Photo of Carolyn Bennett by Jerad Gallinger/Torontoist.
If residents of the midtown Toronto riding of St. Paul’s were to have an official motto this election, “Keep calm and carry on” would be it.
The World War II-era slogan, a copy of which sits prominently on the desk of Lynne Steele, campaign manager to Liberal incumbent Carolyn Bennett, is good advice in any election. But the words have taken on a new significance in recent days, which have seen Grit supporters in St. Paul’s and the neighbouring constituency of Parkdale–High Park (profiled yesterday by Torontoist) targeted by criminals in a rash of politically motivated vandalism.
At least thirty residents displaying Liberal signs have had their houses spraypainted, cable and phone lines severed, cars keyed, and brakes sabotaged. In the most serious incident, vandals cut the brake lines on the car of Bennett’s official agent, causing him to careen through a stop sign and narrowly avoid slamming into a bus. And on Monday, several Liberal supporters received anonymous phone calls making the chilling proclamation: “Take down your sign or you’re next.”
Voters are doing their best to keep calm in the face of this political intimidation, Bennett said yesterday in an interview with Torontoist, “but people are just shocked, really sickened by it, and it hasn’t really gone away. People just don’t want this in Canada.”
“I don’t think it matters what sign was on anybody’s lawn,” she continued. “This is a horrific attack on democracy.”
Local residents of all political stripes are standing together in the face of these attacks, and Bennett has received more than one hundred new requests for Liberal signs since the first incidents were reported. Some supporters already displaying signs have boldly asked for even larger ones, and a few residents with no intention of voting for Bennett are requesting signs nonetheless, outraged at those who would use violent means to take away their neighbours’ democratic rights.
“If people think that this works, in terms of intimidating people, it isn’t,” concluded Bennett.
Two blocks away from Bennett’s Eglinton Avenue West campaign office, crossing guard Eve Christodoulou said that she will vote Liberal, threats of violence or no.
“It doesn’t matter what [the vandals] are doing,” Christodoulou declared. “Whatever they want to do, they’re going to do it anyway. But they’re not going to change the mind of people who want to vote for somebody.”
Keeping calm and carrying on. That’s Toronto. That’s true grit.
Bottom photo by Jerad Gallinger/Torontoist.