Politics - Federal

'No Trespassing' at MP David Sweet's Constituency Office

By Lorne Warwick
Published June 11, 2012

Last Friday I got a glimpse of the kind of democratic expression that is considered acceptable under Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government. It is one that I found profoundly disturbing.

Recently I wrote a piece describing a June 2 march organized by Leadnow.ca to the constituency office of my Conservative MP, David Sweet.

On June 8, another demonstration to protest Bill C-38, the Harper budget omnibus bill, took place, this one organized by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians and joined by a variety of groups and individuals.

Protesters march to MP David Sweet's office
Protesters march to MP David Sweet's office

Despite the short notice, this march from downtown Dundas up to Mr. Sweet's office at 59 Kirby Avenue in Greensville was well-attended, and I was very pleased by the robust presence of young Canadians, each participant bound by a deep concern over the dark road Stephen Harper and his acolytes are leading us down.

However, young and old alike were in for an unpleasant surprise upon arrival at our destination. We were met with a No Trespassing sign at the entrance to the strip mall housing Sweet's constituency office, an interdiction authorized by the property owner, IPC Investments, we were told.

No Trespassing sign in front of the strip mall housing MP David Sweet's constituency office
No Trespassing sign in front of the strip mall housing MP David Sweet's constituency office

Not one to be satisfied with such an expedient and un-Canadian dismissal of democracy, I ventured onto the property to ask to speak to the owner, who was flanked by Hamilton police officers (all of whom, I must say, discharged their perceived duties in a very professional and non-confrontational manner).

I asked the owner, who refused to give his name, why we, the public, were being denied access to the office of our elected and publicly-funded MP, and he told me it was private property. When I persisted in my questions, he said there had been an incident of property destruction a couple of months ago, at which point the officer told him he didn't have to answer my questions.

Interestingly, a lawyer who was in attendance later contacted the property owner who "alleged that people in the past had caused damage by breaking foliage and walking on plants," none of which was in evidence in this concreted and rather sterile-looking strip mall.

Thus literally relegated to the street (also an apt metaphor for where this battle must be fought), many of the attendees spoke eloquently about their concerns over the omnibus bill.

Representatives from labour, the environment, poverty and political action groups, as well as former politicians and individuals, all united by their love of this country and their compassion for its members, offered moving perspectives on the dangers inherent in the Harper push to fundamentally alter the values and traditions that I would like to think the majority of Canadians hold dear.

Many of the attendees were veterans of the battles to safeguard those values, maintain our democratic rights, and hold our politicians accountable to those they were elected to represent and serve. Many others were young and just beginning to take up those battles, but all were united in their passion and their determination to fight for the things truly worth fighting for in this life.

Lorne Warwick is a retired high school teacher who spends his time reading, traveling, doing crosswords, volunteering, and becoming increasingly concerned about the state of democracy in Canada.

27 Comments

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted June 11, 2012 at 18:17:58

In Harperstan democracy is a nuisance to be stamped out.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 11, 2012 at 19:55:42

I find this kind of thing frightening. Not allowing the public to protest - and a peaceful one at that! - is simply disturbing. Sadly, this appears to be the nature of the CPC. When I lived in Dundas I had him as my MP - but can't recall anything he did to better our area. I do remember, though, that he was parachuted in and was not from this area; this is something I feel should be manditory for anyone running to represent a group of people.

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By jacob (registered) | Posted June 11, 2012 at 20:00:32

Shocking! I don't have adjectives enough to express how bad this is. Our federal government has made shit like this such a regular phenomenon that it doesn't even shock people anymore. Yet this is about as blatant and ignorant and really anti-democratic an action as you can imagine. I'm not sure this could have happened 20 years ago without an uproar. Maybe I'm wrong. What's different is that this seems to now happen as a matter of policy, not just some low ranking staffer getting ahead of himself. I'm so upset by this!!

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted June 11, 2012 at 20:30:28

This is very disturbing but not surprising. This office is not accessible by public transit either, which should be a requirement for all M.P.'s offices in my opinion.

It doesn't sound from your piece as if anyone from Mr Sweet's office met your delegation or leaders, but can you confirm that? Did you request a meeting with someone from his office to express your views?

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By lorne (registered) - website | Posted June 12, 2012 at 06:25:23 in reply to Comment 78331

After the protest, I approached the Sweet office, which was being protectively monitored by the police. An officer, standing in front of the door, told me it was closed. I told him that it was supposed to be open, as this was during Sweet's official constituency office hours.

Looking inside, I saw a man sitting there, so I knocked on the window. He came to the door and identified himself as the office manager. I asked him why the door was locked, and he said it was because of the protest and that he feared some disruption, or words to that effect. He also informed me that Sweet was in Ancaster for their Heritage Days festivities, but I told him that he was wrong to be trying to prevent access to the office, thereby thwarting democracy, and he said I could always make an appointment to discuss my concerns with Sweet.

I asked him to deliver a message to my M.P., to the effect that while he might like to lock out protesters, we aren't going away, and that next time the crowd will be bigger.

By the way, the next scheduled protest is at the same site this Wednesday at 5:30 P.M.

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted June 14, 2012 at 00:27:22 in reply to Comment 78349

Lols! I guess that might explain some of the cranky-pants attitude & verbal abuse put forth by his local supporters yesterday ? (No, local idiots. I did not attend the demo.. I was @ a Dr.'s appointment. Not guilty.. but has anyone told you that your attitude really SUCKS? It's enough to make people want to ...Attend Protests.)

Comment edited by D. Shields on 2012-06-14 00:44:59

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 12, 2012 at 23:20:32 in reply to Comment 78349

By the way, the next scheduled protest is at the same site this Wednesday at 5:30 P.M.

Could you elaborate? Please?

Comment edited by Undustrial on 2012-06-12 23:34:25

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By lorne (registered) - website | Posted June 13, 2012 at 01:19:21 in reply to Comment 78418

The protest takes place on Wednesday at 5:30 at Sweet's office. Here is the link with the details:

http://heroes.leadnow.ca/events/david-sw...

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 08:16:56 in reply to Comment 78349

Any plans for other protests? I don't get home from work until after 7:30pm or so.

EDIT: If Mr. Sweet has a booth at any of the local fairs/festivals coming up, I will certainly go out of my way to ask why this was allowed to happen and why the public at large was not allowed into the office of their elected representative.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2012-06-12 08:18:03

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 10:51:33 in reply to Comment 78359

You had better be quick. He seems to make very sudden & very short abrupt appearances @ Cactus & Busker Fests in Dundas.
As a constituent of his, I'd have to say his office is most Unhelpful, on the few occasions that I have called them, but perhaps if you are a very obvious supporter, then it's a different story-?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 07:19:10 in reply to Comment 78376

Agreed. The past few years at the Cactus Festival I've seen his booth there, but strangely it's closed - and this is in the afternoon on a Saturday! I guess he has better things to do - I mean, he _did_ pay for a spot, but he doesn't actually have to _be_ there, right?

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted June 14, 2012 at 00:30:27 in reply to Comment 78421

I suppose that's one kind of 'support'? Pay $$$ to rent a booth?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2012 at 22:19:21

You don't have constitutional rights on private property. This incident says a lot about the political motives behind the privatization of public spaces (ie: strip malls), and their implications for the rest of us.

That being said, demonstrations that outrage strip mall owners are more than common around here, and rarely ends in more than a warning. The Tresspass to Property Act is a lot more complicated than putting up a sign, and even if you're convicted is very minor offence, akin to a traffic ticket (with a small fine), assuming they could even keep hold of someone long enough to cite them. Even then, it would still have to go court and wouldn't be fun to prosecute.

At the end of the day, I suspect said owner would end up having to explain to the judge exactly what he thought he was getting into when he rented David Sweet an office?

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By D. Shields (registered) | Posted June 14, 2012 at 00:37:09 in reply to Comment 78340

Their campaign office was right in Dundas, right across from the Cdn. Tire store, & on a bus route. I wonder why the constituency office couldn't be in a more central & accessible location?

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By Pattern (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2012 at 22:53:05

Excellent points by Unindustrial.
Maybe it's time to take the charge and get a Supreme Court ruling on what trumps what: private property protection or freedom to visit your elected representatives office (ie. expression). (Doing this before Harper nominates the balance of the Court would be a good idea.)
I would suggest that if Mr. Sweet takes his position seriously, he should, first, explain to his landlord that there may be some inconvenience related to his tenancy (called the expression of democratic rights) and, second, if the landlord can't abide by that, find another more open space to conduct his business.
By way of comparison, check out what happened in Peterborough where Dean Del Maestro, the arbiter of all that's actually the truth, closed his office deeming protesters a threat to staff: http://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/2012/06/05/del-mastro-locks-doors-to-protestors-saturday
Seems to be a pattern here.

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By alhambra (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2012 at 23:30:50 in reply to Comment 78343

Harrison v Carswell (a close call) said you don't have a right to protest on private land. It's a property law question of what rights a private owner has - is it a right to exclude the whole world? If so who does the 'no trespassing' sign apply to? Is there fine print saying (except for members of the conservative party and users of EZ Dry Klean)?

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted June 12, 2012 at 06:47:25

What can 1 say?

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-06-12 06:50:54

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By isthmus (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 10:42:25

I traveled from Dundas to Greensville and was proud to be part of a very organzied and professional march. But when we arrived at David Sweet's office, I did see a dozen or so march members clearly walking on grass, putting flyers on parked cars and things of that ilk.

Legal ramifications aside, I believe we have a greater impact when all of us demonstrate in a respectful manner. I know that if that was my house/property/strip mall, I wouldn't want folks trampling on my garden....but then again, I wouldn't rent to David Sweet. It's a tricky one. See you all on Wednesday!

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 11:07:26

Some might remember that back in 2008 Bob Bratina suggested that we permanently move City Hall to the privately owned Hamilton City Centre shopping mall to save money instead of renovating. I remember thinking at the time that this would raise all sorts of issues regarding right to public protest and public access...

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2012-06-12 11:22:50

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:30:34

Has Sweet ever actually... done anything? Has he ever been more than a backbencher, a stuffed shirt on the hill?

As disappointed as I am that we in ADFW continue to elect a Conservative, it makes it an even more bitter pill that we elected this particular conservative.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:59:22 in reply to Comment 78392

Be careful what you wish for.

I'd take Sweet over alot of the other backbenchers. Yikes!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 12, 2012 at 13:24:10 in reply to Comment 78397

It could be worse. Harper could continue to read from the Republican playbook and appoint Larry Miller as Canada's Ambassador to the UN.

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By recall this (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 16:11:04

It might help put the Sweet man's election and role into context if you remember how the Spectator and Dreschel bent over and over to sweeten Sweet during his first federal election campaign. Spec/Dresch may as well have been honorary campaign somethings: And REMEMBER that in the 2011 federal election, "Liberal" L Di Ianni publicly supported Sweet to the very public chagrin of local Liberal organizers--all of this actually reported in the Spectator. What does that kind of Di Ianni (one-time mayor's throne-sitter) support tell you about the kind of member Sweet is?
The current integrity thing is a pebble compared to the ton of stifling dust dumped on the city when D Di was mayor. Think of some of the reasons why RTH and CATCH got started.

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By HMM (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2012 at 18:12:51

The constituancy office is paid for by the PUBLIC, thus it should be open for service to the people, period!

But the liberals engage in these of tactics as well, as Boutranni's office was closed one day, when a very small group showed up to deliver a letter of protest.

The goal should be to build solidarity, to organzie and mobilize the real issue, the people have no access, I find the tactics of closing the office very unlawful, any legal experts out on this issue?

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By 123 (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 14:34:01 in reply to Comment 78411

oh no the HMMM guy has discovered RTH. Discussion is doomed.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 13, 2012 at 06:33:08

Another protest is scheduled for 5:30 PM today at David Sweet's office.

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By sensato (anonymous) | Posted April 05, 2013 at 07:19:38

This move of constituency offices into mall appears to be tactical one, to isolate MPs from their constituents. It is happening everywhere, including Mr. Harper's electoral district.

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