Alberta – An Experience in Democracy

My last post was a month ago. I have been participating in the Alberta election campaign 2015. It has been 28 days of a most intense experience. Before the 28 days there was getting ready, not knowing for sure whether or when an election might be called but anticipating it and getting ready based on that speculation. When there isn’t a fixed election date then the opposition parties can only guess and take a chance. If you are wrong then it is an expensive misstep for contributors and even if not sure you try reading signals and guessing correctly and preparing while trying to be careful with the resources available to a constituency. This post is a tale of one Alberta constituency’s journey through an election campaign from the point of view of me – who served my MLA’s campaign office manager.
This was a lot of work. However the work fits the following definition of happiness Charles Murray named four criteria as necessary for happiness in his “Happiness of the People” speech. To be the source of deep satisfaction a human activity must be: important – not trivial, require effort – doesn’t come easily, hold you responsible for the consequences – give your your very best effort, and stretch your abilities – pull you to a higher achievement. So at the end I am happy with my participation and contribution.
An election campaign for an individual MLA begins right after the last one ends with fundraising so that one can do it again. My constituency works hard at this, and this time we had a year less to do it than we expected. About a year ahead, in this case 88 days out our association transforms into a planning committee. We plan to start calling constituents asking them to volunteer, we find a location for our campaign. This is a space that will house the volunteers and the staff as they undertake their work which will culminate, you hope in the election of your candidate. As you are doing that you search for staff and volunteers to fill the various positions needed. The party I support if fuelled mainly by volunteers. I call this grassroots community development with individuals coming together as a team to live the values they hold and to help translate those ideals into the election of a person who can support them in the legislature.
Once an office is found then you go shopping. Shopping consists of finding and borrowing what is needed to set up an office. I find this a great fun project because it challenges my ingenuity and creativeness. Most things are second hand or if new must be very inexpensive. Out of this must come a functional space that is welcoming. One delightful addition to our office this time was some Fiestaware dishes a constituency exec member and I found at the Army and Navy in our party’s colours. This provided amusement for all who used them. We even managed to find a place to store them for next time, although I don’t think our MLA knows that we are going to use the loft in her garage this way.
In the days leading up to the election computers, photocopiers and phones are installed. Forms are developed and photocopied; phoning for volunteers increases to a fever pitch. The campaign manager and voter contact staff start to work out strategies to contact voters and get their commitment to support our candidate.
The writ is dropped! Volunteers start to appear to put up signs, to person the phone banks, to door knock, to do office tasks, to answer calls coming into the office and to greet people who walk in, to to make meals, to keep the office clean. The office is a cross between an office and a home for a brief time. In our constituency there is a history of feeding both staff and volunteers. It helps keep people healthy during very long days and it creates a welcoming atmosphere where volunteers can chat, discuss ideas and meet like minded folk. People come from all walks of life, every person is valued for their contribution to the team no matter how big or small, whether the contribution istime or money. What is held in common is a commitment to a goal. Work is found for everyone who comes to volunteer and each is recognized for what they do. This common purpose develops a sense of camaraderie. There is fun and laughter and progress is noted in the number of signs in the community and the number of people committing to support our candidate. We gave certificates for making the most buttons in a day and for dedication to data entry. One constituent wrote a poem. There are unexpected treats that come through the door, a chocolate cake, some awesome banana chocolate muffins, ice cream, homemade chocolate chip cookies. Food is a good fuel along with lots of coffee and tea. The homemade treats disappear. Creative recipes for a crowd and made in a crockpot are sought after. Then one waits and hopes that these experiments will be enjoyed. I can see what a chef might feel like as they wait for the outcome of their efforts.
This election campaign was unique for our constituency as our candidate was also leader of the party. Calls came to our number and our e-mail from all over the province. People wanted signs all over the province. People called to say that they were changing party allegiance, there were questions on policy and advice on how to get elected. It was a bustling office where we all worked hard and had good fun. Fun included going to rallies and one of the best was standing outside Global studios before the debate to welcome our leader. Indeed members from the various parties stood together waving their signs. For me this was one of the best displays of democracy I have ever seen. Each person’s right to their views and to support whom ever they wish respected. Coffee was brought by one party and shared with all the participants regardless of party affiliation.
On election night we tallied the reports from our inside scrutineers. We were confident that our MLA would be re-elected. There was a bonus this election – my effort as part of a much larger team helped achieve an outcome that many of us had only dreamed of. In my case for a lifetime. 53 MLA’s were elected and our MLA became Premier of Alberta. Five days later I still feel shivers running up and down my spine with the excitement of this moment. History was made last Tuesday in Alberta and it is being made as each day passes. A number of factors have come together to elect a pragmatic, analytical, down-to-earth, warm caring woman who can see clearly the big picture as well as attend to details. Here’s to Rachel Notley a leader who is up for the monumental task along with her MLA’s of helping Albertans become their potential in empowering ways.
I don’t usually include photographs of others in my blog however as this picture appeared on Facebook I am making an exception. This photograph includes the staff and some of the volunteers from Edmonton Strathcona with our new Premier elect Rachel Notley.

Notley's Edmonton Strathcona Crue

Notley’s Edmonton Strathcona Crue




About Elinor Burwash Designs

I am a fibre artist, teach quilting and am a quilt judge.
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