Municipal candidate calls for privacy protection after ‘harassing’ phone calls

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WATCH: It’s now less than a week until municipal elections are held in much of New Brunswick. As candidates make their pitches to voters, one Saint John-area candidate is making an entirely different appeal to protect her family’s privacy. Travis Fortnum reports. – May 4, 2021

A Rothesay council candidate says a series of harassing phone calls have led her to lobby for Elections Act changes — days away from New Brunswick’s municipal elections.

Tiffany Mackay French says the publication of her personal information made her vulnerable to a man who took an interest in her based on her campaign posters.

She says after trying several times to reach her through town hall, he was able to get her cellphone number from the returning office — calling her numerous times.

“The nature of the calls was very strange,” says Mackay French, “they were harassing.”

“It was enough for me to be alarmed and to feel fearful and I didn’t want to hear from him again.

Tiffany Mackay French says a man who saw her campaign signs began harassing her. Travis Fortnum / Global News

She declined to provide more details but says after three calls, she blocked his number and contacted police.

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Kennebecasis Regional Police Force Insp. Anika Becker confirmed police intervention in a statement sent to Global News.

“The caller was spoken to by police, and the matter has been concluded,” Becker writes.

READ MORE: ‘Voting is extremely important to us’: Advance polls open in New Brunswick

Mackay French says the most unsettling aspect of the incident was that the caller isn’t even a constituent.

Elections NB nominations forms collect a slew of personal information, including a candidate’s name, gender identity, and civic address.

That information is made publicly available at returning offices or the Elections NB website.

Mackay French says that needs to change.

She says conversations with other gender-diverse candidates reveal the experience to be nearly universal.

“I heard from a woman today who said this was the reason why she wasn’t running,” says Mackay French.

She’s since been able to have her address replaced with the returning office — which she says still allows anyone who wants to send a letter or schedule a meeting to do so.

Partnering with women-in-politics advocacy group See Jane Run, Mackay French is requesting changes to the elections act that would remove the need to make a candidate’s home address public — while still confirming privately to Elections NB they live within the constituency.

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Other advocacy groups agree, more can be done to make residents feel safe offering.

“If we can’t have a safe space, women can’t be brave,” says Kathi Zwicker, co-lead of Women in Politics Fredericton.

“Your name and your picture are all over the place and who knows who might pick that up and decide to come visit you at 11:00 at night.”

New Brunswick sees 316 women on the ballot for the 2021 municipal elections — 80 more than the 2016 round.

Zwicker and Mackay French agree those numbers would be even higher if further protections were in place.

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