Iqaluit councillor questions mayor's social media habits around Hunter Tootoo

Iqaluit's mayor has no plans to change her social media habits after a city councillor raised questions about her postings on independent Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo.

Councillor question's mayors tweets and Facebook posts on Nunavut MP

Iqaluit's mayor has no plans to change her social media habits after a city councillor raised questions about her postings on independent Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo.

The question came in a recent city council meeting during a review of the mayor's day-to-day activities during July and August. The list included several interviews Mayor Madeleine Redfern gave to various media outlets about Tootoo.

"I'm just surprised that she's that vocal as compared to the other elected representatives from Nunavut," Coun. Terry Dobbin said.

"[Tootoo's] admitted his mistakes, let's just move on."

The mayor is an avid Twitter user, sporting two handles: a personal and professional one.

"Our mayor has taken to Twitter and Facebook and has made some negative comments about our existing MP for Nunavut," Dobbin said at Tuesday night's council meeting, without pointing to specific examples. 

"What I'd like to know down the road... if she could clarify, is she taking that stance with regards to the MP of Nunavut as mayor of Iqaluit or as Madeleine Redfern, private citizen?"

Not negative

Redfern was not at the council meeting Tuesday but joined in via a telephone line that was often distorted and inaudible.

"I have made no such negative comments of our MP," Redfern said in response. 
Iqaluit councillor Terry Dobbin questioned the mayor's use of social media at Tuesday night's council meeting. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

"I have no idea what his status will be with the Liberals and if he will return to caucus and his ability to therefore be able to work with the municipality," she said.

Before she could continue, Iqaluit's deputy mayor cut her off, deciding to defer the issue to the next council meeting when she could be there in person instead of dealing with a phone line cutting in and out.

When contacted afterwards, Redfern said she stands by her words — and posts.

"I'm doing my job and I stand by utilizing all forms of communication to ensure the city and our community residents get what they need," Redfern said.

She said she takes a measured approached when posting, recognizing that, whether she tweets from her professional or personal account, she is still the mayor.

"The reality is that we do need an effective MP to bring those issues and lobby on our behalf," Redfern said.

Redfern said she has no plans to change her approach. She said her postings have helped her secure meetings with different federal ministers where she's been able to advocate on the city's behalf.

Political land mine

Having more than one Twitter account can make it challenging for constituents to differentiate between the two, blurring the line between personal and professional opinions, cautions Marcel Wieder, a Toronto-based political strategist and president of Aurora Strategy Inc. 

"This is an area where a lot of politicians step on land mines and it's so easy to get blown up," Wieder said.

"Keep it simple, keep it straightforward, pick one account and focus on that account."

Tootoo is currently touring the Kitikmeot region, visiting Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay.

"Some people are upset. I don't blame them. I was upset at myself too. I think it's just a matter of me now getting back to work, getting out talking to people," Tootoo said last Saturday after a short visit to Iqaluit.

"I have to show people that I'm healthy, I'm getting back to work, doing the job that they put their trust in me to do."


John Van Dusen is a journalist with CBC North based in Yellowknife. Find him on Twitter @jvdCBC.