Inner City Diary
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Don't use your cynicism as an excuse not to vote
September 29, 2002
The room wasnít exactly crowded with residents. But the air was thick with anticipation.

At the front of the room were three candidates running for city council in the Daniel MacIntyre ward. Facing the candidates were rows of people with a multitude of concerns about their neighbourhood. Some came to support a specific candidate. Others came undecided, wanting someone to earn their vote.

One week in advance we delivered fliers up and down the streets of the old West End. We knocked on doors and told people, ďCome listen to the candidates. See if they have an idea worth voting for. Get to meet them and compare them side-by-side.Ē Those who came turned their attention to the candidates.

Harvey, our present councilor, got elected last time on promises to cut crime. During his first campaign, he went door-to-door blaming his predecessor for the crime in the community. Four years later, he realized he couldnít change the community so at least heíll change his tune. Now heís saying, ďI donít figure anyone else can change it either.Ē  I figure he was old enough to know that before he ran the first time. It seems some people will say anything to get elected, but donít want to face the consequences when they canít deliver the goods.

Resty, one of the other candidates, had some good ideas, lots of excitement and vowed toi do his best for the neighbourhood. Heís had a long history with some folk in the community and Iím sure this will help him in the campaign.

But on election day, Iíll be giving my support to the person who gave the clearest answers and actually lives in the ward. Iíve seen Maureen in the neighbourhood more than any other candidate over the past few years, renovating houses and fighting crime. I figure sheís been backing up her words with action Ė long before throwing her hat in the ring.

At then end of the evening, each of the candidates looked tired. I know what theyíre doing isnít easy.

For me, watching the candidates brought back memories of the last provincial election.

I can tell you one thing. Politics Ė especially the campaign part Ė can be nasty business.

Itís definitely not for the faint of heart. People can say some really nasty things at the door, without even knowing a thing about you. And if youíre prone to paranoia, donít even think about it. The gossip and smear campaigns will kill you.

I didnít know how it worked when I started. But several days into knocking on doors, my naivete was shattered.

I started getting the distinct impression that while people would mouth their support for me, their eyes told me their vote was going elsewhere.

I was told that some people who already made up their minds will say anything to keep me at their door, knowing that it would make it harder to get to someone else who really is undecided.

People working for the other candidate pretended they were supporting me. Some even tried to join my campaign team.

Others came promising to deliver votes which werenít theirs to deliver. Some offered donations as a way to pave the way for requests for future favours. And they were insulted when I turned them away. And people say politicians are hypocrites!

It was too late to look back. It was my first shot at politics but I gave it all I had. There was no cautious dipping toes in the water to check if itís warm enough. I felt I had something to offer. I shouted loud and ran hard Ė straight into the deep end. My friends joined me, knocking on doors, putting leaflets everywhere we could.

At the end of the day I didnít get elected. But I have no regrets, I met lots of good people and found many who shared my determination to make this a better neighbourhood. And losing an election didnít mean I couldnít continue to work with them.

Running for office taught me something important. I will never again use my cynicism as an excuse for staying at home on election day. And I hope you donít either.

If youíre going to vote for someone, find a way to back them up before the election. Donít lie to candidates at the door Ė or anywhere else. Donít be the hypocrite you donít want them to be.

And one more thingÖ

I know that whining over voter apathy is a waste of time. But if you belly-ache to me about the neighbourhood Iíll be asking you if you voted. If you tell me ďno,Ē Ė whatever your excuse Ė my shoulder will be too cold to cry on.
Copyright 2002
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929