Entries from November 2005 ↓

Day two

Martin meets the Daily Show
Dorothy trucked me over to Mark’s Work Wearhouse and bought me a pair of canvassing boots that met her criteria: tall enough to get through six inches of snow, with treds a Sherpa would be impressed at, waterproof enough to trudge through the slush of Oakville suburbs, and with steel toes for protection from falling Liberals. They are a true testament to engineering – wide and heavy enough to ensure I will never blow away – and tonight they went on their first journey.

Actually, door-knocking a few hours ago was a weird experience. For the past six months I have been used to greeting people who were expecting just about anything other than a politician. There was no election on, no campaign, and no reason for me to ring their doorbell. But I did, and they were gracious about it. Now, on just day two, everything has changed.

Tonight almost everyone knew who I was and why I was on their doorstep even as the door opened that first crack. I think a major reason – at least in the area this evening – was the fact our crack sign crews, headed there by Doug and Patric, made it impossible for any commuter to come home without passing a half-dozen arterial Garth Turner signs.

No mistake about it, we have won the first round of the sign wars. By 9 pm tonight there were between 150 and 200 arterials installed throughout the riding. We have six crews going full-tilt, and the effort will continue flat out for at least another two days. We have begun installing lawn signs, as well, trying to keep up with the flood of requests that has streamed in. Against this effort, there is not a single Liberal or NDP sign erected in all of Halton. Of course, that could start to change overnight, but in an election campaign there is only one chance to make a first impression.

I threw a bunch of lawn signs in the truck tonight, which was a good thing, as I ended up finding three people who just had to have one pounded in immediately. I have to admit – it is a good feeling seeing a lawn sign with your name on it in the rearview mirror as you pull off a suburban street. These are areas where everything has a place, and where order always defeats chaos. So, there’s something inherently rebellious and innately satisfying about having your colours flashed and flaunted in the face of sameness. Now I know how grafitti artists must feel.

On the canvass tonight I encountered one middle-aged woman who told me her married, pregnant daughter had recently moved back home to have her baby. Turns out she and her cop husband live in Port Elgin, three hours to the north, where a single family doctor is not able to care for everyone. In fact , there is a “care lottery” at the local post office, and when the doctor loses a patient, he goes and draws the name of a new one. Unlucky in the draw, this woman moved back to her parents, and hooked up again with the doctor she had as a high school student – and now she has care through her pregnancy.

I thought about that after Paul Martin’s boastful and groundless brag yesterday that the Liberals had taken Canada from “a pauper to a powerhouse” over the past twelve years. Some powerhouse – one of the richest countries in the world, with some of the highest taxes, and a prime minister who swears everything is okay, and here’s a woman in Ontario hoping to win a lottery so she can get health care. If I were the country’s leader, I would not boast until I had fixed that one – and I know this is no isolated case. It made me wonder why on earth we would not use every medical delivery service possible, public or private, to give that woman care in her own home town, so long as it was universally accessible.

I don’t get it. Here’s the local Liberal in the Oakville paper today – being delivered as I am banging on doors – saying, “The Liberal government kept the promises it made in the last election, including money for healthcare. We’ve done what we said we would do.” Does he really expect people to believe that? I know of one home where, tonight, those words would sound arrogant, false and hurtful.

Well, the campaign meeting was still going tonight after I dropped in and then left to find wife, home and dinner and dog. The phones are still not in, but have been promised for tomorrow. The missing software was found, and installed on the computers. The office manager started full-time this morning, which was a good thing with the steady flow of people looking for signs and offering time as volunteers. Adam, the volunteer coordinator, has something close to 400 calls to make, to organize his troops. The campaign bank account gets funds tomorrow as official agent Lorne swings into action. And we have a meeting with the returning officer on Sunday to file my official nomination papers – which necessitated getting the witnessed signatures of 100 local citizens.

A reporter from the National Post also called today. Apparently we have been selected as one of the ridings the paper will chronicle over the coming weeks. Suddenly Ontario matters. The 905 belt matters even more. And here is Halton, we are a looming breach in that dike of red which has surrounded the GTA for the last 12 years. If the Liberals lose Halton, they will see their strategic stranglehold on the 905 violently pried lose. If they lose ground in the 905, then the Conservatives could sweep to a breakthrough in two dozen other Ontario ridings. And if that happens, it suddenly opens up the distinct possibility of a major national electoral win for the party, on its way to forming the first majority government in a generation.

And, yeah, that all started with my boots. Steel toes. Kick ass boots, actually.

Day one

After months of getting ready, of course, the first day of the campaign in Halton was predictable chaos. Bell Canada did not make good on its solemn promise to install phones and high-speed Internet. Software for the computers went missing. My cellphone burned a hole in my head all day with campaign calls. Signs in Burlington got planted in areas forbidden by local law. Volunteers, money, sign requests and queries from snowbirds about advance polls poured in all day.

Spoke with Esther a few minutes ago, finally at home from the campaign office, and she sounded whacked. Usually the Energizer Bunny of politics, I think trying to co-ordinate an unexpected mass of response with half the tools anticipated did her in. No wonder. Crazy day.

In sheeting rain this morning, our sign crews got a steady cacophony of honks from commuters streaming by – which bolstered their spirits while doing an exhausting job. The stakes are eight feet long, the pounders weight at least 10 kilograms, and the ditches and culverts are invariably compacted and backfilled with gravel. But they persevered, and I was pleased driving around this afternoon to see a real Conservative presence.

Lawn sign requests poured in through the afternoon by cell and email. A couple of thousand bucks materialized in personal donations that walked through the door. And our new volunteer chair, Adam, spent hours sorting though who-wants-to-do-what lists.

I felt guilty tonight, as the office filled up with people, that I had to go and take care of a corporate gig – my last commitment of the campaign. But it was a good evening for me, speaking to a jammed hall of Certified Management Accountants in north Toronto (What do accountants use for birth control? Their personalities.)

At this point our local campaign has its own steam and momentum. We are scheduling crazily through December, booking newspaper ad space into January and setting out the target polls to swarm. I got the first campaign brochure off to the printer as soon as the voting date of January 23rd was confirmed, and tonight completed the door-knocking plan for the next month.

Today the Toronto Star ran a piece on the riding, with a headline about my political comeback, and a picture of me dumping yesterday’s fund-raising letter into the mailbox in Milton. Given it was in the Star, not a bad piece. I am sure it will irritate the local Liberal, who was reduced to uttering this bizarre statement to the reporter: “This Conservative party is nothing more than the Reform party. The interesting thing is Garth Turner ran for the Conservatives against the Reform party and now he is the Reform party.”

So, the Liberal attack is just as I had forecast it would be here weeks and weeks ago. He will try to scare people by using the “Reform” word; then he will try to tie to me Brian Mulroney, when that does not work; and then he’ll fabricate “facts” about how Conservatives can’t manage the economy. Paul Martin set the tone for that this morning outside Rideau Hall, when he said that, under Liberals, Canada has gone from being a “pauper to a powerhouse.’

Pauper nation. Hmm. And I used to respect Martin. I guess desperate people will indeed say anything. But what makes them desperate also makes them dangerous.

Day one. Prelude.

Contact me

For those people who may want to be a part of our campaign, get a sign, or give me a valued comment, here is how to be in touch:

Garth Turner
86 Main Street, Milton, Ontario
(905) 330-8581
[email protected]

Thank you.