Thursday, 28 November 2013
Canada is a democracy and - as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations - follows the British system of governance with one exception. As we do not have an official aristocracy, we do not have a House of Lords - however, we do have a Senate which is supposed to be the Chamber of Second Thought. While we elect our Members of Parliament - as well as the members of our Provincial Legislatures - we have no say so in the selection of Members of the Senate. That privilege is left to the Prime Minister's Office but scandals involving some of the most recently appointed Senators quite possibly could cause that to be changed.
A term as a Member of Parliament is usually for four or five years when the current Prime Minister will call for the House to be dissolved and for we - the public - to go about the business of electing a new Parliament. Occasionally members will resign - or die - and bi-elections will be held to replace them. As the sitting Member of Parliament for Toronto Center resigned his seat due to health problems we - along with three other areas - voted in bi-elections on this past Monday, November 25th. As I am a member of one of the main 'parties', I was invited to be a part of the election campaign.
In August I attended a nomination meeting on a Sunday afternoon and voted for whom I wished to represent me in the election. The person nominated was not the one for whom I voted but I was happy with the nomination and agreed to a request that I join her campaign team. While I am not comfortable with telephoning strangers - nor knocking on doors - I am comfortable with leafleting on behalf of the candidate. This is how I spent most days over a period of about three weeks. As Toronto Center has numerous apartment and condominium buildings within the boundaries of the 'Riding' I volunteered to visit many of them with bundles of leaflets extolling the virtues of the Party and - especially - of the candidate.
The building management at each apartment and condominium expected to be visited and so were cooperative. Actually, it is written in the Canada Elections Act that nominees and their 'agents' be allowed access to all electors.
I used the term 'Riding' so - for those of you who do not reside in the British Commonwealth of Nations - I will define the word. It is a holdover from the earlier days of elections to the House of Commons in Great Britain and refers to how far a person could ride on horseback within one day. Although we no longer use horseback riding as the chief means of covering distances, that term remains with us.
I am now a Senior Citizen so the weight of bundles of cardboard announcements was quite onerous. By using a backpack to travel from the Campaign Office to the selected delivery site I was able to manage - but the weight was still quite heavy. Two fellows who worked in the Campaign Office chose where I was to go with the load and gave me a transit pass to use so I wouldn't have to take money out of my own pocket in order to complete my task.
I have a system that I use in buildings. As I am expected to go to the door of every unit, I take the elevator to the top floor and then walk down from floor to floor via the fire escape stairway - that is a heck of a lot easier than having to walk up from floor to floor!
Usually I saw nobody during my visits but I did have some amusing (and at least one disturbing) encounters. I will write about the pleasant ones first.
In one of the condominium buildings I encountered three dogs. The first one was a Standard Poodle. As I love dogs I have learned how to approach animals (who do not know me) safely - I hold out my hand towards the animal and let it approach me. The poodle - who recognized me as a 'friend' - licked my hand and then I patted his head. There was one aspect of that dog which I found unusual. I am used to encountering poodles which are jet black or chocolate brown in color. That one, though, was white with large black spots much like a dalmatian. While a dalmatian has short hair this poodle's fur was fairly long and coarse. Of course he wagged his tail!
The second dog was a jet black 'Scottie' who - like the poodle - was friendly and gave my extended hand a good licking before going off with its master for a stroll outside.
The third dog was a grey whippet. It also licked my hand. I did meet a few people while walking the corridors of that building but I do not remember them as well as I remember the dogs!
There was one woman whom I did encounter who was difficult. The building was enormous (possibly it had been a warehouse) and had about 24 units per floor. Some of the entryways were in cul-de-sacs as was this particular one. A well dressed younger woman approached as I was leaving leaflets on the doors. I noticed her and so I asked if the door that I was approaching was to her unit? She nodded so I asked if she wished me to leave a leaflet? She said, "No!" quite emphatically so I walked on.
Later I saw a security guard in the lobby as I was about to leave. He told me that a resident (a younger woman) had approached him demanding that I be ejected from the building. In response to this the guard told her to read the Canada Elections Act and - particularly - the section about the freedom of access for the agents of the candidates!
I was inside a number of buildings and that was the only negative encounter that I had.
My final assignment was to leaflet town houses in a fairly new residential area called Scadding Court. I found that neighborhood to be quite pleasant and I did meet a few of the residents. One was a Scottish gentleman who was quite friendly. First off he challenged me about my age claiming that he was the older of the two of us. I told him how old I am and he looked at me in astonishment - he is seven years my junior! He had worked in the shipyards in Glasgow, Scotland and - according to him - had helped to build a few of the famous ocean liners.
It was cold outside and the weather threatened but - all-in-all - it was a pleasant afternoon in Scadding Court.
I have been the Deputy Returning Officer at a few polls within this building so I was asked by Elections Canada to repeat. This Monday past was a long day but a satisfactory one. The candidate whom I was backing did not win the 'seat' but the day was successful. Did we balance right off? No - so we were asked to bring the box to the Returning Office where an official found our error and blanced the tally for us.
I finally got to bed after 1:00AM and slept until 11:00 AM on Tuesday morning. Do I mean that Toby allowed me to sleep in? Yes - he did but did insist once that I go to the kitchen and top up his food bowl before going to take my morning shower!