Lessons from the campaign trail…

I learned ALOT from my campaign: about running a campaign but also about the community. Knocking on doors and meeting people you’d otherwise never have occasion to meet really gets one in tune with their neighbourhood. Here are some of the lessons I learned, split into community and personal:

Community lessons:

– the Beach is an affordable food desert. We have TCHC buildings scattered throughout the Beach but residents have to take multiple transit routes to hit either Price Chopper on Lakeshore or Fresh Co at Vic Park and Gerrard to find any affordable groceries. Not only does this mean more time lost travelling via transit but also the cost of TTC fare, double if you weren’t able to do it in less than 2 hours to enjoy the 2 hour transfer. If we’re putting in affordable housing we need to match it with other affordable necessities of life.

– they need to lift the ridiculous moratorium on front lawn parking pads (albeit with a green standard that sees just two strips of permeable material tire width apart) if for no other reason than there are residents who want to buy electric cars but can’t plug them in with only street parking

– Vic Park south of Kingston is still considered a major connector route, even though it’s entirely wall-to-wall residential, mostly detached homes. Heavy trucks frequently use it illegally.

– someone needs to question the cost-benefit analysis of the new wooden hydro poles replacing concrete ones in the Triangle and other areas

– for some unknown reason the TTC moved the stop at Kingston and Malvern to the former Sundays-only stop in front of the church, causing all the seniors in 828 to walk an extra block to catch the TTC

– RC Harris is a bit out of control with illegal parking and dogs offleash

– the party machine is alive and well at the municipal level in our ward. I spoke of this already, but I really did not expect partisan politics to have been such a crucial element to this election.

Personal lessons:

– years of encouraging words from friends and family does not necessarily translate into boots on the ground come campaign time. And even when willing to help, most people would rather not canvas. Most of my friends are not nearly as political or activist as I am, and I realized quite soon that the people who were more willing to step up are the people I know through politics or activism. And I did have non-political friends step up, but not in the numbers I had hoped.

– the environment is not a very high concern for the majority of people (I’m not saying that just because I was the most environmental candidate and still lost). While there were some VERY environmental people, most did not ask about it or talk about it and of the hundreds of doors I personally hit, only one mentioned climate change.  Also, the VAST majority of people leave many lights on in their house when not home, creating what I call “false demand”.

– I need to learn to recruit and delegate more. I have trouble asking for help, preferring to handle things on my own, so my campaign was very DIY. Designed my own flyers and ads, did all my own video work (except for holding the camera), spent a long time perfecting my website, did all my own data entry and responding to emails and phone calls. In the process I learned Paypal and Mail Chimp and some new WordPress skills, but all at the expense of getting out on the streets more.

– canvassing is KEY. I had such great responses at the door, I’d say 80% of people I got face time with loved what I had to say. But I didn’t get to nearly enough doors, not by a long shot. Part of that blame lies with Ford doubling the ward, but I didn’t have enough canvassers, and spent time on other things that in the end may have been less worthwhile.

– someone helping full-time is pretty much a necessity. To seriously campaign someone dedicated needs to be by your side 24-7 until the campaign is over. If for no other reason than it gets very tough to keep track of all the moving parts. I made the decision not to hire anyone, in keeping with my grassroots campaign that kept costs down, but it lost alot of efficiency.

– you can do without a campaign office, but then you’d best have some other space in which to meet and eat. Eating out too much at restaurants (instead of buying groceries and having a variety available at your house) cost quite a bit more money than anticipated. It’s hard though when your house is occupied by a very precocious toddler who wants to get into EVERYTHING.

And of course there’s a bunch of minute detail lessons I won’t bother to go into, but these are the major ones. I still feel satisfied by the process and all I have gained, especially a deeper more intimate knowledge of my ward. This will only serve to better inform my actions moving forward, and has given me new things to strive for to improve our area.

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