Hump Day: Lions, tigers and bears oh my! It’s election time in N.B.

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Lions, tigers and bears oh my! It’s election time in N.B.

The silly season is on in New Brunswick. A provincial election will be held on Sept. 22. This summer will be one of shaking hands, kissing babies, barbecues, fundraisers and New Brunswickers answering their doors to sweaty candidates out campaigning in the heat and humidity.

I’ve always loved ‍politics. In addition to mountains of strategy, you have to factor in personalities. While many politicians and candidates are perfectly nice people (in all parties), there are a number of them who aren’t fit for public office. I’ve written often that I’m not overly cynical about politicians. There are some tremendously intelligent and driven individuals who currently hold public office and who aspire to public office as candidates – again, from all parties. Like any profession, though, there are bad ones, too.

If you’ve ever sat in the viewing gallery at the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly, you’ll notice one thing very quickly – there’s usually quite a bit of camaraderie across the centre aisle. It’s definitely a myth that government and opposition MLAs don’t get along at a personal level. There are a lot of cooperative things that happen quietly in the background that would surprise many. It’s just too bad that it isn’t apparent more often. I think people would be pleasantly surprised.

Election campaigns, however, clearly don’t bring out the best in everyone’s behaviour. The gloves come off and it’s not a time to play nice. Normally (at least semi-) cordial relations between colleagues are often rubbed raw. Quite frankly, elections are like episodes of the old Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom show that I used to watch on Saturday mornings as a kid. You have the gazelles at the watering hole fighting off the crocodiles looking for a quick snack. It’s vicious and the slowest one gets eaten alive.

Like election campaigns, the gazelle at the watering hole is not a candidate for mercy from the crocodile – and sometimes you just have to look away and wait for it to be over. After all, it’s nature. People may want the gazelles and crocodiles to be best buddies, but that’s just not possible. When gazelles get thirsty, they have no choice but to drink. When crocodiles get hungry, they have no choice but to eat.

If you’re looking for a summer of peace and calm here in New Brunswick, you might as well just accept the fact now that you’re going to spend the entire summer crying yourself to sleep into a pillow every night. Unless you’re a bit of a politics-loving freak like me, it’s going to be a painful next few months. Heck, I even watch televised election results from other provinces. The recent Ontario and Quebec elections were just like Christmas for me. I didn’t know any of the candidates, but I still watched every result right up to the end. I stayed up way too late – and loved every minute of it.

Especially painful during election campaigns is the complete evaporation of online decorum. It’s bad enough on a good day, but during election campaigns it’s time to batten down the hatches as insults and rumours fly on Facebook and Twitter.

Vote meThe #nbpoli hashtag on Twitter (the hashtag for discussion on New Brunswick ‍politics) can be rough at the best of times, but it’s going to be especially nasty from now until Sept. 22, particularly from the anonymous and spoof accounts. Let’s hope that reasonable people don’t start getting into arguments with these ‍trolls or retweeting them. It will only give them the credibility they so desperately seek.

I never understand people who try to talk sense with an online ‍troll, especially during an election campaign. Nothing good ever comes of it. At the very least, think of your blood pressure! ‍Trolls will say anything to get your goat, or should say your gazelle. Don’t take the bait and don’t give them any sense of credibility by engaging them. You may not like what everyone says online during an election campaign, but you have to at least respect those who use their real names.

‍Trolls come in all political stripes – blue, red, orange and green. Don’t feed the ‍trolls! Feed debate with real people if you want, but let the anonymous online political ‍trolls starve. They’re not harmless and they’re not nice. Trying to engage an anonymous ‍troll in an intelligent debate is a fruitless endeavour. It’s waste of time and mind power.

It’s true that election campaigns are not a time to play (too) nice. The attack ads we all claim to hate (but secretly watch anyway) will be out in full force. While it’s OK to play classy and not retaliate, every candidate needs to know that these ads often work – at least up to a point. Overused, they tend to make a party look ridiculous and like a bunch of bullies – but that threshold usually takes a long time to be reached.

There are exceptions, though. The infamous attack ad over Jean Chrétien’s physical appearance during the 1993 federal election backfired so badly and quickly that it sent droves of voters away from the governing Progressive Conservatives of Kim Campbell (among a number of other reasons) right into Chrétien’s camp. The attack ad asked, “Is this a prime minister?” and showed an unflattering photo of Mr. Chrétien. Well, be careful of the question you ask in an attack ad, because the answer turned out to be a resounding ‘Yes!’ and the government ended up getting slaughtered at the polls.

This summer will be a long and arduous one for those who aren’t into ‍pol‍‍itics. Just remember to keep your pillow handy to soak up those tears and screams of frustration. Whatever happens, we still need to be able to work together on Sept. 23 as the dust settles We don’t have much of a choice, do we? Let’s hope that not too many personal bridges get burned during this summer of passionate ‍politics in New Brunswick.

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