Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Election Day, and out of the closet I come

I've got an admission to make. I've spent the entire election volunteering for a Liberal.

Have my NDP convictions gone off the rails? Not at all. The sign hanging from my balcony is orange and green, as will be the X on my ballot if the poll clerk lets me bring in my own crayons.I think here in Edmonton Glenora, I'd be tempted to cast a strategic vote for Bruce Miller, the Liberal MLA who has been one of the stronger left voices in Taft's caucus, but I think he's a lock with or without me. The Tory candidate? There must be one, but I can't tell you anything about him or her - that's never a good sign.

My time has been more spent in Edmonton Manning, where I've worked the doors and phones for Sandeep Dhir, an old friend despite our political differences (which frankly are not usually very wide, me being on the right flank of my party and Deep being toward the left of his). He's by far the most qualified candidate (Eight years on the Edmonton Inner-city housing commission and five on the Theatre Network board, aside from his professional life), certainly the most charismatic candidate (though there's actually a close second there - more on that down the post), and notwithstanding the independent incumbent, he's been working the riding for the longest by some distance, knocking on doors since September.

All of this should mean that he'd be a lock in a riding like Manning, which elected then-Liberal Dan Backs last time around despite his significantly-abbreviated campaign (for legitimate personal reasons - not a knock against the man). This time, our local campaign has been extremely well-organized and well-staffed with dedicated volunteers (the first drop covered 2/3 of the riding in a single day three months before the writ was dropped, and doors were being knocked on by the candidate and others even through the bone-breaking cold of the first week of the writ). And yet, because the polls tell me that Edmonton undecideds have been breaking to the Tories, "running like we're three votes behind" hasn't just been a catchphrase. Many days, it doesn't take much imagination to believe ourselves three votes behind, or worse.

First of all, things would have been easier had the NDP candidate been a mumbly parachute nobody, as I'd optimistically predicted when it became clear former city councillor Janice Melnychuk wouldn't contest it. I'm heartened for my party, and concerned for my candidate, by Rick Murti, a well-spoken former small-business owner - exactly the sort of candidate I've argued the NDP needs. I thought we could count on gaining some of the NDP slippage that seemed inevitable from a peak of 22% reached by the personally-popular Laurie Lang. I've made a little bet on the ND number in Manning with an over/under of 15%, and I think my money's safe taking the high side of that - they've campaigned and spent money in every way appearing to believe that Manning's a winnable seat. As I doorknocked today, I watched them do a drop of what I presume are their checkmarks - they'd come to a street, drop at a house, maybe two, often sporting Rick's signs, and drive off again. I can't tell you how much I wish this campaign was running in another riding. He does have one weakness to my mind - his community involvement background includes Safedmonton and the Clairview Crime Council, so he seems to be the law-and-order candidate of the bunch, not generally what the NDP voting base is looking for in their candidate. I think he could stand a little more time doing anti-poverty work, maybe get a more well-rounded view of the world. I did enjoy the attempt to work in a union background in the bio - kudos, NDP writer!

Second, we're contending with a wildcard in the aforementioned independant candidate, Dan Backs. He won the riding as a Liberal last time around, but contested the Tory nomination this time. He's not going to win - in fact, I think he'll come fourth - but I honestly don't know who's votes he's going to siphon off.

Quite frankly, our biggest asset beyond Sandeep is the Tory candidate, Peter Sandhu, who won the nomination over Backs and eventual Beverly-Clairview Tory nominee Tony Vandermeer. In describing Manning as number one on a list of interesting races, The Journal today described it thusly:
Folks still grumble about the autumn nomination meeting this Mill Woods homebuilder won, full of ethnic politicking and overcrowded parking lots and, well, a guy from Mill Woods coming north to whump Backs and former Conservative MLA Tony Vandermeer. Sandhu showed power in numbers for the internal party contest, but real democracy - even in Alberta - is a whole different affair.
Sandhu skipped the all-party debate held last week, and though he's apparently done a little door-knocking, it seems that he's not having the effect he's probably hoping for - more than once, our office has fielded calls along the lines of "I've just met the Tory candidate, and I've made up my mind. Could you swing by with a sign?" I don't know what he's saying on those doorsteps, but I hope he's advocating the same vision he does on his website. My favourite quote: "Strong families promote vibrate communities". (You know, I belonged to a vibrate community once, and my strong family didn't even approve, much less promote it.) And lest you think I'm picking on this fellow for language issues, well, yes, I am, a little - I think the job of legislator requires one to be more than passing familiar with the language in which the body operates. More shocking to me is that not a single member of his campaign team has seen fit, or knows the language well enough, to fix the damned thing. And most shocking of all is that if the page were cleaned up enough to stop distracting the reader from what it actually says, one would find a bumper crop of banalities and no real sense of who this guy is and what he believes. Peter Sandhu is counting on Ed Stelmach wearing some very long coattails come election day, and he may turn out to be right.

Which brings me to my point. I know it's a longshot that this will turn even a single vote, but here I am saying it anyway: I'm a longime NDP supporter and contributor, twice a candidate flying the New Democrat flag. And yet, I've given time, effort, and cash to this campaign because Sandeep Dhir represents exactly the sort of passionate commitment to Alberta's future that was so absent from the Leaders' Debate, that's been so poorly articulated by any of the province-wide campaigns. If you live in Edmonton Manning, please do the rest of the province a favour and get Sandeep into the legislature.

Update, Wednesday morning: I noted on Monday, shortly after I'd linked Sandhu's page, that it was significantly cleaned up, exposing the banalities much more clearly. I'll do what I can to find a cache of the old page somewhere, and if I do, I'll link to it.

No comments: