Doug Ford, premier of Ontario and leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, will give his cell phone number to anyone.

He’s done this for years; he gives out his number to people who complain to him, to people who praise him, to people who are indifferent to him entirely. It goes back to his time as a Toronto City Councillor. His brother, the late, infamous Rob Ford (you may remember him ), maintained the same practice when he was Mayor of Toronto. “Ford Nation,” as supporters of the brothers are known, love to have direct contact with their leader.

It’s a disruptive tactic meant to show that he’s not like other elected officials. Doug Ford put his cell phone number on posters. He tweeted it. At an event in Washington DC last February, he read it out live on stage.

He had absolutely no expectation of privacy. In his own words, he wanted to keep in touch with his citizens.

Whether or not you approved of his politics, you have to agree, giving out his own cell number is a bold move.

But now it’s backfired on him. According to the Premier’s office, he disconnected his number last Wednesday after being bombarded by calls from “Special interest groups.” The number remains out of service.

When does contact turn into harassment? 

Ford Spokeswoman Ivana Yelich says that premier Ford resisted the cancellation. He only disconnected the number after being convinced by his staff. He was reportedly receiving messages wishing him illness and death, in addition to hordes of Ontarians personally griping about his policies.

This raises an interesting question: when does contact from the public turn into harassment? Ford wanted the public to contact him directly. But there’s an implicit understanding that when a public figure makes themselves accessible, they expect some level of respectful discourse.

The people who are calling and texting Ford with reasonable complaints are not the reason he cancelled his number. Rather, it’s the volume of calls and texts, and the content of the more alarming calls, that caused him to cancel the number.

The premier’s office has released a statement regarding the cancelled number. They blame unnamed “special interest groups” and individuals with threatening tones for the disconnection, which “have made it impossible for the premier to use his cell phone for the original objective: to speak to the people.”

Stay connected and stay private with a secondary number app

It’s a shame that Doug Ford’s attempt to stay in touch with his constituents has backfired so badly.

One option for staying secure would be to use a secondary phone number. If Ford had used Hushed, for example, he would not be limited to a single phone number. With Hushed, you can have as many phone numbers as you want!

This would be a good choice for anyone, politician or not, who wants to stay connected with personal contacts and business contacts.

Balance is a healthy part of life. Managing 14 million Ontarians from a single cell phone number doesn’t sound very well-balanced to us. If Ford had Hushed, he could give out numbers to specific people to keep in touch and dispose of those numbers once their issues were resolved.

This seems like a much better strategy than publically posting a single phone number for the whole province to contact!

Hushed is available for iOS or Android.

Concerned citizens can still contact Ford through his official email address, and his office phone number remains in service. Yelich said that Ford is “committed to being as accessible as possible to everyday Ontarians.”