A P.E.I. pub has pulled photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from its social media accounts after getting a barrage of hate-filled comments and phone calls.
Trudeau had lunch at Lone Oak's Charlottetown pub during a brief stop on the Island last week.
While at the pub, owners, staff and customers had their photos taken with the prime minister. The pub later posted those photos on its social media platforms.
Jared Murphy, co-owner and CEO of Lone Oak Brewing Company, said they were excited to host the prime minister at the pub, which only opened for business in mid-May.
'We had thousands of comments'
Three of P.E.I.'s four Liberal MPs, including Charlottetown MP Sean Casey, Malpeque MP Heath MacDonald and Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay, were also at the pub and appeared in some of the photos with the prime minister.
"So within a few hours, we had thousands of comments, we were getting hundreds of private messages, we are now getting phone calls to the brewery and all of these comments are extremely negative, vulgar, there is a lot of profanity being used, sexualizing our staff," Murphy said in an interview outside the pub.
"To see a group of individuals, who have never even visited our establishment, who are taking a political stance, to make threats against our brewery, to say that they are going to take us down, that they are going to wait until we declare bankruptcy until they finish with us, that was really hard for our staff to see," he said.
In addition to the social media comments, private messages and phone calls, photos of Lone Oak's three owners have appeared on a national website calling out perceived Trudeau supporters.
'This, of course, seemed to have backfired'
Casey described the campaign against Lone Oak as "extremely unfortunate." He said he reached out to the prime minister's office, and was told this has happened in other parts of Canada, but this is the first time it's happened in Atlantic Canada.
The Charlottetown MP pitched the idea of Trudeau having lunch at the pub.
"I feel bad that the owners are going through this," said Casey.
"Even if I had considered the downside, I still would have recommended them. I think it's an honour to have someone in public life come by and it's good profile for the business," he said.
"This, of course, seemed to have backfired to a certain extent but I'm confident that Islanders will rally around this business and that most of the people that are offering this abuse aren't from here."
'It was nothing political'
Malpeque MP Heath MacDonald said the goal of the prime minister's visit to the pub was to help out a small business.
MacDonald blamed "right-wing extremism" for the campaign against the P.E.I. pub.
"This is a new business, three young guys trying to make a go at it," said MacDonald.
"It was nothing political, it was a visit to a restaurant and an opportunity for them to showcase to a prime minister."
Back at the pub, Murphy said the negative comments haven't had a major impact on his business, yet. He said a handful of people who say they supported the pub in the past, told him they won't be back.
But he does worry about an online campaign to lower his pub's ratings.
'It's kind of counterintuitive'
Since the launch of that online campaign against Lone Oak, the pub's rating has fallen from 4.8 out of 5, to 2.8.
"And that could have a negative impact on our business, which is really quite disappointing to see," said Murphy, adding that P.E.I. is a popular tourist destination and many tourists use those ratings to decide where to go.
"For the group of individuals who are now threatening a small business it's kind of counterintuitive to the point that they are making against the prime minister."
Political commentator and journalist Rick MacLean said the political landscape is getting nastier in Canada and he points the finger at the U.S. He believes it's a new reality which is being pushed by social media platforms, and Lone Oak is paying the price.
"I think social media has fundamentally changed the way we get our information and I worry that because it's changed the way we get our information, it's going to change the way that we behave, not just how we vote, but how we interact with each other and how we interact with politicians," said MacLean.
'I would certainly open my business to any elected official'
The owners of the pub haven't ruled out taking their concern to the police.
Despite the online firestorm, Murphy said he would have the prime minister, no matter what political stripe, back again.
"I would certainly open my business to any elected official in our democratic country."