Entries from September 2005 ↓

Reaching back

So Esther tells me I have knocked on 4,732 doors up to the beginning of this week. Since then I’ve been out three more times, I figure I just cracked five grand. While that seems like a lot, every time I drive around the riding I see all the houses I have not banged on, and its daunting!

But, all I can do is keep at it, which I will. I am also very mindful that I have yet to knock on a single door where the homeowner tells me another politician has already come by. So, since it has taken me months to get around to see this number of people, and I am adding about 500 a week – what the heck are the other guys doing?

Last night one of my final doors opened and a middle-aged man in a sweatshirt emerged. He listened to my brief pitch, shook my hand and said, “I have been a Liberal all my life, but this is the first time a guy running for office has ever, ever come to my house. You have my vote.” Seriously, those were his words, and he seemed completely impressed that I was standing there on his stoop in the darkness. Turns out he works for an independent gas retailer, and he is fed up with all the talk of gouging going on at the pumps (“We work on a margin of one-tenth of a cent per liter”), and – like most people this week – he has had it with Liberal spending. David Dingwall’s chewing gum was the last straw. It is a fitting symbol of an arrogant regime that deserves to go down.

At another door, Tom came out, and I thought he was going to hug me when I uttered the words “Conservative candidate.” He, too, is sickened at the way the federal government’s spending has just jumped off the chart, from the little daily abuses to the tens of billions more in new program expenditures. He volunteered his front lawn there in Burlington for an election sign, and this morning he has sent me an email.

“Hi Mr. Turner,” he wrote. “Thanks for coming to my door last night. I am keenly interested in seeing the Conservative party form a majority government. I have always been interested in politics but have never really been an active participant in the process. I am interested in joining the riding association and trying to do a more than just say ‘please put a sign on my lawn’. How much more, I don’t know, but I would like to stay in touch with you.”

Just a small note from a guy in the burbs who has never been a political activist before. But that left a great feeling in my heart. Because I went to his door, because I made the effort to reach out, he is reaching back.

This is how politics should be. And will be.

Toast

I have now been a nominated candidate for almost five months. Like hundreds of other candidates across the country, I am sure, this is a unique experience. I decided, when nominated, to be a full-time campaigner – which was an easy choice back in May, when an election was sure to be called in days, or weeks.

Today, at the end of September, the political world is a different place. The ever-fickle polls have shifted back in favour of the Liberals, which is hard to believe given the lingering whiff of scandal, Paul Martin’s dithering, an excessive budget deal with the NDP, higher interest rates, gas at over a dollar a liter and a weakening economy. Meanwhile some Conservatives have decided this is a great time to eat the leader, which is exactly what the media feasts on.

So, should a guy like me – a professional candidate who has given up most of his income and all his professional life to knock on people’s doors – be feeling down? Disillusioned? In limbo?

Hell no. I’m actually having a great time. Here in Halton we have an ever-growing brigade of volunteers who are passionately committed to winning the riding. We have had good success at raising money, and have a hectic program of events lined up for the next couple of months. There are three more Town Hall meetings looming, and every night that I am out canvassing brings more supporters, helpers, sign locations and encouragement.

There appears to be a massive disconnect between what you read in the Toronto Star and what people in their homes are actually saying and believing. As I have written here before, I can find no nest of Liberals in this riding. Oh, yeah, the odd person claims to be a supporter of the Grits and even more rarely do I find someone who knows the name of the local Liberal MP and says they like him.

My conclusion for several months has been that voting Liberal here – and probably across most of the 905 and 416 regions – has been a default for people. For years, small-c Conservatives were split, and then in 2004, the party was unproven. Despite that, the Conservative candidate in Halton, who was not a well-known political figure, did extremely well in that election. Now, with five months of campaigning under my belt, with a huge organization, with weekly local media coverage, with financial backing and with almost 4,000 doorbells rung by the end of this week, well, you get the picture. The local Liberal is toast.

Meanwhile, I have every confidence that my colleagues who are doing what I am in other ridings will also win. The Liberals are a discredited bunch who deserve to be thrown form office. I do not say that merely because I am a partisan, but because the current government is making huge and fundamental mistakes.

Federal spending last year increased by $20 billion, or a stunning 15% – more than five times the rate of inflation. Despite that, the government took in over $9 billion more than it spent, which shows how massively over-taxed Canadians are. The $5billion in extra spending caused by the NDP coalition budget had the effect, as predicted, of raising interest rates and the cost of every business loan, line of credit and variable rate mortgage in the country. Tax on tax on gas tax has Canadians paying excessive amounts for energy, which is going to hurt consumer spending. Liberal ministers and appointees, from Pierre Pettigrew to David Dingwall, are spending taxpayer money like they own it. The economy is starting to unravel, which is definitely not what homeowners need. The government says it might start taxing income trusts, hurting hundreds of thousands of investors. And we are just a few months away from the release of the Gomery report, which will show us in graphic terms the scandals and corruption surrounding the wasting of hundreds of millions of dollars in Quebec.

So, with Liberals ahead in the polls and Conservatives shooting at each other in the media, if you were Paul Martin, what would you do?

Exactly. Which is why this week we are getting a campaign office.

Town Hall

The riding got its first Town Hall meeting in twelve years last night. No, it did not change the world, but it was a small and important first step in bringing back grassroots democracy to this place.

Since 1993, when a little-known Liberal won the area as the PC vote split down the middle with Reform, the people who live here have seldom actually seen their member of Parliament. The man who licked me in ’93 later said he had “defeated Garth Turner by accident.” He admitted to putting his name forward for the Liberal nomination because nobody else would at the party’s annual meeting attended by a dozen people. He did not knock on doors, didn’t campaign much, and let the Conservative suicide get him elected.

After that, of course, why would he hold public meetings? Why bother asking people what they thought, because it was irrelevant? So long as the PCs and the Reformers were at each other’s throats, this Conservative riding was a Liberal playground.

And I wondered last night, just before the meeting, how many times that had happened across the country. In how many ridings did the bickering, infighting and ideological warfare between people on the right result in lazy, uncaring Liberals getting elected? And now, after more than a decade of being painted red, people in those ridings are looking for powerful reasons to be conservative again.

So, the easy days are over. This riding will be taken back by hard work, the effective communications of strong ideas, and the return of simple democratic principles. Voters need to get their voices back, and that’s what these few pre-election Town Halls are all about.

Of course, without an election, I wondered what the response would be last evening, looking at the vacant hall a half hour before the event. Would a lot of empty chairs tell me I was wrong? That people were happy with the kind of part-time representation they’ve had? Has the alienation and political cynicism become so ingrained that people feel there is simply no point trying to be heard?

Thankfully, no. The hall filled, extra chairs were set out and for an hour and a half, we all just talked about what could be better in this country – health care, the criminal justice system, the economy and energy prices, immigration policy and Parliamentary reform. The ideas and comments were diverse, passionately presented and accepted with dignity. Esther tapped away on my laptop, keeping a record of everything that was said. When this series of meetings is over, I told people, a full report will go to the local Liberal member to share with his caucus; it will be posted here; and it will go to those hammering out the Conservative election platform.

Most importantly, it will also stay with me. After the coming vote, there will be many, many more Town Halls, in all corners of this riding. Every voice will be listened to and respected. Finally, again.