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Alberta frustration understandable, but anger at Newfoundland is bizarre, political commentators say

Some comments on social media by Albertans who are angry about how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians voted in Monday’s federal election.
Some comments on social media by Albertans who are angry about how Newfoundlanders and Labradorians voted in Monday’s federal election. - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

While Albertans' frustration over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's re-election this week may be understandable, political commentators say, the anger toward Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is nothing short of bizarre.

Six of this province's seven seats went to Liberal incumbents in Monday night's federal election, and the seventh went to the NDP. 

Voters in Alberta elected Conservative candidates in 33 of its 34 ridings, having long and often protested the Trudeau government's policies on issues pertaining to the oil and gas industry, the carbon tax and more.

"The frustration might be warranted, but it's not a logical place to take that particular frustration, I don't think." — Kelly Blidook,  MUN Political Science professor

It wasn't long before a number of Albertans took to social media to express a feeling of betrayal by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians — whose economy is also largely dependent on oil — in particular. 

Many of the comments devolved into disturbing insults, with names like "stupid Newfies." A large number of them were posted by expatriate Newfoundlanders living in Alberta.

"Stay home and work in your own province," wrote one woman in a public Facebook post.

"The only policy you guys were concerned about was more free shit," a man wrote.

"Just another … f--king codlicker," wrote another, in response to a post defending Newfoundland and Labrador voters.

Many of the comments spoke of the numberous oil workers from this province employed in Alberta, saying, "Alberta gave you jobs" when the fishery collapsed, but Newfoundlanders and Labradorians did not return any favours.

"I'll never hire another one," one Alberta man posted.

Letter to Albertans

Terry Rice, a St. John's-based photographer, took to Facebook Wednesday morning to post an open note to Albertans.

He was propelled, he later told The Telegram, by his frustration over the comments he had been reading and wanted to send a message that while he understood what they were going through, he was not inclined to support ignorance.

"We as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians didn't vote against you," Rice wrote in the post, which has been shared close to 1,000 times. "We voted against a party (the Conservatives) and a man that we didn't trust. We didn't feel like voting for a party that had elements to set back a woman's right to choose, or had a disdain for LGBT rights. A party that doesn't care about the rights of minorities or wanted to set back assistance to the more vulnerable in society.

"You are not the only ones hurting. Our economy is much worse off than yours. Our families have the same struggles as yours," Rice continued, referencing the fall of the cod fishery and the loss of livelihoods as a result. "The fact that you want to call us 'stupid Newfies' only proves one point to me and others in this province: that we did vote correctly in Monday's election.

The bigotry and ignorance that was displayed by some of you was exactly what we wanted to avoid with choosing a government that would have the same views as you!"

Bizarre response

Kelly Blidook, associate professor in Memorial University's department of political science, said he sympathizes with upset Albertans, especially having recently spent time in that province doing research. 

The Liberal government hasn't done a great job, in terms of communications and policy, of making sure Albertans' concerns were heard, and for that he understands the frustration, he said. 

Alberta's wealthy-province status has contributed to a lack of compassion toward it from other provinces on some levels, Blidook said, even though the concerns may be perfectly valid.

Kelly Blidook. - Contributed
Kelly Blidook. - Contributed

The bitter response toward Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, however, is just bizarre, he said.

"It's a very weird reaction in a democratic place to say you expect other people to vote the way you do. Imagine if your boss told you if you didn't vote a certain way they'd be angry or disappointed at you or they'd fire you," Blidook said. 

The angry comments are also directed at an entire population in general, he noted, regardless of how individuals voted.

"The reaction is just beyond any normal range of thinking," he said. "The frustration might be warranted, but it's not a logical place to take that particular frustration, I don't think."

Blidook said Newfoundland’s time zone may have played a role in painting Newfoundlanders as a target, given it is the first province to close polls on election day, and had, for half an hour, the country's full attention when it comes to results.

The old "Newfie joke" stigma also likely played a part, he said. 

"Probably a handful of opinion leaders sort of got out in front of this and those comments got retweeted or they got shared (on Facebook)," Blidook said. 

"I have a fair bit of sympathy and understanding for what I feel the political culture is (in Alberta) and why, but it's manifested itself in this illogical, hostile manner that's beyond being frustrated with an election outcome, it's insulting people for something that you can't actually connect to them, and that's perfectly reasonable for them to have done, and that you should never insult them for anyway."

Earning votes

Newfoundland actor/comedian/writer/political commentator Mark Critch said the federal government should address the issue.

He pointed out Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer only visited St. John's for a stopover lasting a matter of minutes during the election campaign.

"If people in Alberta want us to vote Conservative, then someone should tell the Conservative party to try and earn that vote," Critch said. "We shouldn't return to the days when Albertans drove around with bumper stickers that said, 'Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.' I understand the frustration. But Alberta's current situation is not Newfoundlanders' fault.

"I doubt many people in Calgary voted based on which party had the best approach to dealing with Muskrat Falls. Canada works when we work together."

Twitter: @Tara Bradbury


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