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Eastern Passages


Election day in Canada and I am in mapmakers' heaven, thousands and thousands of feet above this country, flying east to west with each voting zone slipping by beneath the wings.

“Nice hair,” one set of posters might read, posters plastered from the front door to the gym, thanks to the campaigner’s parents’ deep pockets.
Another set might make exaggerated and insulting use of your child’s first name.
Still more posters, put up by the opponent’s campaign chief, could make fun of your child’s intelligence, suggesting your child is too incompetent to perform well in the student leaders’ debate: “I think that if he comes to the stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations,” the signs might read.
We actually have a word for that, when it happens in high school. It’s called bullying. And if it actually happened in high school, something would happen: school staff would corral the offending candidate, explain that the attacks were unacceptable bullying and outline what would happen if the posters and attacks kept coming.
If it kept happening, the offending student wouldn’t just be out of the student council race; in many jurisdictions, he or she would be out of school for a while, too.
So, let me get this straight: so far, the Conservative election team has made fun of Justin Trudeau’s name, his hair, his skills and, obliquely, even his ability to wear clothes.
Earlier this week, Tories would only refer to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as “Justin,” while Thomas Mulcair apparently has a last name. The use of Trudeau’s first name was planned, co-ordinated and clearly decided upon as election strategy.
There have been round after round of Tory attack ads directed at Trudeau with the sarcastic out-cue of a paid actor sniping, “Nice hair.”
And, still battling for the bottom, Kory Teneycke, the Conservative campaign spokesman, argued that debate expectations for Justin Trudeau “Probably never have been lower for a leader going to a debate,” and yes, added, “I think that if he comes to the stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations.”
What’s next? Drawing moustaches on Liberal campaign posters?
We wouldn’t allow it in an election for high school class president — in fact, we’re spending good money across this land to point out to youth why these types of attacks are unacceptable.
So why exactly do we find it acceptable for the highest office in the land? And why would we reward it?
(As part of my job, I sometimes moderate Internet comments on a newspaper site. And believe it or not, a troll’s comment on a story about the plight of a serously injured worker was actually “What’s with the hair?” I’m not sure if the commenter is now a paid strategic adviser to the Tories.)
I don’t think I want someone who operates at the level of Internet troll to be our prime minister.
These are, I know, small things. They pale beside the crassness of the chequebook “here’s cash for your vote” strategy the Tories are also using. But the fact that such pettiness is part of a co-ordinated campaign — that someone sat down and decided this was the kind of tee-hee-hee approach that could actually be used as election strategy for a prime minister — leaves me little confidence that they are above sticking Post-it notes that say “Kick me” on their opponents’ backs. (Oh, damn — I’ve just inadvertently given the Conservatives their next great campaign idea.)
What do I expect from federal candidates? I expect them to find a different approach. Maybe, I don’t know, leave aside tactics that are too childish even for high school, grow up and actually focus on the issues.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@tc.tc —
Twitter: @Wangersky.

“Nice hair,” one set of posters might read, posters plastered from the front door to the gym, thanks to the campaigner’s parents’ deep pockets.
Another set might make exaggerated and insulting use of your child’s first name.
Still more posters, put up by the opponent’s campaign chief, could make fun of your child’s intelligence, suggesting your child is too incompetent to perform well in the student leaders’ debate: “I think that if he comes to the stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations,” the signs might read.
We actually have a word for that, when it happens in high school. It’s called bullying. And if it actually happened in high school, something would happen: school staff would corral the offending candidate, explain that the attacks were unacceptable bullying and outline what would happen if the posters and attacks kept coming.
If it kept happening, the offending student wouldn’t just be out of the student council race; in many jurisdictions, he or she would be out of school for a while, too.
So, let me get this straight: so far, the Conservative election team has made fun of Justin Trudeau’s name, his hair, his skills and, obliquely, even his ability to wear clothes.
Earlier this week, Tories would only refer to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as “Justin,” while Thomas Mulcair apparently has a last name. The use of Trudeau’s first name was planned, co-ordinated and clearly decided upon as election strategy.
There have been round after round of Tory attack ads directed at Trudeau with the sarcastic out-cue of a paid actor sniping, “Nice hair.”
And, still battling for the bottom, Kory Teneycke, the Conservative campaign spokesman, argued that debate expectations for Justin Trudeau “Probably never have been lower for a leader going to a debate,” and yes, added, “I think that if he comes to the stage with his pants on, he will probably exceed expectations.”
What’s next? Drawing moustaches on Liberal campaign posters?
We wouldn’t allow it in an election for high school class president — in fact, we’re spending good money across this land to point out to youth why these types of attacks are unacceptable.
So why exactly do we find it acceptable for the highest office in the land? And why would we reward it?
(As part of my job, I sometimes moderate Internet comments on a newspaper site. And believe it or not, a troll’s comment on a story about the plight of a serously injured worker was actually “What’s with the hair?” I’m not sure if the commenter is now a paid strategic adviser to the Tories.)
I don’t think I want someone who operates at the level of Internet troll to be our prime minister.
These are, I know, small things. They pale beside the crassness of the chequebook “here’s cash for your vote” strategy the Tories are also using. But the fact that such pettiness is part of a co-ordinated campaign — that someone sat down and decided this was the kind of tee-hee-hee approach that could actually be used as election strategy for a prime minister — leaves me little confidence that they are above sticking Post-it notes that say “Kick me” on their opponents’ backs. (Oh, damn — I’ve just inadvertently given the Conservatives their next great campaign idea.)
What do I expect from federal candidates? I expect them to find a different approach. Maybe, I don’t know, leave aside tactics that are too childish even for high school, grow up and actually focus on the issues.

Russell Wangersky is TC Media’s Atlantic regional columnist. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@tc.tc —
Twitter: @Wangersky.

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