Election speeches are meant to demonstrate a candidate’s abilities and strengths when he or she is running for a position of power.
The UNB Saint John Students’ Representative Council (SRC) election speeches held on Wednesday, March 12, degenerated into a heated confrontation with several remarks directed at candidates and the student body. Corey Bastarache described the event on Twitter as being “a bloodbath.”
Laura Jane Gordon, who moderated yesterday’s event, had no idea of what she was in for, “I wasn’t sure what to expect when asked to moderate the speeches but was hoping that both sides would rise above any petty campaign tricks,” she says. “The speeches themselves were mostly positive; I only noticed one or two negative things in one speech.”
At first, the speeches appeared to be going well, until Chris Mahar spoke about people who were making comments with the purpose of bashing him. He took issue with those who kept bringing up things from his past. “I think after that, everyone else got quite hostile,” says Caitlyn Robertson, who was seated in the audience. “There was another point where Chris said something to a girl who was asking questions that seemed a little ill-spirited- saying she personally attacked him verbally or something along those lines.”
Jon Cogger, in particular, remarked that students choose to “watch the Olympics” and “get drunk” and so they should take the time to vote. Needless to say, many of the students in attendance were not impressed with Cogger’s choice of words. “I took offence to ‘you guys watch the Olympics, you guys go get drunk’,” tweeted Robertson. “Sounded judgmental.”
For Jess Buck, the current vice president social representative, the surreal nature of the verbal attacks felt less like a debate and closer to the formula of a tabloid talk show. “I feel like we’re on Maury,” she tweeted.
In addition to the rapid verbal sparring, there were not-so-subtle digs aimed towards certain candidates. “There were also some people in the audience who seemed to be ganging up on Jen Brown,” says Roberston. “I think that caused a little more drama as well, potentially causing her friends who are running to be extra defensive.”
Reno Pereira was not pleased with the attacks on Brown and Mahar. “There were times where the candidates looked like they were fighting among themselves just to gain upper hand,” he says. “As a neutral student, I did not appreciate this. I mean, I know political campaigns can turn into some dirty politics, but really today was a bloodbath with both parties mudslinging each other.”
Gordon believes that the event could have better planned, due to the negativity of the question-and-answer section. She says that the candidates were given one set of rules, while the moderator had a different section.
“Questions were not vetted prior and a few were not appropriate, because they were issues that could have been dealt with through the financial office or were not SRC responsibility,” says Gordon. “Rules for rebuttals were not set; at one point, I was forced to end a back-and-forth between Chris Mahar and Adam Smith, because it had gone too far off-topic and was devolving into insults.”
Many students left the speeches with mixed feelings. “I took it all with a grain of salt and laughed it off, so it didn’t really disgust me, but it did give me a chance to see everyone’s true colors in the election,” says Robertson.
Pereira expressed disappointment with the scorn heaped on certain candidates. He says many of the verbal attacks were uncalled for and “not needed.” “I mean it was clear from the outset that one of the team came with a clear plan,” says Pereira. “They had their questioner picked out and everything.” However, Pereira found the speeches to be “excellent” and that “Jon Cogger and Adam Smith were by far the outstanding speeches.”
“I don’t know who came out looking best, but I thought Jen Brown held up really well to what felt like very hostile questioning,” says Gordon. “Some of the questions she received had to be clarified, because they were more accusations than questions.”