“It’s hard to beat the system / when we’re standing at a distance / so we keep waiting /
waiting on the world to change.” – JOHN MAYER
How Do You Get To Massey Hall?
I don’t know, I only came close. I can at least tell you that practice has nothing to do with it. I’d practiced my speech a lot.
Last night I was invited to represent my party (the Green Party of Canada) at Vote Out Poverty, a sold-out event at Massey Hall put on by Make Poverty History and the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice. I was really excited about it. Poverty–domestically and internationally–must be aggressively addressed, and I looked forward to explaining what we propose to do about it. Besides, it would be an honour to share the stage with the likes of Mary Walsh, Stephen Lewis, The Nylons, and others. When I arrived, I was greeted outside by a nice woman with a headset and a clipboard, given my ticket and told that someone would come get me before it was my turn to speak along with the other federal representatives (Ken Dryden and Jack Layton).
Then, before the event started, a twist. The woman with the headset came back and told me that I wouldn’t be allowed to speak, because we’d “RSVPed too late” and there wasn’t time to change the script. (My attendance was confirmed that morning. There’d previously been a mix-up at the federal office since the invitation was sent to Elizabeth May a day before her hip replacement surgery.) I expressed my disappointment (politely, it wasn’t my wrangler’s fault after all) and asked if she could double-check if it really was impossible to add the words “and, from the Green Party, Chris Tindal” to the script. She went off to see what she could do.
Then, with the event already underway (The Nylons were singing John Mayer’s “Waiting for the World to Change”) she came back and told me that I’d been added to the script and would be able to speak after all. “Great, thanks,” I said.
First, the provincial representatives spoke. It was a very NDP-friendly room. The Liberal was heckled,
the Conservative John Tory’s Candidate was outright booed, and Howard Hampton was given several standing ovations. Then, the federal representatives spoke. Um, except for me. I don’t really know why. They just never introduced me as I stood in the wings, waiting. Once Jack was done doing his thing they moved on to the next part of the evening.
Regardless of the fact that I’d canceled two other events to be there, I was already becoming profoundly discouraged at the way this campaign is going. Just a little more than one week left and we’ve talked about almost nothing other than funding for religious schools, as if that’s the only thing that mattered. And then there’s the referendum, which, we’re told by polls and news articles, Ontarians like when they understand it, but might vote it down since they don’t. Add to my frustration-pile that Howard Hampton reportedly went on CTV two nights ago and told outright lies (sorry, but there’s just no other word for it) about what the Green Party stands for. You can only get away with that if people don’t actually know what we stand for. And you can only ensure that if you make sure we’re not allowed to speak for ourselves.
Leaving the event, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Ontario, you wouldn’t really keep voting for the same parties, using the same voting system, and expect a different result, would you?” After all, you’re not insane.
ps. In good news, as I separate myself from the event, it went very well. The crowd was energetic and inspiring, as were the speakers and performers. At least some people are talking about issues that matter.
Chris Tindal is the federal Green candidate in Toronto Centre. Campaign Confidential is a recurring Torontoist column, designed to explore the “behind the scenes” of political campaigning.