Public safety minister returns fire following Twitter tirade

OTTAWA – There are clearly no tidings of comfort and joy between Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and the NDP’s Pat Martin, two decidedly unmerry gentlemen from Manitoba after a bitter yuletide war of words.

Neither man is known for beating around the bush with opponents, but Martin sparked the battle late Wednesday with a sudden and abusive Twitter tirade against Toews and his Conservative government.

By the following day, however, Martin’s Twitter account — known as an occasional forum for sharp words and casual profanity — was no longer in service.

“I apologize for my regrettable and inappropriate language,” he tweeted just prior to pulling the plug.

“It seems some people shouldn’t tweet so with this, I sign off.”

Martin was upset about not being invited to attend a Canada Mortgage and Housing announcement on low-cost immigrant and refugee housing in his riding earlier in the week.

“Next time I’m bringing my own folding chair if the minister ‘forgets’ to invite me to his spending announcements in my riding. Arrogance,” he wrote.

Martin also called the Conservatives “rat-faced whores” and “bad people” who cheated during the 2011 election using “American style dirty tricks.”

But what really drew the ire of Toews were Martin’s negative tweets about a drop-in centre in Winnipeg run by Youth for Christ Canada. The centre had been partly funded by the federal government.

Martin suggested some in the aboriginal community had rejected the centre because of its overtly Christian mission, and that the centre had not been a success.

He also referenced Toews’ divorce, the messy details of which were spread across Twitter earlier this year.

Toews responded Thursday in a blistering written statement.

“For a sitting member of Parliament to attack an organization with blatant mistruths is both irresponsible and disgraceful,” he wrote.

“The new facility that Youth for Christ operates from better serves the Winnipeg region and allows it to expand its reach and capacity.”

Toews also responded to Martin’s lament that he had not been invited to the CMHC event by saying the MP had never asked him for help with funding in his riding, unlike other opposition MPs in Winnipeg.

He also noted that the announcement this week also involved the provincial NDP government.

“Clearly even his own party doesn’t want him at events,” said Toews.

At the very least, the NDP appears not to want Martin on Twitter any longer. At about the same time Martin announced he was giving up the microblogging service, Leader Tom Mulcair’s principal secretary was putting a fine point on it.

“These comments were simply inappropriate and unacceptable,” Karl Belanger said in a statement. “Mr. Martin agrees and we understand that he has decided to stop using his Twitter account.”

It’s not the first time that Martin’s penchant for intemperate language has garnered controversy.

He’s used the f-bomb a number of times on Twitter, including during an angry tirade last year about the Conservatives curtailing debate on their budget bill.

Martin is also embroiled in a defamation suit after he alleged wrongdoing by a call centre company that had done work for the Conservatives during the last federal election. Over the past year, Martin has had a much lower profile in the Commons than in previous years.

But Toews, too, has been known for the occasional personal barb.

In 2008, he called former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour and former UN High Commissioner for human rights “a disgrace” during an exchange in the Commons.

In 2010, he took on Ottawa-based Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mia Rabson in a missive to supporters, suggesting she was committed to advancing a partisan Liberal agenda.

“…this is the kind of conspiracy theory story that Mia Rabson regularly engages in because they don’t involve a great deal of thought or work,” Toews wrote of a story involving former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer.

Earlier this year, he suggested MPs who did not support a Conservative bill giving police more surveillance powers online could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”

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