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Candidate withdraws after concerns raised about online comments

'I apologize and recognize that they were distasteful and please know that's not the person I am today,' says Ward 1 candidate Thai Mac

In the wake of public criticism of past online comments, Ward 1 council candidate Thai Mac has announced he is withdrawing from the upcoming municipal election.

"(The comments) may be viewed as offensive to the LGBTQ community. I apologize and recognize that they were distasteful and please know that's not the person I am today, as can be demonstrated and seen in our online community," Mac, who heads the Facebook page Caught In Guelph, wrote Thursday in a statement posted to his election campaign website.

"Those who know me, and know our community well, know that I am supportive of, and have at times defended and promoted LGBTQ community events, threads and comments."

Mac said he and his family have been "harassed and ridiculed" since announcing his plans to run for a Ward 1 seat.

"I have kept quiet on that front in pursuit of a positive campaign. But with the recent revelations, it has exponentially increased to threats of violence and even more hurtful comments that does not accurately reflect the person that I am," he continued.

The deadline to formally withdraw from the election passed on Aug. 19 so his name remains on the ballot.

Several people raised concerns recently online about some of Mac's past online posts.

Among them are numerous Google reviews which include references to stores having “lots of stuff for gay men,” “too many LGBTQ stores” and a lamenting the existence of “gender neutral” beverages.

He also referred to the “little skirts on the waitresses” as the best thing about his experience at a Downtown Guelph restaurant and referred to the Downtown Guelph Business Association as “very anti-business and growth.”

“Having anyone that has influence over the decisions being made in our city who holds … hate for marginalized groups, like LGBTQ folk or anyone else, that isn’t going to get us to a better place,” said Loreli Root, chair of the city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, who has been posting about her concerns.

“I’m mostly worried about giving someone a platform and a position of power (to someone) who is making decisions from a place of discrimination.”

When first reached by GuelphToday for comment Thursday, Mac said he needed "a few hours to compose myself" and stated he planned to release a comment on his campaign website when ready. He did so roughly 45 minutes later on his website.

Among those who first raised concerns is Amanda Turner, a Ward 2 resident.

“There’s all this stuff there that I think is really very questionable and I thought that should be called out. It’s pretty upsetting and I honestly feel it’s offensive,” she said. 

It was Turner's tweets that caught the attention of Root and others.

“The response tells me this is something other people are also upset by and also want answers for. It’s a little heartening to know it’s not just me. Other people are seeing this as well and questioning it, wanting to know why he would say this sort of thing," she added.

Those tweets, and other social media postings, have garnered numerous shares and likes as well as replies. 

Turner’s first tweet tagged Mac and asked him to explain some of his comments. Without responding, Mac has since blocked Turner and switched his campaign account to private.

Others who liked Turner’s posts have also been blocked.

Root, who identifies as a member of the queer community, feels it’s important for prospective voters to see.

“I hope this will encourage people to start to notice what the candidates are talking about,” said Root. “We need to find out from all of the candidates who believes in things like equity, who cares about the things that really matter if we want to drive our society forward, if we want to drive Guelph forward.

“I hope this spurs people to be a little more curious about all the candidates.”