There’s a federal election in Canada tomorrow. I’ve always been very interested in politics, but this time around I feel more invested than ever before. Specifically, I want Harper out, with extreme prejudice. (If you don’t follow Canadian politics and aren’t sure what a politician could do to inspire such hatred, this recent Guardian article is a great place to start).
Things are scarily close, though, and there’s a very real danger that the centre and left could split the vote again (Harper got a majority government last time with 39% of the popular vote on a 60% voter turn-out – i.e. less than a quarter of eligible voters chose his party. Hopefully we’ll end up with a government that wants to explore electoral reform). I’m nervous and antsy, and have been so throughout this entire (longest ever) election campaign.
I always knew I was going to vote for the New Democratic Party (NDP). I overlap with them, the Liberals, and the Greens on various issues, but the NDP are the best overall match to my values (as depicted by my answers to this year’s Vote Compass survey).
— Cath Ennis (@enniscath) September 5, 2015
In addition, my local candidate Don Davies is a good guy and a great local representative – very responsive and hard-working. If I lived in another riding I would be seriously thinking about voting strategically to block the Tories, but luckily I don’t have to do that in Vancouver Kingsway, where the Liberals have come in third in the last couple of elections. Yay for getting to vote the way I want to, even in an outdated first-pass-the-post system!
So, my vote was already secure (in fact I’ve already voted for Don, in the advance polls last weekend). But this time, voting didn’t seem like enough. Yelling at my TV during every Harper commercial and ranting on social media (sorry, non-Canadian Facebook friends) didn’t seem like enough either. I don’t just want Harper out, I want to help make it happen. So I’ve put my money, my time, and my vacation days where my mouth is:
- I helped set up, serve hot dogs, and clean up at Don’s campaign launch BBQ back in August, giving myself a mild case of heat stroke in the process (I shouldn’t have cycled there and back – I’d have been OK if I’d taken the bus! It was a crazy hot summer this year).
- I ordered a honking great sign for our front yard. I hadn’t done this for a federal campaign before, but I displayed my first ever political yard sign during the municipal elections last year, when I felt bad for being too busy to volunteer with Vision Vancouver as I had the time before. It already feels like a normal thing to do!
- I attended Tom Mulcair’s first rally in Vancouver in August. It was my first ever political rally and I had no idea what to expect! There seemed to be a lot of regulars there who all knew each other, but I found some people to talk to. (One of them was a very new citizen and seemed a bit confused – she asked me if Green party leader Elizabeth May would be speaking! Sadly, she didn’t show – I don’t vote Green, but I love May. She’s awesome). The introductory speakers (two new local candidates and one of Mulcair’s sisters) were good, but I thought Mulcair himself was playing it a bit too safe. The NDP were leading the polls at the time and he seemed overly cautious, at least to me. I wanted to see Angry Tom! Still an interesting experience though. I didn’t go to the next two Vancouver rallies, although I would have gone yesterday if I wasn’t still recovering from a cold – instead I went for my election day training then straight home to lie on the sofa with a blanket and a cup of lemon tea.
- I donated money to the local and national NDP campaigns – not very much at all in the grand scheme of things, but better than nothing.
- I took part in one of several “transit blitzes”, handing out fliers about NDP transit strategy outside a SkyTrain station one evening.
- I went out door-to-door canvassing one fine sunny afternoon. Not so much trying to convince people to vote for Don (although we did a bit of that too) – more just asking people who they were planning to vote for so HQ could update their records and plan more targeted door-to-door campaigns. I was pretty nervous at the beginning, but it was actually really fun! They put three of us newbies with Vision Vancouver’s Nikki Sharma, who is super nice and has a ton of campaign experience. Everyone we met was very polite, even the people who said “definitely voting Conservative” (I imagine it’s a different story in other parts of the world!), and as an added bonus we got to have a wee nosy at lots of people’s homes and gardens, which I thoroughly enjoyed. If I wasn’t in the middle of an unprecedentedly ridiculous grant deadline cluster (13 grants in 3 months) I would have done more of this!
- I went to the all candidates debate for my riding – another first for me! I went with a friend who was on the fence between NDP and Green, but who left leaning towards the NDP. Don was the best candidate by far – very personable and polished (experience pays), spoke without notes, answered the questions asked. The Green candidate was nice but waffly and vague, while the Liberal candidate read pre-prepared answers from notes, even if they didn’t really address the questions asked. (It was fairly clear from the first question onwards that the Liberals and Greens aren’t running their strongest candidates in Vancouver Kingsway, no doubt choosing to focus their efforts and resources in more winnable ridings). The Libertarian candidate was atrocious – short, vague, non-answers – and the Marxist-Leninist representative was all over the place. The Communist Party candidate, Kimball Cariou, was unexpectedly awesome though! He holds the Canadian record for the most consecutive unsuccessful federal election campaigns (this is his 12th, all in the same riding) and while some of the things he said were quite outrageously radical, he was very genuine and passionate. I submitted a question about how the candidates’ parties will reintegrate science and evidence into policy decisions when the Harper era ends, and Cariou’s answer was definitely the most vehemently anti-Harper, so points for that. (The NDP and Green reps also gave good answers. The Liberal candidate read something about healthcare from his notes. The other two seemed entirely baffled).
You’ll notice I didn’t mention the Conservative candidate. That’s because he didn’t show up. Apparently he hasn’t shown up to a single event, including the ones organized by local high schools for their students. Apparently this is a nation-wide phenomenon – orders from the top, doncha know.
- I’m burning a vacation day to volunteer all day tomorrow. I’m an outside scrutineer and a count scrutineer, which will involve spending the day going to known supporters’ addresses to encourage them to get out and vote, and then observing the count at one of the many polling stations in the riding to make sure there are no shenanigans. I’ll be on the go from 8 am until whenever the count finishes (polls close at 7pm), and then heading downtown for the Vancouver NDP results party, which hopefully will be very celebratory!
If Harper retains power I will no doubt feel like I should have done more. Hopefully it won’t come to that. I’d obviously prefer Mulcair over Liberal leader Trudeau, but if Trudeau’s our prime minister on Tuesday morning it will be such an improvement over Harper that it’ll be hard to feel too disappointed about it! Especially if he’s heading a minority government with support from the NDP and Greens (a reasonably likely outcome), so that we can finally start to see some compromise and co-operativity in our government.
We can dream, eh?
Fingers and toes all crossed for tomorrow! ABC!