Extended election means extended stress and uncertainty, candidates say
Personal and financial strains mount as election moves into 3rd month
What was initially billed as a four-week winter provincial election campaign is about to slip into its ninth week, and also about to move into a whole new season.
Elections NL has again extended the deadline for voting; ballots must now be at the agency's headquarters by March 25.
For some candidates, that means a continuation of personal and professional sacrifices that they've already had to make. Three of them shared their experiences during a panel discussion this week with Here & Now.
Candidates seeking re-election will continue to be paid until election day — a yet unknown date — but for those non-incumbent candidates, an indefinite campaign trail brings challenges.
Karla Hayward, the Liberal candidate running in Mount Pearl-Southlands, had to first run in the nomination race immediately before the election was announced, meaning Hayward has been on the campaign trail for a few months.
"So when March 25th rolled around, I will have been actively campaigning for 81 days," she said. "I had to take unpaid leave when I decided to run, so obviously that is a significant financial consideration for my family."
Hayward, who has a young child at home, said that while the lengthy campaign has made her family's life quite different, she is grateful to have their continued support.
"When I decided to run, while I did not know the campaign period would be this long, I knew that it was going to take a lot," said Hayward. "It was going to take a lot of energy, it was going to take an incredible amount of support from my partner, from my family, from my friends, and those things have continued through this period."
'It does start to become taxing'
Joedy Wall, the PC candidate running in Cape St. Francis, also campaigned for his nomination before the election was called. Wall, who is the mayor of Pouch Cove, called it a lengthy process, and noted that once it was finished, he had to take an unpaid leave of absence to focus on the new campaign.
"It does start to become taxing on you and your campaign team, no doubt about it," said Wall. "It is frustrating when you think about it, but what I tell my campaign, volunteers, my family, my friends who stop me wherever, they say, 'How are you doing with it?' I say, 'We're playing the hand that we're dealt, and that's what we're going to continue to [do].'"
Patricia Johnson-Castle, however, the NDP candidate for Torngat Mountains, said the timing of the election call was always a problem.
"I was very disappointed with this election being called in winter in any case, because especially being in Labrador, this is a period of the year where there are a lot of storms," she said. "All last week we didn't have any flights in Nain."
The issue for Labrador voters, said Johnson-Castle, is that ballots now have to be received by Elections NL by the new March 25 deadline, rather than being postmarked by then. For Labrador's northern communities, Johnson-Castle said, that means a lot of work for the possibility of not having your voice heard.
"It's likely that many voters from Labrador will be disenfranchised by this choice, because it's a 'received by' deadline, rather than a postmark deadline," she said.
"My heart sank, because many people here went through the process, the rigmarole, of signing up, spending hours on hold, being hung up on by Elections NL, and all of these are pieces that could have been worked out if the Elections Act had been amended before we went into this election."
Unpaid leave and family time
Johnson-Castle, who is also on unpaid leave while she campaigns, has made the effort to translate her campaign materials into Indigenous languages herself, after Elections NL reneged on a previous commitment to do so.
"So every time there's a new deadline, I have to do a new set of translations, which is another expense for my campaign," Johnson-Castle said.
Hayward said she'd often heard about the emotional toll of the election cycle but never experienced it first-hand.
"You come to know yourself in a way you never did before. You accept that you need help in a way that you probably never did before, because most people who run for office tend to be very independent, and then all of a sudden you need all this help," said Hayward.
"It is stressful, and it's tiring."
This will end, no doubt.- Joedy Wall
The prolonged campaign means more time spent away from her daughter, and while Hayward is counting down the days until that changes, she's not deterred.
"The reason that I ran still exists, and even though this has been extended, if anything, it has given me a chance to talk to more people in the district, and learn more about what matters to everyone here."
Wall, who described himself as a very positive person, said the extension has had negative effects.
"It's stressful on the family, it's stressful on your campaign team, and it's also stressful on me as a candidate," he said.
Wall said while he understands the extension, and certainly feels the exhaustion it has brought, he's optimistic that the extra time will allow everyone to have their voices heard.
"These last few weeks have been hard, and it's hard to hide it from your family, it's hard to hide from your friends and your supporters; they know, they see it in your face," said Wall.
"But I'm optimistic/… This will end, no doubt."