What I learned by calling out the Public Safety Minister for something stupid he’d said on Twitter

Vic Toews had a bad day yesterday. The Conservative MP and Public Safety Minister has had a tough time defending Bill C-30, the controversial “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act” that would force phone and Internet companies to provide police with private information on their customers, upon request and without a warrant. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when an anonymous protester created an account on Twitter to share the publicly available details of Toews’s 2007 divorce.

Although he didn’t address the Twitter account directly, Toews lashed out against the low road. “I won’t get involved in this kind of gutter politics,” Toews tweeted. “Engaging in or responding to this kind of discussion leads nowhere.”

Personally, as much as I oppose this bill, I’m not a huge fan of the @vikileaks30 approach. It’s provocative, but it’s unnecessarily crass – and it’s a bit beside the point, since the information shared through this account was obtained through public affidavits. It was personal, and it was certainly embarrassing, but doing it didn’t require the sort of sweeping invasion of privacy that rightly worries critics of Bill C-30.

Still, I thought it was a bit rich for a guy like Toews to lecture the web about gutter politics, and I figured I might as well tell him so. Since I only had a hundred and forty characters at my disposal, I knew I’d better keep it brief and to the point.

“You, sir,” I pointed out, “compared your critics to child pornographers on the record.”

He totally did, by the way. During Question Period on Monday, Toews responded to criticism of the bill by Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia by saying “He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

It wasn’t the first time he’d said this sort of thing, either. Back in November, in the House of Commons, Toews called on the Liberal Party to “finally stop putting the rights of child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

As I noted prior to spotting his “gutter politics” tweet, it’s like Toews looked at Larry Miller, the Tory MP who stood up in the House of Commons and compared the long-gun registry and its supporters to Hitler, and said “Kid, that’s amateur hour.”

In any event, my humble point seemed to resonate with others on Twitter. By the end of the day, it had become the most retweeted thing I’d ever tweeted – scoring nearly twice as many retweets as Toews’s original complaint, I might add with just a hint of smugness.

What did I learn? Aside from the fact that you can score cheap social media points by calling out the blatant hypocrisies of a public official, I learned that Toews is right: you don’t need to take the low road to stir up the hive. I also learned that this bill and its sponsor have more opponents than I’d expected – a lesson Toews has also learned, judging by all the limp, defensive backtracking he’s now doing.

If you’d like to voice your opposition to this bill, you can head to stopspying.ca and sign the petition drafted by the good people at OpenMedia.ca. The bill may be under fire, but it’s a long way from dead, and your voice can make a difference. Remember to be polite!

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2 Responses to “What I learned by calling out the Public Safety Minister for something stupid he’d said on Twitter”

  1. JJ says:

    Yeah, well done, Matt. As you say, there’s clearly opposition to this bill, and if it can be organized in a respectful fashion, who knows what it’ll be able to achieve.

  2. Jason says:

    The other night while listening to the news on the CBC — you know, Quebecor’s favourite broadcaster — on the drive home, I chuckled as I thought to myself, “For the first and hopefully only time in my life, I am apparently on the side of child pornographers.”