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'They should all just grow up'
The campaign speeches are over, the election signs are being collected and the after-parties have wrapped up.
As the dust settles from this year’s federal general election that saw Justin Trudeau return as prime minister with a Liberal minority government, it wasn’t just the runners-up who weren’t savouring sweet victory.
It seems this year’s election has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many residents in the St. John’s metro area.
Regardless of who won or lost, many voters were not impressed with the nasty tone the campaign took leading up to Monday’s vote.
“Oh my God, if I had to listen any more of them taking smart cracks at each other, I think I’d scream,” Angela Penney told The Telegram Tuesday while walking along Water Street in St. John’s.
“It turned my stomach. It’s sad, really. They all should just grow up. Yes, it got nasty and it shouldn’t be like that.”
Much of the negative insults were elicited by the front-runners — the Liberals and Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer.
Between the television ads attacks, the spreading of false information, name-calling, making unfounded conspiracy theories, accusing the other of wrongdoing and personal mud-flinging, many Canadians couldn’t help but compare Canadian politics to our neighbours to the south.
Democracy Watch, a non-partisan advocacy group, warned the lack of action to stop false online ads and claims would make this campaign “more like the 2016 U.S. presidential election — more dishonest and dominated by wealthy interests running false ad campaigns aimed at trying to undermine the election.”
Many agreed it reminded them of a Trump-style campaign.
“It definitely seemed to be influenced by American politics,” Alex Downtown said.
“I was talking with some friends and family yesterday and we were saying it seemed like (the candidates) were more about talking about what they were against instead of what they were for.
“They used any opportunity to throw dirt in each other’s faces.”
Holly Daley said it was the Liberal-Conservative smear campaigns that prompted her to vote for “the lighter spirit” of Jagmeet Singh’s NDP.
“I didn’t like the messages being put out in this election,” she said. “I don’t watch much TV, but when I did, I saw two negative (Conservative) campaign commercials slamming the Liberals. That’s concerning.”
Aaron Ryan, who is from St. John's but lives in Labrador, said the nastiness made voters less interested in the candidates and the election.
“Everyone got tired of their crappy banter, taking digs at each other,” he said. “We all just felt apathy. Everyone was just sick of it.
“It’s all about love thy neighbour, not about bashing each other, but nothing else seemed to matter to them.”
Ryan said he hopes Canadian politics doesn’t turn into American, “but I don’t doubt it will.”
“I hope in the future, people will just get informed about it all, because it seems we’ve lost our curiosity. We don’t see the forest for the trees.”
Ahtisham Younas, a PhD nursing student at Memorial University from Pakistan, has been living in St. John’s for the past six years, but as an international student, was unable to vote.
However, he said it was easy to see the negative tone this year’s federal election took, reminding him of the kind of scandalous rhetoric exchanged by British politicians in discussions of the Brexit issue.
“There seemed to be a real shift in how the campaign went,” Younas said. “It certainly doesn’t match the international persona Canadians have as being polite.”
Some of the nastiness also seemed to spill over into the public.
On Tuesday, a campaign sign belonging to St. John's East Conservative candidate Joedy Wall had a black swastika spray-painted on it.
Wall wasn’t aware his campaign sign was vandalized when The Telegram contacted him for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
“I didn’t see it,” he said, sounding surprised. “I do know that other candidates have had their signs vandalized, but as far as I know this is the first one for me. I’ve had signs removed, but that’s the first time I’ve had one vandalized.”
Wall said he would have the sign removed immediately.
Speaking about the overall campaign climate, Wall called it a clean campaign.
“I didn’t sling any mud, nor did the other candidates, and that was what people are commenting on as well," he said. "So, it was a good campaign, it was clean, I learned a lot and I’ll be back the next time.”
— With files from Juanita Mercer