Turns out there’s more than one Toronto politico whose foot fits snugly in mouth.
It’s become the political trend du jour to engage constituents via Reddit’s popular “Ask Me Anything” interview model—officials from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to President Barack Obama have taken the plunge to answer questions from the online community’s mostly anonymous users.
But there’s a certain finesse to dealing with the (sometimes unruly) public, an affinity for the common man and his concerns that was seemingly lost on Toronto City Council candidate Paul Alves.
Alves, already an avid Redditor with over 20,000 comment karma, probably thought it would be a good idea to engage voters on the site’s r/Toronto boards.
It was not a good idea. After an early comment referred to Alves as a “Ford apologist”—a reference to the city’s now infamous crack-smoking, gaffe-machine mayor—Alves completely lost it:
Slander, in it’s [sic] purest form. Do you happen to work for the [Alves opponent] Ana Bailao campaign? What’s your motive?
You do know you can be identified by reddit account and slander is illegal, yes?
Share your opinion, be a troll but ease off on the fantasy. I normally support Liberal but this year i may hold my nose closed and vote Tory.
Oof. Reaction was decidedly swift, with the comment receiving well over 1,000 downvotes and a flurry of criticism—some more suitable for publication than others.
“Threatening to sue voters is an interesting campaign strategy,” user ur_a_idiet observed.
“Took you NINE hours to respond to the first and only question and you threaten to sue the guy?” Freddit- replied. “You’re so not getting elected.”
“You have shown here that you have trouble dealing with people, which is kinda part of the job you are trying get votes for,” RahBren posted. “Perhaps this isn’t for you.”
Some would’ve seen the slow brewing of an angry internet mob and gotten the hell out of there—apologized, back pedaled, anything. But not Alves:
That’s dirty politics and i won’t stand for it, especially when my incumbent ward candidate who i voted for spent the first few years of her term voting with Ford...what a betrayal.
People think the internet is a free for all, it isn’t. I’ll gladly retain counsel and sue for slander anyone who claims I’m what i am not.
Disagree with me and tell me why, who knows i may even find logic in your argument. But don’t read my platform and then claim I am the exact opposite.
Just because someone can vote for me (which this person can’t) doewnt [sic] mean they have free reign to fabricate things about me and actively promote those total fantasies on social media.
I do NOT support Ford. Read my platform, ask me anything, call me. Email me... Watch me vote once I’ve won as the only truly Liberal candidate... Use logic…
I will not allow a single and possibly paid shill pollute my name. If he would have the hudspah [sic, also: lol] to put his real name to his posts i would have more respect for him...until then my name is Paul Alves, i live in Ward 18 in Toronto and as a Liberal i feel i am the only responsible socially liberal choice in my ward...
“You are a Satanist and a witch-doctor, and you sacrifice children in pagan rituals every fortnight in Rob Ford’s basement,” gepeg-libre replied. “Sue me.”
“Hi Paul, fellow ward 18 resident here. I saw this AMA in the morning, but didn’t have time to sit and type out my question. I just came back now to ask you a few questions to find you berating people and threatening to sue. I no longer need to ask questions as this type of bullying behaviour is all I need to know for you to not get my vote,” verticalgob wrote.
“Dude, you type like a teenager,” okaOkra added.
Alves deleted his name from some of the more contentious comments as he continued to defend himself, though they’re still available to read in the thread without his byline. He later wrote in a blog post that said he abandoned the interview because of the “hateful” comments left by Redditors, but acknowledged he made a mistake in lashing out.
“Although some users brought good questions, which I answered, one in particular insisted on claiming I was secretly part of the Ford Nation team, which I am not,” Alves wrote, though it’s worth noting that’s not at all what the commenter said. “I made the mistake of threatening to sue him, which of course no politician should ever do. I should have ignored the false statements and moved on. That’s when things turned ugly.”
Election Day in Toronto is October 27.