Jennifer McCreath surprised by trolling
Jennifer McCreath says she knew she would be in the public eye when she offered herself as a candidate in the upcoming municipal election, but she didn’t think it would get personal.
The deputy mayor candidate for St. John’s council told The Telegram Thursday she has fallen victim to Internet trolling in which people leave questionable anonymous comments on the Internet.
“There has been a lot of sad … ridicule. A lot of, I like to use the term trolls, an Internet term that describes people trying to be harassing, and bullying for no clear-cut reason,” said McCreath, a community activist who is transgendered.
“I know I’ve ruffled some feathers in the past, but I thought that was all behind me,” she said.
McCreath is running against St. John’s businessman Ron Ellsworth who is also seeking the deputy mayor’s position.
Having moved to Newfoundland in 2007 from Toronto, McCreath said she appreciates competition in the political arena and expected healthy criticism, but when people go out of their way to be cruel and hurtful it does nothing to encourage people to put themselves out there as candidates in municipal politics.
“But ultimately there’s something deep in my heart that wants to reach out and give back to society. I’m also going through a personal challenge of raising education and awareness that there are diverse people coming to St. John’s including those like myself who have a transgender medical history,” she said.
“Being able to demonstrate we are just as keen, that we’re educated, have a great work experience … win or lose, I’m hoping this will expand my network and introduce me to a variety of new people and open some doors one way or the other,” said McCreath.
When it comes to public scrutiny, Ellsworth said it comes with the territory.
Ellsworth was first elected to council in 2005 as a Ward 4 councillor. Halfway through the term, then-mayor Andy Wells stepped down, bumping then-deputy mayor Dennis O’Keefe to mayor, leaving the deputy mayor’s chair empty. Ellsworth ran in the byelection and won.
In the 2009 election Ellsworth offered himself for the position of mayor, but lost to O’Keefe, who is also seeking re-election. O’Keefe is being challenged by St. John’s Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary and Geoff Chaulk, a former public and health policy analyst.
“I’m not sure we get a lot of that, a small bit,” Ellsworth said when asked Thursday about experiencing public criticism and ridicule.
“But certainly you have to come into this with the understanding not everybody is going to be happy with you. Not everybody will like the decisions you make, but if you make an informed decision and make them for the right reason then I think the majority of people will accept that at least you are doing your best,” he said.
McCreath, who works in the RNC’s 911 call centre, originally withdrew from the race because she had no one to sign her nomination papers. However, after an outpouring of support, on the last day of the nomination process, she decided to run for deputy mayor.
One of the biggest issues McCreath identified during her campaign is what she said appears to be an increase in the illegal drug trade and the violent crime that accompanies it. She said she is also concerned about the increase of traffic and its subsequent increase in dangerous driving.
Other than the Internet trolling concern, McCreath said it’s been interesting and a little challenging especially when it comes to figuring out the best campaign strategy.
She said people might not realize the amount of work that goes into running for council or the amount of money that could be spent on trying to get elected.
“I knew coming into this it was going to be a low-budget campaign for me. I wasn’t fundraising. It was coming out of my own little pocket,” said McCreath.
She said she did as much as she could without spending money, such as personally, or with the help of volunteers, hand-delivering her campaign information.
“No matter which way it goes in the end, I can’t wait to have a big nap,” she said laughing.
Ellsworth kicked off his campaign in March, and while he said Thursday he’s not tired, he’s ready for it to be over.
“It’s going very well, but yeah, I’ll be glad when it’s done,” he said.
Having been involved with municipal politics before and having volunteered in the community for more than 25 years, Ellsworth said it can be expensive for new people starting out and it helps when people know who you are.
“For somebody coming in new it certainly can be more expensive. The signs we’re using right now are some I used in 1997, some I used in 2005, so for us signage wasn’t a cost. But for anybody coming in new trying to get their names out there can get expensive, it’s no doubt,” he said.
During the campaign, he said the biggest issue facing the city is infrastructure upgrades and repairs.
“When making these repairs, we need to be thinking about the long term. Making repairs that will only last a couple of years is not good enough. While it would be nice to be able to make all of these repairs and upgrades immediately, the reality is that this work is very expensive and the city cannot afford to pay for it all,” he said, adding work needs to continue with the provincial and federal governments to make the repairs affordable.