Politics

Mayor criticized for comparing Harper's use of private security to dictators' militias

The mayor of Oakville, Ont., has been under a barrage of online criticism for writing a tweet suggesting Stephen Harper's use of private security is like those that protected fascist dictators. He apologized after critics accused of him maligning Canadian veterans.

Those offended by comparison have been tweeting hashtag #ResignMayorBurton

This was the second of two tweets Oakville mayor Rob Burton wrote regarding Stephen Harper's private security team. (Twitter)

The mayor of Oakville found himself under a barrage of online criticism when he wrote a tweet comparing Stephen Harper's use of private security with those that protected Hitler and Mussolini. He has apologized for the implication, seen by some critics, that he was comparing Canadian veterans with fascist militias. 

Rob Burton, Oakville's mayor since 2006, tweeted about the Conservative leader's use of Canadian veterans for additional campaign security, on top of the RCMP officers already assigned to protect the prime minister.

The media story story he linked to referenced a private security team that had temporarily detained a man at a campaign event when he tried to join the line of journalists to pose a question to the prime minister. 

Burton followed that tweet with another, asking what "other political parties had private police using veterans before," along with links to Wikipedia pages on the Nazi SA (Sturmabteilung) and Mussolini's browncoats.

"In Canada, we have a public police. They are governed by a civilian authority. Private police aren't governed by anyone but their client," said Burton Saturday. "I, in a generality, don't think we want to become a country that supports a private police."

The tweet attracted the attention of Conservatives Jason Kenney and Lisa Raitt, who also responded over Twitter, writing that it compared Canadian veterans to dictators' militias.

"The Mayor's comments are an insult to all military veterans, unbecoming of his office and the Town of Oakville," said an email sent to CBC News on behalf of Effie Triantafilopoulos, the Conservative candidate for Oakville North-Burlington. 

"I was not concerned with the presence nor absence of veterans," said Burton.

He concluded these responses came because members of the Conservative Party are "very sensitive on the topic of private security and I feel disappointed that we lost track of the issue."

Many took offence to the implication that he was comparing veterans to fascist groups and began tweeting the hashtag #ResignMayorBurton. 

Others rushed in to defend him, arguing that wasn't the mayor's intention. 

Burton has since apologized for the impression some had and to "all vets," writing: "I regret any impact on their feelings or pride."

He doesn't believe the response or the hashtag are reflective of the city he governs, however, and says he will face his electorate should he decide to run for another term as mayor in 2018.  

"It's clearly a political party campaign and Oakville, like other cities, has people of every persuasion," he said. "They vote every four years and if I decide to run again, I'll face them again, sure."

As for how he tweets to that electorate, "I'm fascinated by the way ... the one issue of vets and the other issue of party behaviour became very hard to separate. I'm certainly going to put a lot of thought into how I tweet."

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