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Since September 26, I have been a volunteer with the Miller for Mayor campaign. Articles before that date represent my decision-making process and all articles on this site represent my views only. Join the campaign; we need your help.
Initial Reflections on the Political Experience
13/11/2003

When I first joined the campaign to elect David Miller as Mayor of Toronto, I was overcoming hesitation on my part. I had never gone out and worked for a candidate before, and it felt a bit awkward at times. Nevertheless, I'm very happy I did it and might possibly do it again in the future.

Some other people, including blogger Armchair Garbageman, have commented on getting involved also. So, I thought it might be interesting for me to make some comments about what it was like and what I learned.

  • First of all, it is a lot of fun to do. Especially on "e-day" and the days leading up to it. You meet a lot of people -- and quite a variety of people, too.
  • Secondly, you are really needed. This campaign had lots of volunteers, but really, we could have done with a whole lot more. There were times we had under-utilized people on election day, but for the weeks before that we always could have had more.
  • I don't have a schedule that lets me participate in team sports anymore. And, I'm not motivated to be hyper-competitive in the office. So, being a part of this campaign let me really apply myself. I really wanted to win because I really believed in our candidate. This was a good opportunity for me to go all out for victory. That's a great feeling to have when you believe in both the means and the end.
  • When I signed up, there were certain things I didn't want to do. I ended up doing them because I couldn't say no. They turned out not to be so bad.
    • Knocking on doors and talking to people was fine. People were usually very receptive, even if they were supporting somebody else. Working in groups helps, because if you're having a bad night, someone else in your team might be getting lucky.
    • Phoning people was fine too. No one was as rude to me as I usually am to telemarketers.
  • It helps to have a good candidate. I never found myself questioning why I was supporting David Miller.
  • It also helps to be working in an election when there is consensus in the community that there needs to be change. People really wanted to hear what I was saying to them.
  • Don't have high hopes about the role you're going to be given. If you're joining a campaign at election time, they already have strategists, etc. You are probably going to be doing grunt work, and you might get a chance for something managerial or organizational. But accept it, because someone really needs to do all those little things.
  • Bloggers who are thinking about volunteering should be encouraged. Having people on the campaign who know the issues is really helpful. I was a much better canvasser than I otherwise would have been because I was able to discuss and debate with people on their porch.
  • Without polls, it's hard to know what's going on. Especially in a race over a broad geography like this race for Mayor of Toronto. There were certainly many times when I could see the momentum for David building, but there were other days when I felt like we were losing it. Those bad days actually were probably just based on impressions I was forming from the media. It's a tricky thing, because morale is so important and sensitive.
  • I was surprised by the support I got from my friends. Instead of asking me if I was crazy, they all told me it was very cool. My enthusiasm rubbed off on most of them, and they were talking up David Miller wherever they went.
  • In this election there was good comraderie between the different camps. I had some good discussions with John Tory supporters, but also people working for other candidates, in other races. Instead of an intense rivalry, there was mostly mutual respect.
  • I think that that respect was derived from the pride we all felt for being part of the process. As we attended the debates, it was hard not to see that -- no matter who won -- there was something good going on.
  • I have to expect that municipal politics is probably quite different from party-based provincial or federal races. Municipal races are based more on individuals, and also rely less on advertising.

Will I do it again? It depends on the candidate and the situation. There's going to be a federal election coming up soon, and I don't know if the issues at stake will motivate me enough. And there's just something about party politics that has distanced me.

I seem to be more interested in municipal stuff. The next election is three years from now, and that's a long time. I might be curious, however, in working on someone's campaign for city council in an open race. After a megacity-wide mayoral race, there's something about focusing on just one ward that seems almost easy.


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