How being involved in politics got me “blocked” [updated]

Written by Lynaya Astephen on May 31, 2017

Editor’s note: Hours after posting this story, MP Wayne Long unblocked his constituent on social media. 

When one becomes involved in the political system we expect to be listened to. But what if we really aren’t? This is what happened to me. I became involved and I became vocal, perhaps too vocal for my Member of Parliament. Dissent is frowned upon. When you oppose certain issues and make it known on social media or in real life, it’s your Member of Parliament’s job to take notice. Whose side are they on? Are they representing profit or people?

Unfortunately, I found out quickly whose side my MP was on. The sunny rays of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have blinded many.

Early on, before the last federal election, I noticed that the local candidate for the Liberals, Wayne Long, loved having his photo taken. He came to the Rally for Democracy held by a few local people including myself on Oct. 3, 2015. Then a Liberal candidate, Long showed up since he was invited to come and speak against decisions made by the then Conservative government. When he was asked to address the crowd, he turned down the offer, but was more than happy to pose for a picture.

One of the biggest campaign promises made by the Liberals was to end the first-past-the-post electoral
system. Candidate to the Prime Minister’s seat, Justin Trudeau, said this was the last time Canadians would vote under this system. But, in June of 2016, we started to see cracks form in this promise. The Liberal Party officially backed out of this key campaign promise on February 1, 2017, a few months ago.

Canadians who voted for the Liberals are, of course, more than a bit disappointed. After all the Liberals’ slogan was “Real Change.”

After this promise was broken, Fair Vote Canada, which bills itself as “a grassroots multi-partisan citizens’ campaign for voting system reform,” started to organize. I helped pull together a rally for Electoral Reform in my city. It was a very cold day here in Saint John, New Brunswick, but we had a sizeable crowd show up on Feb. 11, 2017. The crowd consisted of a couple of dozen people and, lo and behold, our now MP Wayne Long showed up to have his picture taken by the two media organizations that came to cover the event.

Initially, I found it odd that Long would show up because I had forgotten to tell him we were having a rally for Electoral Reform. Nevertheless, he showed up to speak to the crowd exactly because he disagreed with the rally’s purpose. The crowd that showed up to the rally was highly educated on this issue! But our MP oddly wasn’t there to say he agreed, but to say he was in line with what Trudeau had decided. Long agrees with Trudeau’s opinion on the ranked ballot system, which should benefit the Liberal Party in the next federal election.

How does this relate to me being “blocked”? Well, when he was running in the Federal election, Wayne Long’s slogan was “Go Long.” Once he was elected, I communicated with him via Twitter that he was “Long on promises and short on delivery” and sent him a link to a news story on the Federal Budget. The next day, I tweeted him two more stories with the tag line: “Long on promises and short on delivery.” It feels like this is the new Liberal party slogan. Did I hit the nail on the head?

Well, “Long on promises and short on delivery” is the phrase that probably got me blocked. My own personal virtual “Kinder Morgan rejection.” Long also blocked me on Facebook, though I have since been able to “friend” him again. Other people who oppose Long have been blocked as well, especially local people who have tried to debate with Long on various issues including Electoral Reform. This is despite the Liberal program’s website that proclaimed that “within 18 months of forming government, we will introduce legislation to enact electoral reform.”

Does this infringe on my rights to free speech? Perhaps. I have certainly been censored and my voice silenced by the elected official who represents me.

Long has a duty to hear constituents out as part of his job. As Political Science Professor C.E.S. Franks declares in his book, The Parliament of Canada, a Member of Parliament’s work: “is people-oriented, involving talking about and listening to ideas, proposals, and complaints, reconciling opposing viewpoints, explaining party or government policy to citizens and citizens’ views to party and government, getting action out of the government on problems of constituents, and examining how the government uses or abuses the power it exercises on behalf of the people of Canada.”

In the age of social media, the job of MP takes on new and exciting forms, but elected representatives are having problems adapting. In the United States, after one Florida politician blocked 400 of his Facebook “friends,” according to news articles: “courts have ruled repeatedly that elected officials who discuss public matters on social media accounts are not allowed to block people or delete posts they don’t like, because those pages are used to disseminate public information. Courts have also ruled that politicians’ social accounts become public records once they use those pages to discuss official business.”

So, I suppose I’ve got a little less than 3 years of not being listened to by my Member of Parliament, until the next Federal election. Ironically, the pre-election Liberal Party program website stated that “Millions of Canadians who elected good people to be their communities’ voice in Ottawa have watched those same people become Stephen Harper’s voice in their communities.”

Unfortunately, my riding of Saint John-Rothesay has elected another type of wolf, swathed in sheep’s clothing. My voice still won’t be heard in Ottawa. How’s that for democracy?

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