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Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell shows a message he has sent out on his BlackBerry while on his campaign bus in Vancouver on Monday, May 11, 2009. (JONATHAN HAYWARD)
Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell shows a message he has sent out on his BlackBerry while on his campaign bus in Vancouver on Monday, May 11, 2009. (JONATHAN HAYWARD)

Ottawa Notebook

Will 'banality' spur Twitter ban? Add to ...

Charlie Angus wants MPs banned from Twitter just "to save politicians from looking like idiots."

The Northern Ontario New Democrat is serious: "I have nothing against the technology, nothing," he said this morning. "But it really exposes the absolute banality of this place. … There is something about it that turns otherwise intelligent professionals into Grade 9 jocks and cheerleaders in a school cafeteria."

The source of his outrage was a tweet yesterday by Ontario Liberal MP Michelle Simson. She sent out an insulting message about Tory MP Dean Del Mastro, saying he should "grow up (not out)."

She was responding to a comment she didn't like that he made in the all-party ethics committee. Mr. Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to the Heritage Minister and the MP for Peterborough, is a big man and was taunted as a kid with fat jokes. Over the past two years he has lost about 80 pounds.

After Question Period yesterday, Mr. Del Mastro asked for an apology from Ms. Simson. He got one but he got something else, too - support from Mr. Angus, who intervened in the Commons, urging MPs to stop playing with the devices during Parliamentary committees.

"I would like Members of Parliament to put the inane little games away and get down to [the]business of serving their representatives. When I saw that Twitter, I was appalled because I thought it could happen at any of our committees," he said in the House of Commons.

The intervention by Mr. Angus - although interrupted by the Speaker - is drawing lots of interest from ordinary Canadians. This morning, he said he will approach the chair of the Heritage committee, which he is a member of as is Mr. Del Mastro, and ask that Twitter be banned in at least that committee.

He says MPs on committees must build relationships with each other in order to get work done. "I was absolutely astounded that someone sitting in a committee [was]talking to their imaginary friends and audience … making fat boy jokes. I thought it was so bush league," he said.

"I think there is an issue here. It is not partisan. It is not an issue of scoring points. We just can't descend to this level of stupidity if we're going to do our jobs."

Mr. Angus freely admits that he couldn't do his job without his BlackBerry - he uses it at committee to check facts with his staff and to Google other points of discussion. He does not use it to tweet.

(Photo: Gordon Campbell sends an email message from his BlackBerry while campaigning in Vancouver in the May provincial election. Johnathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

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