Monday, June 22, 2015

Door-to-Door: A First-Timer's Account

Prime Minister Harper and Valérie Assouline, May 2015

As many of you know, I am a volunteer on the campaign of Valérie Assouline, the candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada here in my area.

A rundown of how elections work in Canada. I would say this is for my non-Canadian friends, but I've learned that so many Canadians don't know how elections work!

In a federal election, one doesn't get to vote for the Prime Minister. One votes for the candidate in their riding - and when the votes are counted, winning candidates become Members of Parliament (MPs).

The party with the most elected MPs becomes the ruling party of Canada, the second-most elected becomes the official opposition and there is a third party as well.

So as much as I'd love to vote for Prime Minister Harper, I can only vote for a Conservative Party candidate in my riding (district).

Here's the thing: it's been way too long (almost 22 years) since my riding had a candidate from the CPC, and this election, we do: Valérie.

My first encounter with this dynamic candidate was an impromptu meet-and-greet at a coffee shop. My second was a meeting in which I volunteered to help with social media, and I wrote about it here.

I also wrote about an event - prior to said event - here, and the recap of the amazing evening here.

At the end of February, I had the privilege of covering an evening with Minister Ed Fast - a cabinet member and the Minister of International Trade. It was fascinating to be a part of this evening, and I knew I was hooked on being part of a campaign.

I will write up another amazing evening - last week, where another Conservative Party candidate launched his campaign - in another post.

But today I had my first experience in canvassing, and I'd like to tell you about it.

We met at a coffee shop, and synchronized with an app on all our phones. This app is fantastic; you are able to click on a "poll", which takes you to a list of addresses in one area. That's your area.

Each address, when clicked, gives you the names of all eligible voters in the household. After making initial contact, you click one of 3 emoticons: a happy face, a sad face, and a neutral face, depending on the reception you get.

There is also space to add notes - which I only used three times - and you click "not home" if - obviously - there is no answer.

Armed with information cards, decked out in CPC/Valerie Assouline 2015 tee shirts, I set off on my route with the campaign manager, pleased to be with someone experienced.

The plan was simple: make contact, and don't make it a visit. State the Party, ask for support, and record the reaction. With about 30 houses per route, and all the walking, it's prudent to keep it short.

The first house, he demonstrated.

"Hi, we're with the Conservative Party of Canada, and we hope we can count on your support in October."

The first guy turned it on us: "Here's a question for you: why should I support the Conservative Party of Canada in October?"

I answered, "Because Valérie Assouline - our riding's candidate - in keeping with the values of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives - has the best interests of all Canadian families at heart.

"Because the Conservative Party of Canada wants to continue to cut taxes, and offer tax breaks for families of all income levels, and because she is a leader, as is Prime Minister Harper."

The guy seemed interested, took the information card and said, "Good answer. I will."

Our first Yes!

It wasn't all that easy. The next house, the woman said she never votes. Our job was not to convince her. But we left the card with her, and asked her to consider it.

House by house we went, some people said okay, some said yes, some probably just wanted to get rid of us.

There were a few that stood out. One was a house where the teenaged daughter answered the door. I did my little bit, she said "sure," took the card and closed the door.

As we were walking down the driveway, her father was coming up toward us. My co-canvasser approached him and explained our purpose.

This man's face lit up. He said, "Oh, you BET I'm voting Conservative in the next election!"

We shook his hand, thanked him for giving us the best answer yet, and continued down the street.

There was one on the other end of the spectrum. A gentleman who didn't even let me finish, practically slammed the door in my face.

The key is not to let it bother you; and it didn't. I know Valérie is an amazing candidate. I know she has what it takes to lead and to help our riding. I know Stephen Harper is a true leader.

So what I know, I can never convince anyone who is so dead set against whatever it was that turned him off, and I move on.

That's the key. It isn't rejection. It's "chalk it up to someone who just won't vote CPC, for whatever reason."

We heard a lot of "wow, you guys are early!" Yes, we are, but that's the key: getting the name and face of the candidate out in the community first, and often, she will have name recognition and people will remember that her campaign took the time and effort to walk the streets on her behalf to help her in the election.

That means a lot. Voters remember.

We had a few who mentioned that they've never seen our current Member of Parliament anywhere but on fliers. That's important to know as well. Take the time, take the effort, meet the people and they will reward you with votes - if all goes as planned, of course!

So this was the first time I went door-to-door, but by no means the last.

I knew I'd be involved in the campaign but I didn't realize the adventures I would have.

My next Excellent Adventure comes on Wednesday: I will be heading to Quebec City with Valérie and her trusty team, where Quebec's "Fête Nationale" is celebrated. More than that - Prime Minister Harper (Himself!) will be there.

I told Valérie I covet a photo of, possibly even with the PM, and she said she'll arrange one.

Stay tuned - me and the PM on Wednesday!

If you've ever thought about volunteering for a political campaign, I urge you to try it. With a dynamic candidate like Valérie, and there are many out there, you will find a side of yourself you never knew existed, and you will feel the reward of having done something good.

Watch this spot - lots more to come!

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