Federal candidates face threats, vandalism

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Federal candidates face threats, vandalism
Candidates at the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce debate held on Tuesday, October 15 (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – Nearly all of the federal candidates in the riding of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry have stated that they have been subject to at least some level of personal attack from the public.

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, Seaway News learned that NDP candidate Kelsey Schmitz had her tires slashed.

Conservative candidate Eric Duncan had about a half-dozen of his signs in Cornwall damaged by and ATV in the same week, and earlier in the campaign, had received a death threat.

Liberal candidate Heather Megill has stated that she has also received threats through social media, and had one of her signs in South Dundas vandalized with blackface in September.

“While 99 per cent of our campaign engagements since my nomination in August have been positive, even when we differ on policy or platform, there is the 1 per cent that occasionally creeps in and has a negative impact,” Schmitz said. “I have received a number of harassing, and negative comments on social media and on our campaign phone line. They are unfortunate, and targeted. They have been a range, from rude and vulgar, to sexual innuendos or comments.”

Duncan said that most of his interactions have been positive, but that he did have a strategy in case he deals with negative interactions.

“The overwhelming majority of our interacts at the 5,000 doors we have knocked on have been civil,” he said. “We have only had a handful of disrespectful people. Personally, I try to get the individual to calm down and ‘turn down the tone’ and engage in a civil conversation about what is making them upset. If they cannot calm down and use appropriate language, I simply walk away.”

“Unfortunately, it is not uncommon from my experience in campaigns to see this type of activity. I try to focus on the positives when we are victims of this acts. For every one negative incident, there are hundreds and hundreds of positive interactions that we have each week,” Duncan went on to explain.

Duncan said that he encourages respect amongst his supporters and that as a candidate he had a responsibility to bring forward a positive discourse.

“I wouldn’t say I have heard a supporter make a threatening remark, but if it is overtly negative, I am quick to say that we should treat everyone with respect, and send our message at the ballot box, not with negative insults,” he said. “I think as local candidates, we have demonstrated civility and respect for each other at the local debates. In my professional and personal life, I have always treated people the way I would want to be treated. As a candidate, we set the tone for our team and I am proud of the way our volunteers and our team treat the other candidates, and tone we have used in the riding. It is one we can be proud of.”

People’s Party candidate Sabile Trimm explained that she has had only positive experiences and that her fellow candidates have conducted themselves respectably throughout the campaign.

“I honestly have not received any negative feedback or comments or harassment and have not seen or heard anything towards the other candidates either,” she said. “I think that SDG is a special place where we have old fashioned country values.  I heard of the incident but I hope this was an act of random vandalism and not a result of the campaign. All the candidates are so cordial and soft spoken, I cannot imagine anyone getting upset by any of the candidates.”

Schmitz reflected on why some constituents express themselves in such negative or even violent ways.

“I believe there is a lot of emotions around our political discourse right now. Some people feel ignored, some disenfranchised, and some just aren’t able to express themselves in appropriate ways” she said “Some just really want their team to win, and aren’t interested in respecting the voices of others. Ultimately, I try to think about what would motivate someone to behave this way and how I can help change the tone of the conversation so they feel included in it; and I hope that staying positive, staying focused on the numerous amazing supporters and community members I’ve met, will drown out the white noise of toxic commentary.”

Schmitz had filed an official police report with the Cornwall Police Service (CPS) in regards to the slashing of her tires.

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