Campaigning 4 Weeks or 4 Ever?

November 22, 2018

I recently was called upon to help in a municipal election in Surrey, BC. Surrey is a city of half a million people on the south side of the metro Vancouver market.  It is twelfth largest city in Canada and growing rapidly.  It is expected to exceed the City of Vancouver in population within a few years.

About five weeks before the election, my sister was contacted to see if she would accept the nomination for the “slate” that currently controlled the mayoral spot as well as all eight councillor positions.  She accepted the invitation and was introduced a couple days later.  That left a little more than four weeks for the campaign before the election.

There was a frenzy of activity as the slate, almost like a party, printed up signs, pamphlets, handouts of all kinds, prepared websites, videos, backgrounders and then off to the races.

We knocked on doors; visited community centres, mosques, banquet halls, knocked on more doors, visited radio stations, TV stations, and met people in the parks.  The parks in Surrey are frequented by older Punjabi men.  They walk their grandchildren to school and then gather in the nearby parks to meet their friends and talk.  Because they are gathered together, they form a perfect audience.  Note the short politician in the centre.

Then four weeks later, on October 20, the election was held.  Polls closed at 8 PM and by 9:30 PM the results were virtually in.  The good news for my sister was that she won a seat!  Congratulations to her!  The bad news was she was the only one on her slate to win so she will have to work incredibly hard to get things done.

While all this was happening, there was also an election in the US, the land of perpetual elections.

When the Surrey Council was sworn in on November 5, the US had yet to vote.  The US election process was still raging past mid-November as they tried to count and recount ballots.  Donald Trump, who had declared himself a candidate for 2020 shortly after winning in 2016 was on the campaign trail during our little election and afterwards.

This leads to the question:  When do you govern?  What is the correct length of time to be a candidate versus being an elected official.  Clearly politicians are constantly “running” in a soft manner: contacting constituents, speaking and appearing at events and so forth.  But out and out campaigning is not the same.  They really only need to campaign somewhat in advance of their election.  In the US that seems to have become more and more extended.  The candidates have become media personalities in their national reality show.  No wonder they elected a reality show actor as president.

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