On the campaign trail: Knock, knock, knockin' on voters' doors in #elxnnw

Julie Maclellan

Oh, I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more ...

Rather like the Proclaimers in that catchy ditty I remember from the bars back in my university days (er, did I just date myself?), New West candidates are showing themselves willing to wear out their shoes in pursuit of a good cause.

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As regular readers may know, I've been following the campaign trail via social media with an eye to figuring out who's hot and who's not in the virtual world.

But, although us social media addicts may be loath to admit it, the world of Facebook, Twitter and the web is only one small part of what a campaign is all about. So, in this post, I want to turn my attention to that cornerstone of old-school campaigning: knocking on doors.

It's a time-honoured tradition in politics, but I wondered if, in this 21st-century world, it's still in vogue. Do candidates still care about door-knocking?

Being the self-appointed social media watcher for #elxnnw, I turned to Facebook and Twitter to ask the question - and got back a resounding "YES!"

Not surprisingly, perhaps, a large number of the responses I got back came from newcomers to the campaign trail.

Cort Caldwell, a first-timer who's running for school board, said door-knocking is critical to his campaign.

"I think door knocking is one of the few ways to out-perform opponents who massively out-spend me," he said in a conversation on Facebook. "While I've only reached about 500 doors, so far, I would like to reach around 4,000. I still want to put in everything I can spare into this activity. I want to add that I would like to reach them all ... all the doors, and hear from everyone. Then I have to take a moment to remember what 'all' means in this campaign."

An interesting point raised by Caldwell: Door knocking can also be done strategically.

"Some veteran candidates have highly detailed likely voter lists and tend to stick to those lists of voters they feel they can get to the polls. Other candidates may skip addresses that do not have a registered voter in them," he suggested.

For Caldwell, though, it's about getting to everyone - or as many "everyones" as humanly possible.

"Until the day all permanent residents who are of age get the right to vote in civic elections, we risk missing key messages from our community. Hardworking families contribute time, taxes and passion to a community where their children learn and play. Then they lose their voices at a crucial time in the charting of our future path? Not only would this have the added effect of giving a voice to many of our most committed residents, but I think it would help keep our community engaged and ultimately boost voter turnout," he said.

Also emphasizing door-knocking is Patrick Johnstone, a newcomer to the council race.

"Current count about 1,600; my goal was 2,000," he said in the Facebook conversation.

And, yes, it's important enough to him - as to the other candidates - to go out whatever the weather.

 "I was out with a volunteer in upper Sapperton in August when it was 30+ degrees out and we were dying from the heat and sun. We talked about how we were going to remember that day to keep us warm when the November rains came," he said. "Guess who I was out doorknocking with in the rain yesterday?"

Jeremy Perry, who's also in the school board race for the first time, said he's spent about 25 hours knocking on doors so far and plans to double that by election day.

"Almost everyone is pleased that I've taken the time to meet them and listen to their concerns," he said. "Most doors express frustration about NWSS, and many are excited to see a new face running as they would like to see some changes to the board."

Mike Folka, a new candidate in the council race, has a simple answer to the question of how many doors he's knocked on: "Not enough." His goal? "All of them."

"Traffic is definitely the number one issue like others have mentioned," Folka said on Facebook. "The one thing that always takes me back a bit is when people ask me what I want to do if elected. I have to explain to them it's not about me or about my agenda, it's about what THEY want me to do and what WE want to accomplish together. That's the whole reason I'm on their doorstep. Of course I'd love for them to vote for me , but getting people engaged is the entire point of the process in my opinion.  I've also been hearing the need for "new blood" and fresh faces on council much like Jeremy."

Kelly Slade-Kerr, also in the school board race for the first time, is also relying heavily on door-knocking.

"Haven't counted doors, but I've been out for 2 hours most nights Sun to Fri since my pamphlets arrived on Oct 9," she said on Facebook. "Plus during the day each Saturday and Sunday since then for 4 hours per day. It is the best part of the campaign. In all that time, I've only had three people tell me they weren't interested in talking. People seem to appreciate the effort to make a personal connection."

And, yes, she too knocks on every door in the neighbourhoods she goes to: "The only doors I skip are the ones with a 'No pedlars, solicitors, or agents' sign!"

Mary Trentadue, too, cites door-knocking as the best part of campaigning.

"Door knocking is by far my most favourite part of a campaign," she said on Facebook. "This is the BEST way to understand what's going on in our neighbourhoods and community. Meeting people on their doorstep opens up conversations and dialogue that is priceless! I can't say how many doors (maybe in the 1,000's) I've been to, but I will have been into every neighbourhood by Nov. 15th."

As for the incumbents, it's not much different. Though fewer of them entered the conversation, those who did all agree with the newcomers that door-knocking is where it's at.

"I prefer door knocking, especially when invited in for conversation, as is happening with me on traffic," tweeted incumbent councillor Jaimie McEvoy.

Mary-Ann Mortensen, an incumbent trustee, said she's reaching out to as many voters as possible.

"I'm not sure I have a specific goal, but the idea is to try to engage voters in every area of the city. Represent the whole," she tweeted.

And Michael Ewen, the longest-serving trustee on the board, says door-knocking is still important - he hasn't been tracking the numbers of doors he's knocked on but tweeted that he's been to Queensborough, the West End and Glenbrook so far.

For Ewen, what it boils down to is simple: "Conversations and connections."

Which, really, is what all of campaigning is all about.

But here's the other side of the story: What do residents think?

Speaking for myself, as a voter, I like to see candidates at my door: To me, it speaks to their willingness to put in the legwork - quite literally - and to take nothing for granted. I want to know that all candidates, either new or incumbent, aren't going to sit back and rest on their laurels or simply rely on any perceived support they may already have - whether that's from the labour endorsement, from a particular neighbourhood or residents' association, from the business community, or whatever their particular niche is.

(As a few #elxnnw watchers observed on Twitter last night, at the moment some of the labour-endorsed candidates also appear to be the most prolific door-knockers, so it seems that at least some of those candidates are definitely not making any assumptions about victory.)

In any case, a conversation about this very topic happened to break out on Twitter last night as a group of New West watchers viewed the mayoral debate on Shaw TV - and opinions, it seemed, were divided.

There are the in-favour-of-door-knockers, like Kathleen McConnell - "I'd really like to know who is out there talking to people vs perhaps, just flinging insults on twitter" - and Berril Perks - "it is reflective of work ethic and willingness to meet citizens face to face."

And there are the not-so-much-with-the-door-knockers: "To me, it's like a salesperson at my door. Not a fan," tweeted Pamela Findling (although she also tweeted that "I do respect the time & effort it takes. And it's clearly valuable and appreciated for many.")

So where do you fall? Are you in favour of door-knocking? If you're a candidate, do you find it valuable? If you're a resident, do you like seeing candidates on your doorstep? How many (and who) have you seen so far?

Feel free to comment here, or find me on Twitter @juliemaclellan, or Facebook www.facebook.com/JulieLMacLellan.














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