Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sitting Out an Election: What's Happening to Volunteers?

This is the first provincial or federal election in years that I haven't worked hard for some leftish candidate. Usually I do a lot of telephoning, or some door to door, and occasionally I've even been on of the "back room boys and girls." 

This time my various health issues--the shingles and the cataract surgery in the last couple of months--gave me a good excuse not to put a lot of time into campaigning for Edith Laperle, the Québec Solidaire candidate in our riding.  (Didn't work for her in the bye election last December because I was in South America, but that's another story.)   She's a fine young woman, a hard campaigner (this is the third time around), and definitely would be an good addition to the National Assembly.  We contributed some money, put up a sign on the front porch and certainly wish her well. 

But work?  No, not really.

I've felt guilty, but it seems that I'm not the only stalwart who is sitting this one out.  Le Devoir had a story on the weekend about how the volunteers which have until now been the backbone of a good, grass roots campaign are just not showing up.  Vincent Marissol wrote a similar piece in La Presse last week:  Where are the Militants?

Part of the problem is that the kind of work campaign volunteeers have done in the past just isn't as useful as it was.  The number of people with landlines whose numbers are easy to reach has plummeted, making telephone canvassing less effective.  Even when campaigns can come up with lists of sympathizers, harassing them to make sure they vote looks increasingly counter-productive.  To be sure, door-knocking can still work, but it takes a lot more time than telephoning did in the old days.

But perhaps even more importantly, many folks are finding it hard to get enthusiastic about the people running.  A sign of growing cynicism about the political process?  Probably.  This time around only Québec Solidaire seems to be running a campaign with clear cut stands on issues, and, in my view, is the only part worth voting for, even if I didn't do any work for it.

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