Over the last year, a noticeable trend is occurring in certain ridings with regard to MLAs and their relationship with the public they represent. It stands out in a couple of ridings, more so than elsewhere. And it is not good. It is becoming normal for MLAs to speak only to the folks that appear to agree with them, or are on their list of supporters.
They delete comments and posts on social media, block residents and others who are asking them questions. They bash or malign folks they feel are rude to them. They ignore emails and letters from members of the public. Then they post ads or notes saying they want to hear from the public.
Last year and again this year, during the Teachers’ Labour Dispute, there was very strong opposition to the NS Liberal agenda regarding education, and especially regarding the treatment of teachers. During the disputes, the public in some cases became very engaged, and it seems some of the MLAs could not handle the heat from their constituents. It is not the first time the heat has been turned up, and it is not the first time MLAs have behaved badly.
Margaret Miller started blocking folks when they expressed very strong opposition to spraying of Glyphosate on forests. She had never communicated with any of us in response to our concerns, but rather she ignored us, and yet she felt she could state to other folks that she blocked me because I was rude. Funny she would feel compelled to talk about me to anyone other than me. She certainly hadn’t entered into dialogue with any of us. And we were all pretty fed up. She also blocked folks in 2018 over the teachers’ dispute, over questions like, did you delete my comment? or threatened legal action against others.
Nova Scotians state they have been blocked by their MLAs over all the various issues they spoke out about. Health care, education, the environment, mental health. Whether it was over something in their constituency or a piece of legislation. And these MLAs are using their social media accounts to inform their constituents. But they are only informing those they choose to inform, and this violates every Nova Scotian’s right to access information. Iain Rankin, Randy Delorey, Labi Kousoulis and Derek Momberquette have all been brought up for blocking and ignoring their constituents.
Another social media sensitive MLA is Brendan Maguire. He appears to have blocked more residents than any other MLA to date. And he blocked them from every social media account on Facebook , Twitter, anywhere he communicates. He has claimed to have received threats, but failed to ever provide the “proof” he promised would expose people. A letter he did provide was a letter from an anonymous writer telling him he was a crappy MLA and there were folks who were going to work exponentially harder in the next election to oust him. That isn’t a threat, in the context he had presented, but rather a promise to get a better MLA next election. I think one of the issues the writer had with Mr. Maguire was he blocked everyone who didn’t agree with him.
Mr. Maguire has also used a Facebook group, In the Loop Community Group, to inform the locals about events and upcoming dates. But, if you are blocked on his MLA page, you are barred from his In the Loop Community Group page as well. He is the sole administrator, and so it is very clear he is the one responsible for blocking people. He also has been called out for refusing to post about issues in the area and blocked a number of constituents who were not pleased he would not post a notice about an upcoming public meeting regarding the Harrietsfield-Williamswood water issues. Many of his constituents called him out on this, and recently he lashed back at his critics, accusing people of attacking him. When a free swim was arranged recently for seniors at the local pool, only two or three people showed up. In a social media thread, many people were discussing the inability to be informed of such opportunities, when the MLA posts about them on pages he has blocked so many of his constituents from. In the spirit of being honest and talking openly about our observations, a few people were thinking about the money spent, others about the missed opportunity to fill the pool, others observed that it is typical for only those who support him to receive invitations to events or information about the community. One commenter stated it is typical for NS Liberals to exclude the people of Nova Scotia who are not within their inner circle.
I have personally spoken out about Mr. Maguire’s performance as an MLA multiple times, including publishing another blog article here about his behaviour in the last election. But my comments about his hidden invitation to a free swim, was a common sense observation. And I, like many others, don’t see this as appropriate. If you are only going to tell your friends (supporters) about the event, it is not a community offering. It is a closed invitation. My comments were not an attack. Not even close. The page we were commenting on is not secret at all. It was a Broken Glass Voters page where people are free to speak about the issues in Nova Scotia’s Politics, specifically NS Liberal Government issues, and no one would be talking about the issue of being blocked by Mr. Maguire if he wasn’t blocking them. And commenting about me in such a manner, while blocking me, is not only the pot calling the kettle black but is in fact an attack on my character, while preventing me from being able to defend myself against a baseless accusation. It is typical cyber bullying. And his claim anyone was making fun of the community is completely unfounded, false, and is a weak attempt to gain support via sympathy. Many find this inappropriate. Using tax dollars for self promotion is unacceptable. And he may not feel he is obligated to his opposition, but he is their representative. Slandering, blocking and publicly bashing private citizens is simply behaving badly in public office, and this invites harsher scrutiny and criticisms. No one should feel sorry for Mr. Maguire. He should step up and start acting like an elected official is expected to act.
Because Mr. Maguire operates on this level of finger pointing and blaming everyone else for his own poor behaviour, he raises the ire of those fighting for their community. There are some very big issues that are the heart and soul of some very dedicated residents, and they are having an incredibly hard time finding any collaborative spirit in their MLA. That doesn’t make the issues go away, does not mean the residents are hard on him, and the residents feel compelled to fight even harder to be seen and heard. I have been at more than one public meeting where Mr. Maguire has spoken to the room like a teacher chastising a room full of loud hyper 13 year olds on a Friday afternoon in June. He uses the same tone at public meetings that he used in the Legislature last year, when he had a melt down and told a colleague, “You’re gonna sit there, and you’re gonna listen!” Whether the issue is environment, education, health care, poverty, housing, his riding needs work, and he could and should be working with these people, instead of removing them from every dialogue and refusing to listen to them. They are not the enemy. Mr. Maguire has dedicated himself to being immune to criticism by obliterating it from his view. And excluding them from his public service. More and more people have started asking what he has done for his riding.
By removing his critics, he is insulating himself from folks who have a stake in his success. He is also creating an echo chamber, where he and his supporters never hear or discuss the issues fully, openly or at all. You cannot do your job well, when you spend all your energy on ignoring the tough issues.
I have started looking into these MLAs a little deeper. I am trying to figure out what they are doing, other than collecting a hefty pay for back-benching the NS Liberal agenda. Every so often one stands out more than the cabinet members who appear to also be back-benching the NS Liberal agenda. And this week, Mr. Maguire’s singling me out for making an observation and claiming it was an attack, drew my attention back to his behaviour, and it also drew my attention to In the Loop Community Group. It’s a great idea, and good source for the community, if it is allowed to serve the community as a whole. There are two In the Loop pages on Facebook, one is a group and Mr. Maguire is the Admin of that page which has 1,000 members. It is a buy and sell, local business, local event sharing page. The other is an association page. There are few members and it is a closed page. From what I gather, the “association” organizes BBQs and Yard Sales and they partner with MLA Maguire to host free Senior Swims.
In April 2018, Mr. Maguire claimed $1,350.00 in his expenses, paid to In the Loop Community Association for a Poster Ad (per NS Public Accounts):
I found that odd, considering they are just a group that organizes local community bits, and as a closed Facebook group would not have an ability to advertise for Mr. Maguire. Posters don’t cost $1,350 either. Since many people are well aware of his other In the Loop page being HIS page, it seemed a bit sketchy. As I asked around people advised this was also his group. Had he possibly paid his own organization big dollars for “advertising”?
So then I thought I would look at the Registry of Joint Stock Companies to see if the association was legitimately a separate organization that would be able to provide advertising services to Mr. Maguire. Well, what I found was, an organization that Mr. Maguire was the Recognized Agent for, started in 2014, and defunct by 2015 due to non-payment. The listed association president is known to work so closely with Mr. Maguire that many residents mistook her for his constituency assistant.
So, how does a defunct community group invoice the MLA for advertising? According to Mr. Maguire, he partnered with HIS association, In the Loop Community Association, to host a seniors’ swim. Maybe the $1,350 fee was charged to place an ad in the once a month Chebucto News. Maybe it paid for the pool. Since his organization is not a registered Society, and since they did not provide the advertising, they had no legal business invoicing him for it. They didn’t rent him the pool either. Isn’t that something the government should be looking at, before issuing a payment? Confirming that they are a real organization and that they provided an actual service to Mr. Maguire? And that big dollar “poster ad”, paid for by the tax payers, resulted in a few people swimming for free, paid for by the tax payers as well. If the group were registered and current, using them as if they are a separate entity and claiming they provided advertising services is still pretty smarmy, but they are not registered and did not provide a service.
Sharing information about community events he is hosting or funding, and requests for feedback and news about a new school are issues that should be accessible to every single one of Mr. Maguire’s constituents. Blocking them from his social media posts and pages is a violation of their right to access the information he is sharing. It is a failure to act with acrimony against members of the public, while you hold a public office, just because they don’t agree with you. And Mr. Maguire seems to be dipping deeper and deeper into the deep end of the acrimony pool, at the expense of his constituency.