Politicians need boundaries when dealing with social media harassment

An excerpt from my latest Loonie Politics column. Read the full piece here. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, use promo code ‘Lawton’ for a discount!

Those who go into politics may surrender some of private life’s comforts, but that doesn’t mean public service should be a free-for-all.

Especially when it comes to elected officials’ families.

It’s hard to find civility on social media, however, where a St. Catherines man attempted to spark a Christmas Day flash mob at Progressive Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff’s parents’ house.

“This Christmas, let’s protest @samoosterhoff and his bigot, misogynistic and homophobic personality & upbringing,” wrote Rob Gill on Twitter.  “Let’s protest at his parents (sic) home at (redacted).  Or give them a call at (redacted).”

Included in the original tweet, which has since been deleted, were the Oosterhoff family’s home address and phone number.

The second-term MPP called police upon seeing the tweet, citing concern for his family’s safety.  The OPP says it was unsuccessful at reaching Gill by phone, so instead stopped in on him to “caution (him) regarding sharing personal information on social media which could be perceived as harassing.”

Gill himself tweeted about the episode, lauding the officer as “professional and friendly” while labeling Oosterhoff’s call to the police “pathetic” and meant to intimidate.

From a PR perspective, there’s no right answer for Oosterhoff to deal with someone being so demonstrably irrational.  Were he to call Gill himself, he’d be similarly accused of trying to intimidate.  His way put it to the OPP to decide what the prudent course of action would be.

It sounds as though that’s exactly what happened.  The police investigated, had a courteous and professional conversation with the party involved, and moved on without laying any charges.  I’m unclear on how this could have unfolded in any better way, except for if Gill had never taken aim at the Oosterhoffs in the first place.

Don’t fear the Islamic Party of Ontario

A curious entry on Elections Ontario’s list of reserved political party names has galvanized Ontarians concerned about creeping Sharia.

As first noted by Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah, the provincial elections agency has granted a hold on the name Islamic Party of Ontario, generally the first step towards formally registering a party to field candidates in the province’s elections.

As a preamble to its policies and principles, a page on the would-be party’s website touts the opening line of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms avowing “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law” to justify its desire to make all laws in “obedience and according to the will of God.”

After several bullet points about Islamic history and apologetics, the Islamic Party of Ontario unequivocally says its stances on all issues are rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah.

This means an Islamic government would abandon capitalism in favour of “interest-free capital and worker partnership economy,” enshrine the right to food and shelter, and guarantee equality of opportunity for immigrants and native-born Canadians alike.

Utopic as this may sound to some, the party would also ban gay marriage, abortion, alcohol and gambling, as well as any sexual relations outside of marriage. The party also says “obscenity, vulgarity, nudity and perversion must be checked,” though it doesn’t specify an all-out ban. (Yay?)

While the Islamic party says it upholds freedom of speech, it also commits to a “strict law to ban blasphemy.” I don’t envy the judges who have to balance those rights.

Canadians may find areas of agreement with the Islamic party platform. Several of the social positions would be supported by evangelical Christians, while the economics are on par with those you’d expect from many left-wing parties.

Of course, some interpretations of the Qur’an prescribe the death penalty for apostasy. I couldn’t even manage to get elected while championing tax cuts, which strikes me as an easier sell than this.

Most Canadians will find the Islamic Party of Ontario’s values to be unpalatable even for private belief let alone state enforcement. The party is no more relevant than the Communist Party of Ontario or Go Vegan, which both ran candidates in last year’s Ontario election.

Setting aside the religious fervor most vegans have, the Islamic Party of Ontario would, if registered, be Ontario’s only faith-based party.

In response to backlash from conservatives, I’ve seen some on the left try to compare the Islamic party to the federal Christian Heritage Party. Unlike the IPO, which wants a full-throated Muslim theocracy, the CHP seeks only to make Judeo-Christian values the basis of law. Even so, both parties have about as much a chance at winning a seat, which is to say zero.

Some Muslim voters may support the party based on name alone. It may even find a bit of support in Don Valley West, the riding encompassing the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood nicknamed “Halal heaven.”

Either way, it will remain a fringe party with no power or credibility in Canada, not worth the fear or scorn so many are affording it.

People should be concerned about the Islamist influences targeting mainstream, electable political parties.

There are suit-wearing apologists for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood wandering the corridors of power in Canada who believe the same things as the Islamic Party of Ontario but are far less brazen about expressing them.

It’s quite common to see a couple of notable organizations touted as mainstream and moderate voices for Islam and Muslims, when their values and funding tell a different story.

The anti-Islamophobia motion passed by the Liberals is the by-product of a push from one such group.

The real danger to Canadian institutions and values comes in the subtle and subversive way this influence has come about.

The Islamic Party of Ontario is about as subtle as Madonna twerking in downtown Riyadh.

We must actually watch those who try to overhaul Canadian democracy through legitimate—or seemingly legitimate—organizations. These groups have found audiences with pandering politicians of all stripes because of the political class’s eagerness to shore up support from specific ethnic and religious communities.

These groups also have a war chest that’s allowed them to successfully sue numerous Canadian media companies into silence, meaning they’re rarely, if ever, exposed.

These battles are taking place in the shadows of Canada. We should be grateful the Islamic Party of Ontario is at least being honest about its goals.

Notwithstanding clause a much-needed tool to fight judicial activism

When judges overstep their bounds, elected governments need to fight back. That’s exactly what Premier Doug Ford did by deploying the notwithstanding clause, as I discuss in this week’s Loonie Politics column.

As always, an excerpt is below, but please pick up a subscription (only $40 a year using the promo code ‘Lawton’) to read the full piece and the stellar work of my colleagues.

What started as a deflation of a bloated Toronto city council has now become a weapon against judicial activism.

Premier Doug Ford has thrown down the gauntlet to the courts based on a very simple premise: he was elected to govern Ontario, and they weren’t.

That a bill about one city’s municipal election has ignited a national constitutional conversation is proof that the process by which a law comes to be is often more important than the specific law in question.

As a non-Torontonian, my life wasn’t changed with the passage of Bill 5, the Better Local Government Act, last month.

But for the 509 declared candidates and the two or three Toronto voters paying attention to municipal politics in August, the bill was undeniably disruptive.

But there’s a difference between something being a disruption and it being unconstitutional.  That distinction was lost on Judge Edward Belobaba of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, who ruled on Monday that Ontario government “has clearly crossed a line” with its decision to cut Toronto’s council from 47 wards to 25 just a couple of months before the election.

Hours after the decision, Ford responded with a historic vow to reintroduce the legislation with the notwithstanding clause, which his government did on Wednesday.

It’s a tactic never before employed by an Ontario government.  The lack of precedent notwithstanding (sorry), the clause in question is still a valid tool afforded to premiers, and has been for nearly four decades.

I can’t help but laugh at the left’s accusation that Ford has trampled on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it’s that very charter that contains the notwithstanding clause.  It was specifically carved into the document so provinces could maintain autonomy and protect themselves against overzealous interpretations of Charter freedoms.