Nova Scotia

Matt Whitman sorry about tweet, says public figures held to higher standard

A Halifax councillor who ended up in hot water over tweets he made about RCMP officer says it's important for public figures to carefully think about their actions before publishing.

Whitman admits 'I was wrong' for criticizing RCMP online and will think twice about his tweets

Matt Whitman, regional councillor for Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets, says he'll be more cautious about what he tweets in the future. (CBC)

A Halifax councillor who ended up in hot water over tweets he made about an RCMP officer says it's important for public figures to carefully think about their actions before publishing.

Last week Matt Whitman, councillor for Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets, criticized an RCMP officer on Twitter for fining one of his constituents $406 for using an ATV to widen a snow-covered street.

"Very disappointed in the #RCMP officer who ticketed a Kingswood 4 wheeler with a plow for tidying up his culdesac #PowerTrip #GetALife," the tweet said.

That prompted a formal complaint from Scott Warnica, an RCMP officer and resident in Whitman's constituency, to Mayor Mike Savage. He demanded an apology and the removal of Whitman as deputy mayor.

"His tweet of '#PowerTrip' and '#GetALife' indicates he is ignorant to the fact council and the HRM policing partner must have a good working relationship. His tweet was inflammatory, without merit and was not constructive to improving police relations in the HRM," said Warnica in the letter. 

'I'm wrong'

Warnica also said Whitman "failed to obtain all of the information concerning this event." 

Tuesday night, after a three-hour closed door council meeting, Whitman apologized. He remains deputy mayor.

"I'm wrong. I should not have stooped to that level. Things like that happen in the internet a lot and it's no excuse for me being a part of it," Whitman told CBC's Maritime Noon.

"[The two hashtags] were rude, they hurt people's feelings, not just the police officer who complained about it but supporters of mine thought that I had gone too far."

Whitman said after the in-camera meeting he and other councillors were "all on the same page that what I had tweeted last week with the two hashtags were inappropriate, unkind and unprofessional. My goal is to get the message out there that I'm sorry for what I did, for anyone that I offended, for feelings that were hurt." 

Whitman said he still stands by his constituent who received the ticket.

"This isn't really about me getting in trouble for having a disagreement with the ticketing officer, it's about how I handled it. I still don't think that a ticket was the right thing," he said.

"I'll just be more cautious about how I tweet."

'Apology tour'

Whitman is also embarking on what he calls "an apology tour."  

"I started the apology tour because I'm saying sorry in as many places, to as many different people as possible," he said.  

Whitman is not the first person to be called out for comments made online but he said it's different because he is a public figure. 

"I'm expected to behave with decorum and that's why it's different. It wasn't polite, it wasn't kind, it was insensitive and I wouldn't do it that way again. Next time I'll think twice before I hit send on a tweet," he said. 

"Things on the internet can be misperceived and it's important to make sure that when you say something, you say the right thing in the right way so you can have the best impact for the greater good." 

Whitman also said the incident hasn't scared him away from social media. He said it's a great way to keep in touch with residents. 

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