Friday, February 29, 2008

memo to Martin, Isaac, Vandermeer

If you haven't been bombarded by campaigns calling you, you don't live in Edmonton Beverly - Clareview. I have heard multiple complaints on doorsteps from riding residents saying they have been interrupted so many times by politicians they are simply sick of it. The phone calls are the worst: "I am in the middle of something important and I get a phone call and it is about nothing. It's just 'will you support us'?" Another woman today told me that Dawit Isaac had knocked on her door twice and his campaign had called her three times. "After the last time I told them straight, 'stop calling me!!'" Apparently this is why Dawit Isaac tells me he doesn't have the time for an all-candidates forum and debate where we could listen to constituent concerns in an environment of their choosing: he's too busy making unsolicited, interruptive contacts five times! (not that Martin is any better: I've been bombarded by redundant NDP literature and received no response at all when I sent him an e-mail about collaborating to hold a forum (apparently he can't provide his phone number on his stuff like I do). I myself was called by both Isaac's and Vandermeer's campaigns and both times was simply asked if they could "count on my support". How do these calls make for better public policy?

Dropping something off in a mailbox or electronic communication is non-intrusive. Door-knocks have their place IF the candidate is doing it him or herself because it provides face - to - face contact. I have not asked any of my volunteers to door-knock for me since I don't see what the advantage is over a less disruptive literature drop. There have been some cases when a volunteer has door-knocked for me because the homeowner's property was prime for a sign and in the absence of signs for other campaigns, or in the presence of signs for multiple, competing campaigns, perhaps the person would be interested in a Wildrose Alliance sign and could therefore be asked in person. But those have been very limited situations.

I do door-knock myself BUT prefer to meet people in their driveways or on the street. I am also reluctant to door-knock if there is a flicker around the living room curtains that suggests a person is enjoying an evening in front of the TV. I am more likely to door-knock when there is something that suggests a brochure would not be welcome (without first asking politely) like a "no flyers! save a tree!" sticker on the mailbox. After all, it does save (a small fraction of) a tree if all a voter would like to know about me can be provided orally or visually (e.g. "I vote NDP [and your "Wildrose Alliance" tag suggests you are not the NDP candidate]." No problem, sir, sorry for the interruption, bye!) Finally, I don't door-knock homes that appear to have requested a lawn sign from another campaign. Not only am I likely wasting my time with such a decided voter, I am interrupting them to waste their time too!

The right of voters to determine their level of involvement in politics means politicians should be accommodating of their right to be let alone. When contact is made, it should only be to better inform the voter and particularly with the information that the voter requests. Multiple times I have dropped a brochure to be called later that evening for a 20 minute discussion. The difference there is that my initial contact was nonintrusive and the decision to follow-up was the voter's decision, not mine.

At the moment, my riding is getting one of the worst reputations for disrespecting this.

From the Edmonton Sun:

Roy Buckingham, 56, said in the days leading up to Thursday's leadership debate, he received phone calls on behalf of the Progressive Conservative, New Democrat and Liberal candidates in his riding of Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview.
The undecided voter asked each caller what their candidate's stance was on the two issues he is most concerned with - health-care premiums and oil royalties - and found that none could answer his questions.
"They didn't know anything. They just make phone calls," he said.
When pushed, the caller representing Liberal candidate Dawit Isaac admitted he didn't know anything about the campaign because he lived in Ontario.

Since I'm on the subject of appropriate campaigning, I'll regale you with two more anecdotes. Today I ran into P"C" campaign workers dropping "Sorry I missed you, Tony" cards into mailboxes. Change "Tony" to "Tony's campaign worker" and you'll be telling it like it is! Earlier this week, I called the Emmanuel Home (for seniors) and asked if I could come by some time to meet the residents. "You should contact the Recreation Director instead of just dropping in". Fine. How about Saturday? "The Recreation Director is not available Saturday." Anytime Friday will do. "The Premier is going to be here Friday". I could come before or after the Premier, whatever you think is more appropriate. "Uh... leave a message with the Rec Director and maybe she can do something for you." I left a message with my contact info and have never been contacted. Meanwhile, the RO (who, by the way, is a P"C" party man by his own account, which may go to some length in explaining why he not only refuses to give me official donation receipts and maps that taxpayers have already paid for and the other candidates already have but refuses to pass on to Elections Alberta this candidate's feedback that that particular decision should perhaps be reconsidered next election) is sending a mobile poll into the Emmanuel Home on Monday, the very place that apparently only the Premier can enter.

Now cue these gentlemen to provide their rebuttal! You, dear reader, are just hearing my side of the story! Remember, the comment thread is open to all!


Anonymous said...

This is the most hilarious blog in the world! I hope you continue this after the election! These Campaigners or what ever you want to call them are not killing people! They are just helping the Candidate they believe in! You should spend some more time worrying about your campaign and your visions for our area instead of just bitching about the other Candidates. Cause all I read on your blog is Whining. Maybe you are not mature enough yet for this task.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above is just trolling (who posts anonymous comments, anyway?).

I agree with you in principle about campaigning--it would be great if people did choose their level of political engagement; it would be great if we could do without the phone calls and door-knocking volunteers and lawn signs, if a campaign was solely about the voter and the candidate talking to each other. But the reality is that in a short campaign in which name recognition is a huge determining factor, you have to do the door blitzes and the phone canvassing to win. You have to saturate the riding with your name. Most people barely glance at brochures, let alone take the time to call and discuss issues with a candidate.

Your story about the seniors' centre and your experience with your RO is not unheard of. It's astounding that people still deny that our democracy neeeds repair.

I too hope you continue this blog after the election (though I'm not being sarcastic). I'm about as far away from you on the political spectrum as is possible (but I'm rooting for Dawit Isaac...go figure), but I enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up!