liberal candidate in B.C.'s South Surrey-White Rock riding, went a little overboard in that direction. A Facebook post she wrote in 2013 said that weed reduces domestic violence and that growing pot plants in a home with children was no problem. On September 10, she tweeted her resignation from the campaign.

10. If Facebook has been the most perilous online minefield for candidates this election, YouTube has provided one of the campaign's most spectacular flameouts. Tim Dutaud was running for the Conservatives in Toronto-Danforth when it emerged that he was the same Tim Dutaud who posted prank-call footage to the video-sharing site. The clips show his alter ego, the Unicaller, pretending to be mentally disabled and faking an orgasm in a customer-service call about Viagra. The Conservative campaign meted out swift justice and reacquainted Mr. Dutaud with his day job.

11. If a quick, unceremonious burial has been the fate of most gaffe-happy candidates this election, others have opted to keep digging. Alex Johnstone, the NDP candidate for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, opted for the latter strategy when The True North Times found her quipping on Facebook in 2008 about "phallic" fence posts at Auschwitz. Her excuse, when confronted by The Hamilton Spectator, was that she didn't know what Auschwitz was at the time, or indeed until the current scandal erupted. Many found her ignorance of the infamous Nazi concentration camp surprising – especially given her role as vice-chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, a position she has since temporarily vacated.

12. It's hard to find a sect of conspiracy theorists more politically unpalatable than 9/11 truthers, so few will be shocked that the Liberal Party cut ties with Maria Manna. In 2013, Ms. Manna wrote the following on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington: "So today we remember the tragedy of 911. Today we will talk about who did it and why. Today most people will continue to believe the lie, and again, THEY continue to win. Thank God I know the truth!" At first, Ms. Manna defended the rant – it was "my truth," she said.

13. Most of the candidates to become victims of their own digital petards have been middle-aged and have set the fuse on Facebook. Ala Buzreba was just 21 when she launched her short-lived candidacy for the Liberals in Calgary Nose Hill, and just 17 when she launched a string of profane insults at conservative bloggers on Twitter. "Go blow your brains out you waste of sperm," read one of the tweets. She apologized and resigned in August, shortly after the tirades came to light. Her sister later wrote on Facebook that Ms. Buzreba had been bullied by the bloggers she shot back at so virulently.

14. Marilyn Gladu is running for the Conservatives in Sarnia-Lambton. Her Facebook profile contains a link to an article about veiled Muslim women, along with her personal gloss: "People came to a country with certain values, and now want to kill everyone else." Ms. Gladu remains on the Conservative ticket.

15. Battle River-Crowfoot NDP candidate Katherine Swampy wins points for creativity in a 2011 Facebook post that takes aim at certain unnamed "rabbitt bitches" (sic). She apologized and continues to run.

16. Separatist rhetoric goes down poorly in the party of Pierre Trudeau, an axiom whose truth temporarily eluded Mario Tremblay, Liberal candidate in Manicouagan. "Until sovereignty is realized, we must be well represented at the federal level," Mr. Tremblay wrote on his Facebook page in February, trying to coax Quebec nationalists to swallow hard and vote Grit. When the post was circulated online, Mr. Tremblay deleted it and blamed a volunteer.

17. Robert Jago, author of Some Random Political Blog, has emerged as a formidable social-media gaffe-hunter this campaign. Gilles Guibord is among the heads mounted on Mr. Jago's wall: The Conservative candidate in Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie was taken off the ballot after the blogger published controversial remarks made by Mr. Guibord in the comment section of the Journal de Montréal, including that French Canadians had more claim to Quebec's land than the Mohawk did.

18. Ray Fox was standing for the Liberals in Battlefords-Lloydminster, an important Saskatchewan riding, until Conservative campaign boss Jenni Byrne tweeted one of Mr. Fox's Facebook posts that used a meme to compare the plight of Tampa Bay Lightning fans to victims of domestic violence. The image showed a white man and white woman holding their black son; the woman had a black eye. Mr. Fox was fired within days.

19. William Moughrabi, running for the Conservatives in the Montreal-area riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, posted a YouTube video to his Facebook account that ranked woman on a scale from "Crazy" to "Hot." After Some Random Political Blog published the post, Mr. Moughrabi deleted his Facebook account, perhaps a little belatedly.

20. Ironically, one of the most consequential gaffes of the campaign came not through Facebook but in a newspaper column. Jagdish Grewal, trying to win the newly created riding of Mississauga-Malton, wrote an editorial earlier this year in the Punjabi Post, a local newspaper, defending so-called "conversion therapy" for gay people. The Conservatives cut ties with Mr. Grewal, who is the publisher of the Punjabi Post, though his name will remain on the ballot because it is too late to remove it. Unlike many of the other candidates thrown overboard by parties for controversial comments, Mr. Grewal was considered competitive in his race, located in the electorally rich Toronto suburbs.

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