John Chen speaks out against Shafiq Qaadri, the Ontario MPP, who wants legislature to drop its BlackBerry-only policy

Last week, Etobicoke North MPP Shafiq Qaadri, introduced a petition asking the Ontario legislature to allow members and staff to use a variety of smartphones instead of sticking to the BlackBerry-only policy but did so in a rather terrible way. Qaadri called the assembly's policy "handicapping, retarding and penalizing MPPs" to which many, including, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris found highly offensive not only for the language used but also the 'anti-BlackBerry' sentiment behind it as noted by The Record.

Harris said BlackBerry phones are used by the government because they have top-notch security and that is why governments from Barack Obama's to Angela Merkel's also use them. He was doubly upset that Qaadri would slam a Canadian company, calling it "iconic" and pointed out that BlackBerry, headquartered in Waterloo, employs thousands of Ontarians."If he's upset because he can't get Snapchat on his BlackBerry, frankly he can get his own device and pay for it with his own money," Harris said.

The comments also caught the attention of Ann Bilodeau, the executive director of KW Habilitation, who noted to CTV News.

"I was so disappointed to think that an elected official would actually use words … that are extremely hurtful to some very vulnerable people," Any four-year-old knows what the meaning of those two words are"

Needless to say, the comments also drew in BlackBerry CEO John Chen who has now taken to the Inside BlackBerry blog to write his own personal response speaking out against the comments made by MPP Shafiq Qaadri.

Tarnishing an Unsound Argument

Shafiq Qaadri is wrong on so many levels.

The Member of Provincial Parliament had the floor at Ontario's Legislative Assembly last week when he recited an diatribe against BlackBerry and used offensive words that have no place in modern discourse.

I join the many, many people across Canada calling on him to apologize and explain why he chose to use derogatory references to people with disabilities in a petition ostensibly about technology. We are dismayed‎ by Mr. Qaadri's behavior that reflects poorly on all of Canada – and especially to Canadians with disabilities who are incredible contributors to the nation.

Sadly, however, Mr. Qaadri also failed on the merits of his argument, which was insulting to BlackBerry.

Let's start with the technological reasons the Legislative Assembly chooses to spend public dollars to equip its elected officials and staff with BlackBerry mobility solutions.

Quite simply, BlackBerry is the most secure system for protecting individual security and privacy. That's why all G7 governments and 16 of the G20 governments are BlackBerry customers. BlackBerry has more than 70 security approvals and certificates – more than any other mobile solution. The top 10 largest global law firms, the top 10 largest automotive companies, the top 10 global pharmaceutical/healthcare companies, and top five largest oil and gas companies all use BlackBerry.

So the provincial government of Ontario is in good company, knowing that the people tasked with doing the people's business can do so effectively, securely and reliably. It's also sending a strong message to its Ontario constituents – thousands of whom are employed by BlackBerry.

Many of the dollars spent with BlackBerry go right back into the local and national economy. BlackBerry spends more on research and development than any other Ontario company. The $1.3 billion we spend annually also makes us one of the largest R&D spenders in all of Canada. Some 90% of BlackBerry's research engagements are with Canadian universities and we hire more than 1,000 co-op students from local institutions every year.

As an Ontario-headquartered company, BlackBerry pays corporate taxes in Ontario on revenue generated from sales worldwide, not just in Ontario. Among many other things, we help support the operations of the Legislative Assembly – and that includes Mr. Qaadri's salary.

Like many other Canadians, we are disappointed that Mr. Qaadri made a terrible public policy argument with words that were even worse.