Nova Scotia

Matt Whitman apologizes for 'inappropriate dialogue' in wake of Twitter spat

Halifax city councillor Matt Whitman has apologized for controversial comments made last week following a debate sparked by the word 'marijuana.'

Halifax councillor under fire for using the word 'Negro' in debate over race and marijuana

Halifax city councillor Matt Whitman has apologized for comments made last week following a debate about the term 'marijuana.' (CBC)

Halifax city councillor Matt Whitman has apologized for comments made in a TV interview and on social media last week following a debate sparked by the word "marijuana." 

Whitman became involved in a heated exchange on Twitter last Thursday with fellow Coun. Shawn Cleary after Cleary said he was dropping the term marijuana from his vocabulary because of its racist roots.

During an interview with CTV Atlantic about the dispute that evening, Whitman used the word "Negro" while arguing that a nationality — in this case "Mexicans" — isn't a race.

Formal complaints were sent to Halifax regional council, which has a code of conduct.

Coun. Lindell Smith asked Whitman to not use the word.

Before a council meeting got underway at city hall on Tuesday morning, Whitman asked to speak on a point of privilege and used it to read an apology.

"I apologize to my colleague and members of council for any embarrassment I may have caused," the councillor said. "My comments never meant to insult, hurt, demean or otherwise disparage anyone."

Read twice and send once

Whitman said he lost sight of the issue and became engulfed in "inappropriate dialogue." 

"I'm sorry if I offended anyone," he said.

Whitman added that in the future, he intends to follow the mayor's advice: Read twice and send once.  

Mayor Mike Savage said while Whitman's apology was "the right thing to do," council will still need to deal with the complaints filed. He also said he was surprised by Whitman's choice of word.

"It's not a term you use now," Savage said. "Do I think it was meant maliciously? No. But I think you have to be responsible for your choice of words."

Re-elected by a wide margin

Whitman has apologized for his online actions before. In March, during his failed provincial campaign for the Progressive Conservative Party, he posted a video of himself yelling about a "Chinese fire drill" and running around a car

"I apologize for my lapse in judgment and my unintentional use of what I now understand to be an insensitive term," he said at the time. 

In 2016, he lashed out at an RCMP officer for fining a person for using an ATV to plow snow onto the roadway. Council wrote a motion telling him to apologize. He said he was sorry "to anyone that my social media offended or upset."

Whitman was first elected to council to represent District 13, Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets, in 2012. He won the seat again in 2016 with 4,088 votes — the most won by any candidate for council in that election.