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Friday, September 17, 2021
Guest column: Peterborough-Kawartha Liberals, Conservatives face challenging optics
Our Peterborough-Kawartha riding appears to be in no danger of losing its bellwether status, at least for unseemly campaign behaviour. While we haven’t seen the mob intimidation or the gravel-throwing of the national campaign (yet), our local campaign is nonetheless getting nasty, even by Peterborough standards.
Sign theft has reached pandemic proportions on all sides. Vulgarities are being yelled at canvassers. And both the Liberal and Conservative candidates have managed to offend opposing segments of the local punditry.
Despite Maryam Monsef’s heartfelt explanation on Facebook of her culturally-appropriate use of the term ‘brothers’ in addressing the Taliban during the fall of the now-former Afghan government, she continues to be vilified online for using this word in addressing an enemy who killed 158 of our troops during Canada’s 13-year engagement in Afghanistan.
To her credit, Monsef was attempting to speak directly to the Taliban to encourage compassion at a time when lives were on the line.
But for non-Afghan social media users, her remark was simply too easy to lift out of context. Cue the raging hordes of acerbic online critics with their scathing judgments as they questioned Monsef’s loyalty to her adopted country.
On the Conservative side, Michelle Ferreri’s campaign ran into controversy over her vaccine status. When asked, her campaign manager, Michael Skinner, replied that Ferreri had received only one shot, but was taking a daily rapid test. He said that she “would get her next shot as soon as the election is over.”
Skinner also said that Ferreri did not have the time to take three days out of her campaign schedule to get vaccinated because of the risk of side effects. As per public health guidelines, she would have not been deemed fully vaccinated until two weeks after her second jab. So, she campaigned for the first three weeks of the campaign not fully vaccinated.
Ferreri told a local news website that an item in a questionnaire sent to all candidates about vaccine status was “extremely divisive.” Then she added, “I am vaccinated.” Shortly after a CBC journalist asked Erin O’Toole about Ferreri’s vaccine status, her campaign said she would be getting her second shot later that day. She got it Saturday.
As in Monsef’s case, someone should have thought through the optics beforehand. After all, these are public health guidelines. Do these guidelines not apply to her? And what about the implications for all those with whom she had contact? Is this a huge issue, or just another petty example of “gotcha” sniping? Again, cue the legions of fulminating online critics spewing their vitriol across social media, this time from the “progressive” side of the spectrum.
So, to my prediction: Perhaps neither Monsef nor Ferreri could have done anything to avoid their respective messes. Mistakes happen. Intentions can be misread. But one thing is certain. All of us, no matter who we voted for, will have to continue to make this community work together.
If she does not win, Ferreri may well resume her media business and work with at least a few people who might not have voted for her. Monsef, should she lose, may seek a position with a local organization that is lead in part by people who may have not voted for her.
We’ll all have to put away our judgments, our cynicism and our political cudgels. We’ll all have to set aside the bitterness of this campaign. We’ll all have to resume treating each other with respect. We all have a stake in this community. As we vote, let’s not forget that we all live here. We will need everyone, regardless of political allegiance, onboard if we are to successfully face the challenges waiting for us in the future.
Bill Templeman is a writer, career coach, podcaster and consultant based in Peterborough.