In the past week, since the end of the campaign and the election, I have been busy with closing up our campaign office, and running around with personal stuff. Here, belatedly, are my reflections on working and helping to run a political campaign.
Whenever and where ever I work, I have always tried to focus on managing the team to minimize the downtime. This means I am always trying to focus on “what next”, and so I spent much of the campaign trying to think ahead, and that made it harder to live in the moment, and be “present”… But there were exceptions.
One day, early in the campaign, a lady came into the Office, and spoke to Mandeep, Brian and I. She seemed very distracted, and her questions were largely unfocused and she wasn’t really listening to the answers she was getting. A week later, she came back when I was in the office by myself, and she told me that her mother was suffering from a degenerative disease, and she was having to take care of her, while working. And then the previous week, she had taken her husband to a new doctor, and her husband had been diagnosed with having prostate cancer. Because their original doctor had not done a simple test, his treatment had been delayed by over a year. She was looking for an answer that no one could give her… That her husband would be okay, and that she would be able to cope with looking after her Mom.
I met Cindy on that second visit, and I don’t think anyone could not be affected by the fear in her eyes that two of the most important people in her world were being threatened, and there was nothing she could do.
We sat and talked, and I talked about the advances they had made in Prostate Cancer treatments, and how many more options and treatments there were than ten or fifteen years ago, and how research was being done, here in BC, that was saving lives every day. She just needed someone to talk to, and because my Dad had died from cancer, and I have paid attention since his passing, I was able to help give her some answers, and, I like to think, a little bit of hope.
Doorknocking, that most mundane of election tasks, was another area where you had no choice but to be alert and focused, and a sense of humour didn’t hurt, either.
In an election where (in the end) it turned out that five years of Conservative attack ads worked, a massive number of people, on their doorsteps, expressed disdain for Michael Ignatieff. One man came to the door, and as I started my “Hello, I’m Bob from the Liberal Party, and we’re here today campaigning for Mandeep Bhuller….” He interrupted me to say, “All the other parties have sent assholes to my door, and now here you are.” To which I replied “I’m very sorry that the other parties bothered you, and now that they are gone, can I give you some information on Mandeep Bhuller ?”
He laughed, started asking questions about our platform, and became engaged in discussion. When we left, he was thinking about our policies.
A few others were not as gracious.
One gent who came to the door, and upon me completing my spiel, said simply “I have a gun.” He didn’t smile when I suggested that he would then like that the Liberal Party supported the Long Gun Registry. He simply closed the door in my face.
Another gent said nothing, but stood there tapping a floor plank with nails in it, as if weighing it, to calculate swing strength. I completed my speech, and offered him a card, and at the end, said to him “…if you are going to hit me with the board when I turn to leave, please use the side without nails as I have been polite during our ‘talk’.”
At another house, I had a creepy feeling as I walked up, and this was due in part to the debris in front of the door, and in part to something I couldn’t put my finger on… so, despite my hesitation, and standing there debating, I shrugged it off, and pushed the doorbell. I could hear a noise inside the house, so I waited, and after a bit, pushed the button again. Suddenly a scraping noise over my head made me look up… and in the window over the door, peering down at me was a one eye and a mop of matted hair. I did not make that pitch.
But 99% of the other folk were, if not open to our message, at least polite and accepting in their attitude.
The same cannot be said for SOME of the overzealous volunteers of other political parties.
Our riding has a large area to it… almost as long as its unwieldy name: ‘Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge – Mission’
We were fortunate that we had volunteers spanning the entire riding.
I live in Pitt Meadows, in an area between Hammond Road and the Golden Ears Bridge. So that is where I put signs out.
The lawn signs are each worth about $4.00, including the metal wire, and the plastic bag sign.
For the 10 days before the election, I would go out in the evening, and put out signs, and in the morning, they were gone.
Yes, in some cases a passerby would pull up a sign, and fling it in the bushes.
But I am talking about a concerted effort to pull up, collect the signs and cart them away… by (probably) two people in a pickup truck.
In those ten days, we probably lost close to 200 signs. That would be a few hundred pounds of signs.
After the third loss, I stopped reporting it to the police, because that was a waste of my time, and they have more important things to do.
But it was frustrating.
One time, as I was putting up signs, a neighbour, who lives less than a stone’s throw from me, told me “I wouldn’t bother if I was you… we don’t want those &%@#%ing signs around here.” He obviously didn’t recognize me, as I was wearing a hat, and had my coat collar up, due to the rain… but I thought it was sadly indicative of the descent into an “us vs them” mentality.
I can remember my Dad, who worked for CBC Radio, having blazingly heated discussions with MLA’s, over policy and issues… and then they would go out to dinner together… but that was 30 years ago.
Today, there seems to be a diminishing respect for anyone wearing a different colour shirt, campaign button or having different ideals.
There are 36 days worth of stories, and I may tell more, as I unwind from this very intense and focused experience, but I came away from this chapter of my life, 25 lbs lighter, with some very good friends, and having a lot of fun experiences that I will remember my whole life.
I was lucky enough to be at a point in my life that I could, with my wife’s help and blessing, put aside my clients and other obligations, and dive into this experience headlong.
It was awesome, and if you get the chance, get involved in a campaign.
It is a TON of fun !!!