Torontoist Environment Editor Chris Tindal is currently engaged in a federal by-election campaign. This weekly column is an attempt to offer a behind the scenes glimpse into what it’s like to be that mysterious Other: a politician.
Running for office is an extremely rewarding experience, but it’s not without sacrifice and set-backs. All of us are doing this because we honestly believe in the process and the ideas we bring to the table. We believe in democracy and we trust in the ability of voters to make the right decision. That’s why the most frustrating thing I’ve encountered is people who seem to resent democracy itself.
For context, the vast majority of people we talk to are happy to hear from us. Even those (sometimes especially those) who have no interest in voting for us thank us for coming to their door and putting in the effort. That’s what makes the rude ones so much harder to deal with.
The worst I’ve encountered at a door this time around was a man who, before even understanding who we were or why we were there, yelled a long string of strong obscenities at us while pointing and following us down the hall. Last week I said “Good morning” to someone as he entered Castle Frank subway. He replied with “bugger off.” At another door a person said to me “so here’s how it is: I don’t vote for the bastards, it only encourages them,” before slamming the door in my face. I doubt it occurred to him that he’d just called a complete stranger a bastard, or that his neighbours were all happy to hear from me. El-Farouk tells me that he’s actually had flyers thrown back in his face, and I’m sure the other candidates have had their share of abuse as well. Most of this has nothing to do with what party we’re running for, it’s just the simple fact that we’re daring to run.
Again, I should emphasize that these kinds of experiences are the exception to the rule. They’re also somewhat understandable; as politicians show less and less respect for each other, citizens will show less and less respect for them as well.
To that end, things are still pretty respectful between the candidates since my last update, though the campaign is also heating up and causing us to get a little more pointed in our comments.
Speaking of which, here are two relationship updates since last week’s post. El-Farouk and I continue to get along well, despite our in-debate disagreements. Last week I brought him flowers after he had an accident that took him out of commission for a few days. “Green and orange, my two favourite colours,” he said of the bouquet. “How did you know?” After I apologized that there was more green than orange (despite my instructions to the florist), he said “doesn’t matter, green and orange go well together.” Clever guy.
Before a debate on Thursday, I briefly said hi to Bob then kept walking. He called after me and said with a smile, “Hi Chris! How are you? Don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you. I read your blog.” We didn’t really address the substance of what I wrote, but we did have a pleasant chat about the fact that I’d recently canvassed his sister and mother (they politely indicated that I could not count on their support) and how nice they are. We share a lot of one-liners while debates are going on, but still don’t find any time to have substantive conversations before or afterwards.