Liberals drop southwestern Ontario candidate over homophobic slur on social media
Alec Mazurek no longer Chatham-Kent-Leamington candidate; Audrey Festeryga now registered to run
The Ontario Liberal Party said Thursday it has removed Alec Mazurek as a provincial election candidate for Chatham-Kent-Leamington following claims he used a homophobic slur multiple times on social media.
Mazurek, 23, later said on Facebook that the comments were made when he was 15. They came to light when they were shared by the NDP, and appear to have been posted by Mazurek eight years ago.
It marks the third time within a week that the Liberals have dropped a candidate.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca was asked about Mazurek's online posts Thursday, which is also the deadline day for candidate nominations for the June 2 election.
"I think it's really important for leaders to take decisive action when candidate behaviour that is irresponsible, that is reckless, that is not what we stand for is dealt with in the most decisive way possible," Del Duca said. "So I will take a look immediately following this event, and if that is the case, he will no longer be a candidate for us."
Shortly after, Del Duca's press secretary said in a statement that Mazurek "has officially been terminated," and won't be representing the Liberals on June 2.
Elections Ontario's website shows former federal Liberal candidate Audrey Festeryga has been registered to run in the riding.
The Facebook posts by Mazurek that were brought to light by the NDP appear to show him using the F-word known as a homophobic slur.
In a statement on his current Facebook page, Mazurek said the comments "were unacceptable then and unacceptable now, and are not reflective of the values that I hold and champion today,"
"All Ontarians deserve to have a safe community around them, and comments like those make it more difficult to earn that trust. I apologize unequivocally for any harms that they have caused and I will continue to learn from previous mistakes."
- Ontario Votes 2022Ontario Liberals drop 18-year-old candidate in the Sault, reject Indigenous lawyer
Mazurek initially indicated the comments were made when he was 13, but later updated his post to reflect that he would have been 15 at the time.
In saying the comments in question are nearly a decade old, he added: "To put it into context, I was just starting high school. This is not an excuse to minimize the reason that this is an issue, but I would also like to make clear that we're holding a child to the same standards as the adult writing this statement today."
Mazurek told CBC he's not looking to continue his campaign independently, and his name won't be on the ballot June 2.
Mazurek's ousting came a day after the Liberals dropped a candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka, in the wake of media reports that described a self-published book that details scientifically baseless views on homosexuality.
The day before, the Liberals dropped their candidate in Sault Ste. Marie. after a media report said the teen participated in online discussions in which people joked about "dying of AIDS." The high school student told local media he did not make those comments.
Windsor Pride Community board head reacts
Colm Holmes, president of the board of Windsor Pride Community, said he was shocked that a vetted candidate would have used that kind of language, but is supportive of the party's decision to remove Mazurek as a candidate.
"Obviously the word carries a lot of weight in our community and is used constantly as a weapon to harm our community," he said.
As for whether it matters if the comments were years old or made when someone was younger, Holmes — who spoke with CBC prior to Mazurek's apology — said that everyone undergoes a period of maturing, and the issue is more so how it came to light that harmful language was used, the intent and impact, and whether there is remorse.
"Did they come forward and say that and put together some things that they've been working on with themselves, with working with the community? Have they done anything or is it simply that someone has dug up through their social media profile and found out something that they were trying to keep hidden?" he said.
Liberals aim to run full ticket
The deadline for candidate nominations is 2 p.m. ET Thursday, but Del Duca said he would still try to run with a full ticket.
The party said it would have an update on its roster of candidates soon.
Del Duca didn't comment on how the Liberals vetted their candidates, but said he sees it as an ongoing effort.
"From my perspective, the vetting process never stops," he said.
"We're constantly making sure that we are in touch with our candidates, that we're aware to the best of our ability of what's taking place and what's going on with it."
With files from The Canadian Press and Jason Viau