Jim Watson, the incumbent Mayor of Ottawa, and Tony Van Trappist, the retiring thin-skinned Mayor of Newmarket, share one thing in common – they block certain people from reading their Tweets.  

Van Trappist has fiercely defended his right to block critics. 

Even people like me who are never abusive. At least not intentionally. I can say things that people may find offensive but we live in a free country. This isn’t Saudi Arabia and I don’t have to worry about getting my fingers chopped off for writing something Mohammed bin Salman finds disagreeable.

I remember Newmarket’s John Heckbert bravely telling councillors in February 2016 that it was a mistake for them to block people from accessing their social media platforms.

He says it is all about “democracy”:

“No member of Council should be allowed to block, censure or otherwise restrict the inherent right of residents to question them and receive information from them in whatever way that resident chooses to engage them including via social media platforms.”

This upsets Van Trappist no end.

Full of injured innocence he scolds Heckbert:

“Yes. You are entitled to say what you have (said). And if you have something to say my view is you post that on your site. My page represents my views and anything that comes from my twitter feed is believed to be endorsed. So I don’t feel in the slightest way obligated to advance an argument that is contrary to my views. So I don’t apologise for blocking certain people."

"I do set standards in terms of what I permit on my site and again I don’t apologise for that. But if you have something to say, set up your own site. Set up your own contacts. Send out your own messages. So you still have that right.”

Now the Globe and Mail has nailed its colours to the mast. Last Friday (19 October) the editorial was absolutely unequivocal:

“Mr. Watson is also wrong when he says his Twitter account is a personal one. That’s just not true – even if he is the only person operating it, as appears to be the case. The account is being used by the elected chief executive of Ottawa to sell his election platform, to campaign, to announce events he will attend as mayor, to cheerlead for himself and to communicate vital information to city residents.

His posts are done on the public dime during working hours and inherently reflect the office that he holds; he cannot pick and choose which of the city’s taxpayers are agreeable enough to merit the privilege of seeing them.”

Maybe Van Trappist’s Tweets are pure gold. Sharp, witty, insightful.

Alas, I shall never know.

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