Halifax Transit’s “Love in Transit” contest was cancelled on Wednesday due to public backlash.
The Valentine’s Day campaign was meant to share stories of couples who met on Halifax Transit buses. Three winners would receive $50 gift cards to local restaurants.
The contest was announced Jan. 25 on Facebook and YouTube. All posts related to the announcement have since been removed.
“We received some feedback about situations where riders have not followed code of conduct guidelines,” Maggie-Jane Spray, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, said in an interview.
Spray said that eight people did share their stories of finding love on transit, and that the city will be reaching out to each of the submitters to “advise on how those entries will be addressed.”
Megan Cox felt uneasy after seeing the contest announcement. After sitting with it for a bit, she wrote a Twitter thread about the contest.
“I felt like celebrating sort of romantic comedy, meet-cute scenarios on transit sends the message to people, who perhaps might not have the best of intentions, that making romantic advances or sexual advances on transit is appropriate,” said Cox in a phone interview.
Cox said that while she doesn’t think Halifax Transit had any ill-intentions with the campaign, she thinks they made the right decision by stopping it.
“It did feel like they were listening to people,” she said.
But, Cox was unimpressed with their apology.
“We recognize that some of you have taken offence and for that, we sincerely apologize,” said a section of the statement posted to Halifax Transit’s Twitter account.
Please see below for a statement from Halifax Transit about our Love In Transit Contest. pic.twitter.com/Fu0aZ7eqNN
— Halifax Transit (@hfxtransit) February 3, 2021
Cox referred to that line in particular in her Twitter thread, saying it was a non-apology. Other people on Twitter voiced the same concerns.
Ed McHugh said this apology is what sparked the “second wave” of backlash. McHugh is a professor of business at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), Saint Mary’s University, and Dalhousie University.
McHugh says, like COVID-19, a first wave of controversy will always be smaller than the second, because the apology is bringing it to the attention of people who missed it the first time.
Halifax Transit then made a statement cancelling the contest three hours after the apology.
McHugh said this controversy could have been avoided entirely if Halifax Transit had tested the advertisement before they ran the campaign.
“I think they gotta think long and hard before they do the next one,” McHugh said in an interview.
Spray said that Halifax Transit encourages anyone who experiences harassment on buses or ferries to report it to the operator and call 311.
About the author
Emily McRae is a journalist based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia.