Torontoist Environment Editor Chris Tindal
is currently has been engaged in a federal by-election campaign, which concluded yesterday. 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.
First of all, I’m very happy with our result. I’ve posted video of last night and written on my own blog about why. And that’s all I’ll say about that here.
Yesterday morning began at 7:30 a.m. at subway stations, waving signs and reminding people to vote. An hour and a half later we stopped by the Liberal office to say hi and wish them luck. They were very friendly and invited me in for a chat. When I got back to my office I learned we’d just missed El-Farouk (the NDP candidate), so I went over to his office to give my best wishes. He wasn’t there. Instead we were greeted by a lot of Dippers giving us “what the hell are you doing here?” and “get the hell out” looks. So that didn’t go as well.
Around 10:00 a.m. I went over to vote, which was an interesting experience. The poll was located in an apartment building other than my own, and the doors were locked with no way to get in. Once we talked a resident into letting us in (they didn’t really have a clue as to what we were doing there, and weren’t super happy about letting us in) we were confronted with Elections Canada signs with arrows pointing down, but no indication of what floor to go to.
When we found the voting room there was more confusion. The information officer first tried to send me to the wrong poll (there were 3 polls in one location), and was surprised when I pointed out to her that my poll number was written on the back of my voter registration card (“It is? Oh!”). When I walked back from voting, she said “So, are you the candidate’s representative?” I said no, I’m the candidate. “Oh,” she replied, “I don’t think you’re allowed to be in here.” She eventually conceded that I probably was allowed to have just voted, and we left equipped with a funny story.
I spent most of the rest of the day working the phones, making sure people had voted and asking them to do so if they hadn’t. I was a bit surprised as to how many people I called had completely forgotten it was election day. Our volunteers placed more than 3000 calls yesterday and that has a lot to do with our strong result.
Our victory party (at The Pear Tree on Parliament) got underway once the polls closed around 9:30 p.m., and was packed with Greens, a few rogue Liberal bloggers, and Mark Warner, the fired Conservative candidate. We held 2nd place for much of the night, ultimately finishing 36 votes behind the NDP for 3rd. It was exciting to watch. (Less exciting was the fact that CTV couldn’t be bothered to spell my name right and kept showing us visually in third when we were actually in second. Ah well.)
At around midnight I made my combination concession/victory speech and headed over to Bob Rae’s party to congratulate him. I bumped into my Conservative opponent Don Meredith on the way in and had a slightly awkward conversation. I congratulated Don on running, but neither of us acknowledged that I’d placed ahead of him. What do you say?
Inside the Liberal Party party I received a lot of congratulations. Bob was brought over to me and we had a good chat. They bought me a beer (in a green bottle) and half-jokingly suggested I fill out a membership form. I did not do so. (“I just came to the party, not the party.”)
This morning the national media are exhibiting a significant WTF reaction. Yesterday, most news reports we heard or read only mentioned three parties. This morning they’re trying to figure out how a campaign they barely knew existed beat the government’s candidate and came close to finishing second. Not a bad question if you ask me.
Tonight I’m going on a date with my fiancée. Tomorrow I go back to my day job. In a few days I expect people will stop recognizing me on the street, at least less frequently. So begins the gradual transition from politician back to normal human being.
Photo by Shaun Merritt from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.