The provincial election just finished and with newly elected representatives, a lot of changes are bound to happen. Since I got my citizenship in 2012, I have enthusiastically voted in every single election. After attending a few leadership workshops and campaign schools since 2015, I warmed up to the idea of being more politically active. I started in 2017 during the municipal election, when I helped a candidate with Get Out The Vote on election day and cleaning up her campaign office afterwards.
This year is a bit different though. I volunteered for a partisan election for the first time and helped a candidate in the weeks before the election. I agonized for months over which candidate and which party to volunteer for, and then decided to volunteer for my riding’s candidate for the Alberta Party. Here are some of my thoughts about this eye-opening experience.
I have to embrace the concept of being imperfect. It took convincing and a lot of reflection for me to accept that there is no perfect party, no perfect candidate, no perfect platform, and supporting one is still okay. I talked to a campaign manager who said he supports most of the policies – not all – and still has dedicated the past six months supporting two candidates. This is what encouraged me to just give it a try.
I felt out of place sometimes for being a newcomer. I’m not really well-versed in our province and city’s political history, but I took it as an opportunity to learn. From learning what Stephen Mandel has done when he was a councillor and Mayor, to hearing people talk about Peter Lougheed or Ralph Klein quite often. It’s fascinating to read between the lines, the anger, enthusiasm or the faraway looks of these people when they share these stories and the first-hand experiences they had.
It is much safer than I thought. When we went to the Philippines last Christmas, we drove by a funeral for a mayor who was recently murdered in La Union. I then realized that the election is six months away and remembered that election season – which always includes deaths – has officially started.
I knew it would be different here, but I was still blown away. You can stop supporting a political party, announce it on social media, and stay alive. Despite the occasional sassy people at the doors, anger on social media, and the election signs that get vandalized, there have been zero deaths among the candidates. During the campaign schools, I have met former politicians with jobs in various industries, and they seem happy, engaged and overall okay. This is mind-blowing for me, and I will try to never take this for granted.
It is a great way to meet people that can be connections to do good things. In my campaign team, at least two of the volunteers are lawyers, and one is a law student. Because my day job involves pro bono work and helping those who cannot afford lawyers, it became an opportunity for possible new volunteers. This is quite unexpected but I’m more than thrilled to accept it.
It is much easier than I thought. 99% of the time when door knocking, either people are polite, or do not answer the door. I’m blown away with all the different ways that voting is made convenient for most people. Maybe one day, if the flaws of technology are managed, online voting will become a possibility. I’m saddened and confused about why the voter turnout around here is not close to something like 95%, but 70% is record-breaking and that’s good!
Finally, making an impact does not end on election day. I appreciate being able to call or send a letter to our elected representative. It’s easy to call them out on social media. There are lots of advocacy groups and volunteer initiatives to be a part of to fight for what you believe in, until the next election day.