Twits, Tweets and the Political World

While the BBC reported this weekend on Pods and Blogs on the extraordinary growth of Tweetminster, the place where real life and politics tweet, in Ottawa it’s a different story. NDP member Charlie Angus wants Canadian MPs to declare Twitter off-limits, because of some personal abuse in the House last night. Here’s the Globe’s commentary and yesterday’s story.

As someone who has sat through enough late night House sittings, at which not all Honourable Members were entirely sober, I can report that abuse that doesn’t quite get reported in Hansard is not unknown within Canadian democracy. I’m not sure that the sin of Tweeting abuse gets into a new realm of unparliamentary behaviour.

Tweetminster involves over a hundred MPs, fully a fifth of the house, 59% Labour, 22% LibDem and 14% Tory. In Dublin last month, they debated about whether the social media might in fact keep politicians more accountable.

Here is the Canadian exchange yesterday from Hansard:

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am in fact saddened to rise on this point of order because I had hoped members in the House would not sink to this level. However, this morning the member for Scarborough Southwest made an entry on Twitter that I find particularly demeaning, discriminatory and unbecoming of a member of Parliament.

This morning, in the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, I had to put up with the abhorrent behaviour of a partisan chair, who pays no attention to the rules governing parliamentary committees whatsoever. However, during that meeting, I provided the respect that each member is due.

The member for Scarborough Southwest wrote on her Twitter, and I apologize as I will have to use my name, “In committee this morning. M.P. Del Mastro should grow up (not out)”. I hear some people in the House laughing and that is unfortunate. I apologize for not being perfect and perhaps my stature does not meet the criteria that some members in the House set, but I have battled that problem since birth. I apologize for not actually fitting into the requirements.

I still hear the chastising going on. It is this kind of arrogance and elitism that will be the downfall of the Liberal Party if this continues. I am giving the member the opportunity to apologize. The actions of the members in committee this morning do nothing to discourage me. They only encourage me.

I would ask the member to take the opportunity to apologize for what she wrote. She may wish to consider that a number of her own constituents are less than perfect and she represents them as well.

Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the member, the lion’s share of the quips and giggles were coming from his side of the House.

Mrs. Michelle Simson (Scarborough Southwest, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I, too, sat through the committee meeting today and listened to a great deal of disparaging remarks about myself and my party.

That said, if there is anything I said that offended the member, I am sorry. To say one should grow up and not out was out of line and I do apologize. Growing up and growing out is not something I should have said to the hon. member.

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am very glad the hon. colleague has apologized. However, I think it speaks to a bigger issue.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Charlie Angus: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but this is not a clown show. We are elected to represent our people. We go to committee to do serious business. I believe the issue of members sitting on committee with their inane Twitters about what happens at committee demeans the work of all parliamentarians. I am not going to speak on this party or that party. We have an obligation to represent the best of our country and I would like members of Parliament to put the inane little games away and get down to business of serving their constituents.

When I saw that Twitter, I was appalled because I thought it could happen at any of our committees. I am asking all…

and then back to the Columbian Free Trade discussion.

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