A Toronto resident says she felt helpless and frustrated when her provincial member of parliament blocked her on Twitter Saturday after she asked him repeatedly about election promises and local meetings.
Elise Davis, who says she was blocked by her Willowdale MPP, Stan Cho, is one of several people in the Greater Toronto Area that allege their MPP blocked them on Twitter, preventing them from commenting on or reading their elected officials’ posts.
“I really make it an effort to provide constructive and thoughtful feedback,” Davis told CTV News Toronto Tuesday. “I have not been one of those people, and there have been people, who say really rude and distasteful things.”
I was just blocked by my local Willowdale MPP @StanChoMPP. I have been vocal and critical of his touring the province on taxpayer money to consult with Ontarians about the budget. And yet he won't have a meeting in his constituency to listen to us in #Willowdale. pic.twitter.com/L5wApl6Wgj— Elise Davis ���� (@Elise_ekd) February 1, 2020
Davis said that when Cho first assumed office in 2019, she often expressed her frustrations with some of the government’s decision to him on Twitter. She said he would often interact back, and at one point, even suggested they meet in person about the issues.
Davis said she and her 15-year-old daughter met Cho at Queen’s Park to talk about the cuts to education, but the meeting was not fruitful.
“He was more responsive in the start,” Davis said. “But in recent months, he stopped responding on Twitter and the only response on Twitter constituents get is being blocked.”
A spokesperson for Cho told CTV News Toronto Tuesday that the MPP strongly believes in “respectful” public discourse, and that Cho actively reads the comments on his social media.
“Where he draws the line, however, are in comments that are disrespectful, abusive, racist, or that harass or bully members of his staff, who are not elected officials,” the spokesperson said.
“He certainly reads his social media and takes feedback that way as long as it’s done in a respectful and civil manner,” he said, adding that the MPP has indeed blocked people before.
Vicky Sanderson, another constituent in Cho’s riding, said she was blocked by Cho’s account twice after voicing her disagreements with the MPP on Twitter.
“I’m left confused and irritated,” she said. “I’m pretty persistent, and can be sarcastic, and I’m very potent in my criticism and concerns about the provincial government on the education file.”
But, she said, she has never allowed it to become disrespectful or a form of harassment.
A number of other people in the GTA have reported that they too have been blocked by their MPPs and many, like Davis, said they have no idea why.
Hi there. Here is a screenshot for you showing that Donna blocked me. It’s really tempting to want to speak with you but in the current political climate and the fact that I like in the riding I may upset some PCs who I don’t need for upset. pic.twitter.com/5R0pg3vqkA— Sean Pugsliese (@stupug90) February 4, 2020
MPP Donna Skelly told CTV News Toronto that although she spends very little time on Twitter, she has previously blocked people if they are not respectful.
“It’s become a playground of bullies,” she said. “If people are not respectful then I won’t engage. I don’t accept that for myself or my staff.”
She said she’s always willing to respond to her constituents via phone or email, and encourages people to contact her through those channels rather than on social media.February 2, 2020
Her seat is now Paul Calandra's in Queen's Park. Paul has blocked me so I don't know if he's concerned about using the Not Withstanding Clause. https://t.co/b81c7pAA6x— Rick Barnes (@queerthoughts) September 16, 2018
CTV News Toronto reached out to other MPPs accused of blocking their constituents, including Ross Romano and Rudy Cuzzetto, but did not receive a response Tuesday.
Durham MPP Lindsey Park told CTV News Toronto in a statement that she blocks "any robots or anonymous accounts on Twitter."
Another day and another protest at MPP Lindsey Park’s Bowmanville Office. You need to engage with your constituents Lindsey. We’re not going to just disappear because you have blocked us on Twitter #AutismDoesNotEndAtFORD #NeedsBasedTherapy #RegulateABA pic.twitter.com/f7CfMkAPyk— T K S (@AutismDoesntEnd) April 18, 2019
Davis said she is unsure why she was blocked, but has emailed MPP Cho for an explanation.
She said the day before she was blocked, she wrote a tweet accusing the MPP of “gaslighting” both her and her daughter at their previous meeting.
She said she was also recently persistently asking if a budget consultation meeting would be happening in Willowdale.
Cho, who is also a parliamentary assistant to the Ontario finance minister, had been travelling across the province to consult with residents about the upcoming budget.
The spokesperson for Cho’s office said the MPP does plan on holding a consultation meeting in Willowdale on the budget, but had not yet determined a date.
“He just doesn’t respond, and it gets you so irritated,” she said. “I think people should have reasonable access to their MPP.”
“I think its new technology there isn’t specific rules about social media so they are able to get around it … This is a common practise in the government and it’s not right”
In Ottawa, three residents launched a lawsuit against Mayor Jim Watson, declaring that the mayor’s decision to block them infringed on their right to freedom of expression due to the fact that it was a public account.
In response, the mayor eventually promised in a legal settlement to unblock the three individuals, but he reserved the right to mute his followers, allowing them to continue seeing his feed, but not being able to see their comments to him.