Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is known for his social media thumbs on the pulse of the city, but his near around-the-clock tweeting has thrown him onto an internet minefield.
Mr. Nenshi, who is not shy in engaging in Twitter debates with ordinary citizens or journalists, publicly rebuked a critic over the weekend as being "off your meds" during an exchange about the status of Occupy Calgary. The city has not forcibly removed protestors from public spaces, and Mr. Nenshi has said the demonstrators are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In response, blogger Werner Patels publicly tweeted that "common-sense thinkers i.e. NOT lefties" want city bylaws enforced.
"I know I should not bother when you're off your meds, but I love how freedom of speech is now an extreme lefty issue," Mr. Nenshi offered by way of retort.
Mr. Patels was offended as were some mental health workers who said they found the comment insulting.
On Monday, Mr. Nenshi apologized and told reporters he "should have used different words." But Canada's first big-city Muslim mayor also pointed out that Mr. Patels had previously made allegations about his family and connections to radical Islam. As a result, Mr. Nenshi's apology didn't extend to Mr. Patels, but to others who were offended by his remark. He also said he planned to keep tweeting.
"Part of the world I live in is I am who I am, and there's certain authenticity and when people engage with me on Twitter, that's what they get," Mr. Nenshi said.
Mr. Nenshi, who has more than 34,000 followers, used Twitter to help propel him to the mayor's office a year ago.
Mr. Patels said the issue of radicalism was brought to his attention earlier this year, but he killed the story when there wasn't evidence to support the allegations. He also shrugged off the mayor's apology.
"For me, it's a matter of sticks and stones," he said.
Still, he suggested that Mr. Nenshi tweets excessively for a politician (Mr. Nenshi is closing in on 7,000 tweets, while Mr. Patels has posted almost 16,500 tweets) and that quips such as "off your meds" hurts the city's reputation.
"I think for a politicians, it's perfectly alright to disagree with other views," Mr. Patels said, "It's the manner in which he does it."
Some in the twitterverse offered their support Mr. Nenshi. Jason Low, who described himself online as an emergency responder, counts himself among them.
"@nenshi did no wrong in my book (and I do take meds) Time to sink the politically correct boat and let figures-of-speech exist," he wrote.