HodgePodge: Election trail tales
Hodge Podge by Charlie Hodge
Now the smoke has cleared from the recent civic election battlefield it’s time to assess the contest for city council seats, the spoils of victory, the agony of defeat and a bunch of stuff in between. (While it’s not my intent, nor perhaps appropriate protocol, to use this space to regularly express thoughts on my role as a councillor – an inside reflection on the election is worthy and hopefully enjoyable).
This campaign for councillor seats was the tamest and most polite of the seven I’ve taken part in. Clearly such was not the case for the mayor’s chair.
The big boy’s battle picked up the ugly where it left off from the previous campaign. The difference this time was Tom Dyas rarely bit or fell into the nasty that Colin Basran did. Often Dyas bit his tongue and chose the highroad letting Basran implode. When the campaign started I mentioned to Tez it was not so much a contest that Dyas might win but rather Basran might lose. That’s what happened.
Certainly, there was an overwhelming public desire for significant change on council, with the mayor’s chair a major focus. That showed in the overall results with one incumbent tossed and the vote totals for the others diminished. The public is frustrated and rightfully so with issues of crime, drugs, lack of facilities and programs to address mental health and homelessness, affordable housing… however it was more than those issues that created the demise of Basran. Attitude and ego got in his way. A number of times in the past two years Basran rudely admonished or mocked members of the public at public hearings or events and even insulted or mocked members of council. Then given the opportunity, made no apologies or effort to apply solvent to the wounds. During the campaign that attitude increased leading to his major tasteless temper tantrum telling council candidate Ron Cannon to go forth and multiply.
Meanwhile the 30 plus candidates for council went quietly about their campaigns attempting to earn the public nod.
Perhaps the lack of hostility or finger pointing by competing candidates was due to the lack of public debate forums – with candidates and voters restricted to a couple of meet and greets and/or a plethora of online or newspaper questionnaires. Most questionnaires were from self interest groups or organizations, with endorsements made based on their needs or desires. Candidates were somewhat cornered into answering most of them since there was little else happening. At least one questionnaire from a fringe new group was very misleading and choreographed. Organizers of the questionnaire had a secret agenda and a selection process which eliminated some candidates before they filled out the questions. Regardless, from a candidate perspective it was a civil scenario – in fact enjoyable and educational.
At the meet and greets many candidates took time to meet and greet other candidates, share some thoughts and learn a little about each other. During the events my table was next to various other candidates including Gord Lovegrove, Ron Canon, Noel and Wentworth. There was great banter and fun shared between us, polite yet productive. I felt a true camaraderie grow among many candidates. I was particularly impressed or enjoyed getting to know David Kyle, Susan Ames, Amarit Brar, Amarjit Lalli, Peter Truch and Daniel Joseph.
On a personal level I spent less money on this campaign than any other, recycling old signs and brochures and only purchasing some buttons and an add on Castanet. However, I did have a very small but effective support team help me with sign waving at the advance polls and election day.
Waving signs is a great crash course in observing people and their reactions. Body language from the shoulders up (all you can see looking into a car zipping by you) tells a lot. How the drivers react to you while you are waving your sign on a relatively quiet side street tells a lot. Those that like or vote for you honk, give a thumbs up, or heartily wave back. Those that are neutral or just feel awkwardly caught politely wave back, and those that do not like you or will not be voting for you stare straight ahead and refuse to acknowledge you are there – although there is no way they could miss you. Great fun.
Dear friends Don and Donna Burnett, Barry Mathers, Banjo Joe Mercer, and Curtis Tulman spent multiple hours helping put up (and take down) signs and waving my signs. Mary Yeager and Irma Sutherland worked my website (temporarily converting my book web site). However, the main champion was Tez, who once again kept me focused and worked like crazy with anything and everything, as well as being my appointed financial agent. Running a campaign means six weeks of constant lobbying, emails, phone calls, questionnaires, planning and worrying. It is not something one can successfully do with the full support of family and friends.
And it ends too soon.
For six weeks a candidate goes full out focusing on the one big day – then suddenly it arrives, and the game is culminated in one hard cold set of numbers. You’re either in or out.
For the winner is elation for the loser sorrow and hurt that is hard to describe. The sudden stop to all the activity is a bit of a shock. Now what? No matter what encouragement or empathy anyone has it is a sense of rejection and questions about what you should or shouldn’t of done that only time can diminish.
Eventually it fades away though, and in four years chances are good there may well be the desire to try it again. And this time maybe…
However even the election winners are quickly brought back to reality.
A week after the election Tez and I went out for dinner. Three times during our ‘get away and relax’ celebration dinner we were interrupted by people wanting to talk about the city. Then I returned home to a nasty phone message.
It seems things are back to normal. I am already wrong and unpopular.