Online name calling between Alberta, N.L. an unexpected post-election fallout 

Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador have a lot in common, including a shared economic reliance on oil, but the comments of social media users took on a disturbing twist after Monday night’s federal election.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, six of the seven seats went to Liberal incumbents; in Alberta, voters chose Conservative candidates in all but one of its 34 ridings, shutting out the Liberals. 

The lacklustre federal campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador meant the election results were no surprise, much like the Conservative results in Alberta, where the campaign saw people voice concerns about the oil industry, economy and jobs.

But then came the online fallout.

“And once again Nfld stupidity shines through,” wrote one commenter on Facebook.

“Next time I hear someone use the term ‘stupid Newfie,’ I won’t be correcting them!” wrote another.

The oilpatch’s woes began before Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015, but the sector has often complained about some of the Liberal Party’s policies, such as the carbon tax, the proposed clean fuel standard, and changes to how pipelines and other major projects are reviewed.

There was a sense of betrayal in Alberta over the Liberal results in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Even if you offer few seats, at least we would know we have your support. Just saying,” wrote one commenter.

Graham Letto, a former Liberal MHA for Labrador, was in Edmonton for his grandson’s birthday, and was shocked at what he was seeing in the Facebook comment sections after election results started coming in.

“I’m very disappointed and disgusted at some of the things that’s being said on social media,” Letto said. “And let’s face it: social media has changed the face of politics forever.

“It’s just an espousing of hatred and bullying that we don’t need in our world.”

Amid the online comments, some have pointed to the actual number of votes cast for the Liberals in each province.

We can’t continue to go down this road.– Graham Letto

In Newfoundland and Labrador, total votes for the Liberals numbered 107,266; in Alberta, it was 279,940.

Letto said regardless of who voted for which candidate or party, the comments he’s been seeing have been disheartening, prompting him to also post on Facebook about it.

“I’m sitting here in Alberta, in Edmonton, enjoying my grandchildren, enjoying my family, and when I look around and see that these are the people that are being targeted,” he said. “I can only hold back so long.

“It’s a fact of life that people want to express their views, but we have to do it respectfully, and I felt that there was a lot of disrespect shown in the comments. That’s not necessary.”

‘Heat of the moment’

What surprised Letto and others online was who the comments were coming from — including from people originally from Newfoundland and Labrador and who have been living and working in Alberta for years.

“People [say they] are never gonna step foot in Newfoundland and Labrador again, and these are people that I know, and it’s just so disappointing,” Letto said.

“Whether that will happen or not, I don’t know. If they’re just expressing their views in the heat of the moment, I don’t know.”

Letto said he understands why people are upset with the election results, but doesn’t think the finger pointing and name calling is constructive, useful or called for.

“I see where they’re coming from and I know how important the oil industry is to Alberta, and to people like my son who depend on the economy in Alberta for their livelihood.

Graham Letto says people like his son, who lives with his family in Edmonton, rely on the oil industry. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

“But when I see people blaming Newfoundland and Labrador, blaming our seven MPs and blaming people of our province for not voting the way that they feel that they should have, well, that’s just ludicrous.”

Letto pointed out that N.L. has just seven seats in Ottawa, where there are a total of 338 MPs.

“You’re talking about people who come here from Newfoundland and Labrador saying this stuff, and it’s unfortunate and so, so disappointing,” Letto said, adding that the nature of online comments has gotten worse — something he experienced in the provincial election earlier this year.

“We can’t continue to go down this road. Every election it seems to be getting worse,” he said.

“Social media has a purpose in life, it serves a great purpose, but when it gets into the bullying and the hatred, then that’s when it becomes a concern and we have to find a way to get around that.”

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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