A Tale of Two Campaigns: Same Election, Different Experience

The podium at Michael Kram’s campaign office, where the Conservative incumbent will address the media following election results tonight.

Jared Valdes sighs and rubs his eyes. It has been a challenge to run a federal election campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Am I looking forward to it ending? I am and I’m not,” he says with a laugh.

Valdes is the campaign manager for Sean McEachern, the Liberal party candidate for Regina-Wascana. For them, the pandemic has had an impact on door-to-door canvassing.

“It’s been an interesting election for sure,” Valdes said. “We always wear a mask when talking to voters. Some people are comfortable talking at the door, and sometimes people don’t want to talk that much.”

McEachern has previously worked with Ralph Goodale, the long-time Liberal MP for Regina-Wascana who lost re-election in 2019. Goodale’s shadow looms large in the riding, but the McEachern campaign has been able to use their personal connection to their benefit.

“A lot of people feel that, with Ralph, his presence was known in Regina, but after the 2019 election, his absence was definitely felt,” Valdes said. “People tell us all the time how great Ralph was and how they miss him, and since Sean worked for Ralph, that appeals to voters.”

Nostalgia aside, the McEachern campaign has run into volatile voters, too. Valdes described an incident in which, while out door-knocking, himself and McEachern were followed and harassed by an individual for about 45 minutes.

“They followed us to our car and blocked us from escaping, so we phoned the police,” Valdes said. “The person had their dog with them, so they threw dog feces at our windshield.”

Valdes said that some Liberal supporters in Regina-Wascana are feeling intimidated.

“We’ve heard from people whose signs have been stolen or vandalized, their neighbours berate them for having a Liberal sign on their yard, and they’re afraid to put their signs out.”

Conversely, Amos Dowler, who manages Conservative incumbent Michael Kram’s re-election campaign in the same riding, has seen a positive shift this year.

“Engagement (on social media) is higher than in 2019. It’s been more positive too,” Dowler explained. “We haven’t seen a high number of trolls this time. Normally, you put anything up and you attract a troll, or two, or twelve. We’ve had more people engaged, but less bots and less venom for sure.”

The pandemic hasn’t had much of an effect on the Conservative team’s campaign work. Due to Saskatchewan’s open restrictions this summer, in-person events were able to move forward. Canvassers continued to observe social distancing, however.

“I don’t think that any campaign could have used Covid as an excuse,” Dowler said. “People were very open to talking.”

Dowler stated that he and the rest of Kram’s re-election team have enjoyed the campaign experience. “I am very happy with how it went. It’s been great.”

Even though the Liberal team had some negative experiences on the campaign trail, Valdes acknowledged that they had many respectful interactions with voters.

“We’ve had nice conversations with people who aren’t interested in voting for us, but they thank us for our time and listen to us anyway,” Valdes said.

“We have to remember to respect one another and just be kind. Be nice to people.”

Polls are now closed across the country, and Michael Kram has secured his seat in Parliament for another term.

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