Days of Rage: Angry voters brought new tensions to 2021 election campaign
Scott Simms ran in seven federal elections and won six. And while he accepted his 264-vote loss on September 20 fairly easily, the longtime Liberal MP is struggling to come to terms with what he went through during the election campaign in his largely rural central Earth constituency. -New.
“There was a lot of anger for a lot of people. Frustration and anger,” Simms said in an interview that aired on CBC Saturday. The House.
“I think in the last few moments … all of our politics and our public political talk, whether it’s on Facebook or through some or the radio shows, the anger started to come back and people wanted to change, and I accepted this wholeheartedly. “
Simms was an MP for 17 years. But he said this election marked the first time he had faced a threat of physical violence while going door-to-door – when a man told the 5-foot-4-inch Simms that he would pick it up and throw it off his driveway.
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Threats, vandalism and violence
Political observers have warned that the growing polarization of Canadian politics is turning respectful disagreement on issues into open hostility. Examples of this trend were evident during the 2021 campaign.
RCMP protection details reported an increase in number of threats directed against campaigning politicians, even though the election period was shorter than it was two years earlier.
Lawn signs have been demolished or damaged in many constituencies across the country. A candidate’s car was vandalized in the night outside his home. A woman has been accused of assaulting a candidate in her office.
Social media posts specifically targeted women politicians with vile and hateful comments.
And Justin Trudeau has faced angry crowds in several campaign stops in the final weeks of the campaign, including one in London where gravel was thrown at him. Police later charged a man with assault with a weapon.
One of the first warnings came from former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick. He warned a Commons committee in February 2019 of the “vomitorium” of social media and “the rising tide of incitement to violence” – ordinary people suddenly using words like “betrayal” and “traitor” in speeches. public debates on the direction and leadership of the country.
In a separate interview on The House to discuss his new book, Governing Canada: A Guide to the Art of Politics, Wernick said intolerance and polarization is a virus that infects Canadian public life.
“And the test will be, if I can use a metaphor, if we develop the antibodies for it,” he said.
“My take in the book is that the price of entering public life has gone up. The price of staying in public life has gone up. And in several elections in several years, I think we’re going to see fewer people wanting to enter politics and serve their country. “
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“I guess they wanted to take it out on me”
Simms said politicians need to do a better job of communicating to Canadians the reasons for the decisions they make – especially with the pandemic and its economic consequences that still weigh so heavily on so many people, including those in his old coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame on horseback.
Simms had the ears of outraged voters during the campaign. He has heard from seniors who are unhappy with the Liberals’ plan to increase old age security benefits, but only for those over 75 years of age.
He heard from small business owners who couldn’t find people to work because they were receiving money during the pandemic under federal emergency support programs.
“And I guess they wanted to come after me for that reason, and a lot of them didn’t come to me,” he said. “And that’s right. That’s what we do. That’s what we have to face in light of some unpopular policies.”
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Simms said what worries him the most is how Facebook and other social media platforms stoke anger and fear, how they amplify the most negative comments. It’s a significant challenge for politicians and political parties that affects how they reach voters – and draws attention to the tone and language MPs themselves choose to describe the motives of their opponents.
“Looks like we barely speak to each other,” Simms said. “[We talk] only to express our position and be faced with a barrage of negativity.
“So I just find it just that we are now siled in different camps and we don’t venture out of that silo much to strike up a conversation. So to sum it up – for people like me trying to reach out to people. ‘other parts and shake things up, I’m afraid we will become a dying race. “
Yet Simms does not rule out another candidacy. Being an MP is, after all, the only life he has known in nearly two decades since his first victory at the age of 35.
“If I don’t go back to federal politics, I can always say I had a good run and enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “But I don’t want to erase it just because, like I said, I have to get back to knowing who I am before I go any further.”