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OPINION: Celebrating our election

I have met a lot of candidates working on elections over the last half-century. Almost all of them are fine people.
David Robinson, economist, Laurentian University / director, Institute for Northern Ontario Research and Development

Election day is a week off as I write this. I have been going door to door with a bundle of party leaflets, listening to people talk. Not as a candidate - as a foot soldier. You may have seen me - or one of the thousands of other Canadian marching up the streets in all weather because we love the country and want to make it better. 

It’s always fun. You come home liking your fellow Canadians. You come home with funny stories and a lot to think about. 

In Sudbury last week, for example, a family-sized van pulled up outside the Green Party campaign office. Out pops Mike Whitehouse, the Chief of staff for Sudbury Liberal MP, Paul Lefebvre. And Mike’s son. They had an armful of Green Party signs signs that they found in ditch. Some jerk was out pulling up signs. Mike was returning them. Another friendly and generous Northerner. Mike was in a hurry because he also had some signs for the NDP candidate.

In some places you can put election signs on city property. One woman was outraged about the perfectly legal Green Party sign that appears on city property in front of her house. She took it down and hid it in her garage. She demanded that the campaign office take it away. When she heard it was legal she said, “You people are just so inconsiderate. I don’t want to look at that THING. You should have checked with me.” And the campaign manager said, “You just committed a criminal act. Which is worse?” 

And when the volunteer came to move the sign ten metres down the street he found it lying on the lawn with a blanket over it so the neighbours wouldn’t see it! 

That story echoes another odd misunderstanding of how elections work. A householder told me she had already voted. I asked if she would tell me who she had voted for. I often ask, and most people are happy to tell me. It is an  election - we are all in a big discussion about what is best for the country. They are proud to be participating. This woman replied, “Its a secret ballot.” I think she thought I was committing an election crime. 

Secret ballots are a semi-sacred feature of democratic elections. The law is there to make sure no one influences you while you mark your ballot. It applies in the

polling booth, not on your doorstep after you have voted. It isn’t there to stop you from expressing your opinion. It isn’t there to stop you from being asked what you think about party platforms.

The warmest and friendliest place I visited in this election was the Sunnydale community centre on food bank Day. The centre is the heart of a rent-geared-to-income complex in Waterloo. The liberal candidate arrived early and took a spot where she could hand out the muffins and pies. It is good to be associated with desert if you are trying to get elected. Clever move!

John 1 is one of five Johns who volunteer at that centre. He told me that men who have spent most of their lives in refugee camps don’t borrow the tools he has available for them. They don’t recognize a drywall screw or “mud and tape” for patching walls. It makes it hard to take care of a home, or to get a job in the trades. Any idea how we might solve that problem?

I have met a lot of candidate working on elections over the last half century. Almost all of them are fine people. I may think some of their ideas are nuts, or wrong, or dangerous, but they are almost all thoughtful people who like other people. Everyone learns a lot when they campaign. And candidates work hard. 

I didn’t realize how hard candidates work until I raided the cupboard of a young mother running in this election. The only treats I could find were a a box of stale cookies. You have to be spending a lot of time on your campaign if you have kids and you are letting the cookies go stale, don’t you think?