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.
Now that three out of four major party campaigns have offices up and running, our focus has turned to the meat and potatoes of campaigning: the canvass. If you live in Toronto Centre and you haven’t yet heard from one of us candidates, you will soon.
There are primarily two types of canvassing (foot and phone), and the main goals of each are to make contact with voters and to identify supporters. If a voter tells a canvasser (either someone at the door or on the phone) that they’re planning to vote for that canvasser’s candidate, then the voter’s name, address, and phone number go on a list of confirmed supporters. On election day, scrutineers for each campaign are able to tell who has already voted and who hasn’t. (A secret ballot means you get to keep who you vote for a secret, but you don’t get to keep if you vote a secret.) If you told Candidate X that you were going to vote for her, but then halfway through election day her campaign notices you haven’t been out to vote yet, you’ll probably receive a call reminding you to vote and even offering you a ride to the poll. This whole process is called ID/GOTV (Identify and Get Out The Vote), and it’s the backbone of campaign organizing.
Of course, if you have a question for the candidate or their volunteer about what they’re campaigning on or why they deserve your vote, it’s also fair for you to ask when they show up at your door or call your home. Or, if you’re like most people I talk to at the door and can’t think of a question on the spot, you can follow up later with an email or phone call.
One of the key things to note about canvassing is that during an election period, all candidates have a legal right to knock on your door, even if you live in a condo or a gated community guarded by security. This provision of the Canada Elections Act is important to ensure that all candidates have equal access to all voters. Otherwise, the fairness of our democracy could be compromised. Just something to keep in mind for when we knock on your door. (Though, it should be said, more than 90% of people who answer their doors are polite or even grateful to hear from any given campaign, even if they’ve already decided to vote for someone else.)