Ontario's colourful and controversial Ombudsman has launched his campaign for a third term the only way he knows how: with a Twitter flame war.
André Marin's social-media salvo notched a minor early victory Thursday. The legislature agreed to extend his contract to September while an all-party hiring committee decides whether to grant him another five-year term or give the job to someone else.
But the episode revived questions about Mr. Marin's own accountability. While he has become something of a folk hero for his hard-hitting reports on government dysfunction, he also has a penchant for nasty personal attacks and comical grandstanding that causes insiders of all three parties to roll their eyes. And with a large stack of applications awaiting the hiring committee, his future is far from certain.
Mr. Marin's latest outburst began Wednesday evening. With his five-year term set to expire May 29 and no decision from the legislature about his future, he exhorted his 31,700 followers to pressure Premier Kathleen Wynne's governing Liberals to keep him in office.
"In less than 48 hours, u have no Ombudsman. Time to make ur voice heard. Unfortunately it's come to this. MAKE SOME NOISE PLEASE!" he wrote.
Mr. Marin then proceeded to retweet dozens of resulting tweets from his supporters, including several insulting Ms. Wynne and her cabinet. One tweet retweeted by Mr. Marin accused the Liberals of turning Ontario into a "banana republic." Another said Ms. Wynne is "more corrupt" than FIFA, the soccer governing body embroiled in a major international bribery scandal.
The following day the Liberals brought the September extension to Mr. Marin's contract to a vote. It passed unanimously.
Mr. Marin's office said he was not available for an interview. He tweeted his thanks to MPPs and the followers who rallied to his aid.
The hiring committee, made up of one representative of each party plus Speaker Dave Levac as chair, must reach a consensus over the summer on who the next ombudsman will be.
Government sources have made clear the Liberals would rather have someone other than Mr. Marin in the job. The party tried to oust him at the end of his first term in 2010, only to back down in the face of a public backlash. This time, it has been circumspect: On Thursday, Government House Leader Yasir Naqvi repeatedly refused to comment on the appropriateness of Mr. Marin's Twitter comments.
Progressive Conservative parliamentary leader Jim Wilson was more direct, saying Mr. Marin's social media behaviour does not aid his case.
"It probably wasn't very helpful," he said. "It's a free country with freedom of speech, and he can use social media as he sees fit; I just don't think it was a wise move."
Only NDP Leader Andrea Horwath defended Mr. Marin, saying he has good reason to cause a fuss.
"The Ombudsman has had the experience of this government trying to rout him out of his job last time around, so he's trying to be pro-active," she said.
In his decade on the job, Mr. Marin has been a thorn in the government's side, with a string of high-profile investigations and a knack for shoot-from-the-hip sound bytes.
When he investigated the Liberals' decision to secretly pass the so-called "five metre rule" that allowed police to arbitrarily search and detain protesters at the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto, he called it "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history." Earlier this week, he revealed that Hydro One had issued faulty bills to more than 100,000 customers; he likened untangling the electricity company's math to "trying to pin down a kangaroo on a trampoline."
His annual reports, far from the dull affairs of most government offices, are peppered with humorous headlines, cartoons of people getting mistreated by the government and many photos of Mr. Marin.
But his big public persona, particularly on Twitter, has also led to behaviour very unusual for a neutral third-party watchdog.
During a dispute with Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean and provincial Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk over which accountability officer should have oversight of what government activities, Mr. Marin called Ms. Crean "Chicken Little" and described Ms. Lysyk's testimony at a legislative committee as "astoundingly inept."
And last month, he criticized federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau for recruiting former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who oversaw the mass arrests at G20: "@JustinTrudeau should question Blair's handling of G20. What's with sticking ur head in the stand and ignoring reality?"