May 01, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

My life in crime…er, I mean politics 

A peek behind the signs of an election

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I spent just over $8,700 on my campaign, most of it on newspaper ads, followed by brochures and $1,100 postage to mail them to every door in town. I also distributed about 1,000 brochures by hand and at all candidates meetings.

The other part of the financial equation is how much you raise in contributions. It was interesting that this go-round I raised half of what I did last time. Were people "electioned out" after the federal and U.S. elections, already hunkering down for the recession, or figuring I wasn't worth betting on?

Campaign contributions seem to raise eyebrows. Now that I've been there, done that, I don't understand why. The rules are getting increasingly stringent. This time, for instance, you couldn't even hold a 50/50 draw for a buck a ticket unless you recorded the name and address of every person who bought one.

I must say I get a warm fuzzy feeling looking at my list of contributions - a professional campaign manager would laugh at my grassroots support: 29 friends, relatives and neighbours contributing a total of $1,045, most of it in $25 increments for fundraiser tickets.

Foolishly, I say as I dig myself out of debt from my campaign spending, I laughed at the only contribution offered to me by a developer. I don't even know how much it would have been, but I was proud of myself for my answer. I just wouldn't have felt right about that.

But about a quarter of my fellow candidates took contributions from developers and, horror of horrors, numbered companies. I know this holds sway for some voters - especially the latter, which seems to carry the whiff of something illicit even though a numbered company can be a ma n' pa operation cutting firewood. One candidate tried to make a big deal out of same last election, and is facing a court case in part because of same, but I think the issue is more perception than any real influence-peddling.

Organizations such as the Canadian Labour Congress or the Firefighters Union also must make financial disclosures for any candidates they back in your riding. For instance, this last civic election the CLC contributed nearly $154,000 to dozens of candidates for council, mayoral seats, school boards and parks boards across the province, including one successful council candidate in my riding and the new mayor of Vancouver.

 

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So how does all this shake out for you as you go about your business, keeping life and dreams on track? For one, it might make you reconsider how you think about politics and politicians. I especially hope it makes you realize there is no line in the sand - we are you and your are us - and that it truly is a privilege, one also entailing work and responsibility, to be part of a democracy.

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