Contributed by Peter Lovering, Former Candidate for City Council in Ward 11 University-Rosedale. I did, and quite frankly, running was a great deal of fun. I knew I was in tough and I loved every minute of it. There are, of course, a few things I would do differently. But as an independent, you realise very quickly that without a serious support mechanism, it will be an uphill battle. There are hiccups in every campaign and throw in a Canada Post scandal, and you have a campaign. (more on that after the full investigation is complete).
While regrets of what could have been will drive you crazy, most independent campaigns will ultimately be limited by money. Knowing how much you have to spend it is easier to coral volunteers, managers, comms, designers, printers and so on. My biggest regret was not assigning a volunteer manager. Campaign managers have lots of tricks up their sleeves and have value, but gosh if I had a volunteer manager, that would have been great. Somebody to follow up with all the “those people” that want to help. Firstly, being of a certain age, many of the people who wanted to and did help have professions and families and busy lives. Trying to wrangle them takes dozens of texts and emails just to lock them down, for a couple hours of work. A volunteer manager would have called them daily, trained them, and set things up accordingly. That would have been an enormous help to an independent campaign.
Another time sucker keeping a candidate from knocking on doors is the inundation of advocacy requests of incredibly long-winded questions and answers. Sometimes they threaten you by suggesting that if you do not answer the way they like you will be graded as a fail. No joke. The orgs you get stuff from are vast and varied. They include but are not limited to: animal rights, anti-noise, no meat in Toronto (like literally, we should not allow the consumption of meat in Toronto), 3 or 4 different e-bike lobbies, 2 e-scooter groups, aquatic farming, farming, anti-nuclear, tunnelling advocates, noise, tree canopy, anti-e bikes not to mention the more relevant and predictable requests from advocates of justice, equity, homelessness, housing, cycling, ttc, environment, residents’ associations and the like. Not to mention responding to emails from constituents. Although this is their role in promoting agendas and part of the job of a councillor, having somebody you trust to contribute and manage these requests would have helped greatly.
Naturally, a full-time Social person would have been great, but good ones are hard to find, and once again, good ones are expensive. But doing that yourself, as the candidate, takes valuable time.
In University-Rosedale, where I ran (the same is true in Toronto centre by the way), I lost to a Green Party-supported candidate, an NDP party-supported candidate, and a Liberal-supported candidate. To their credit, they all have a team, a machine, and all the tricks up their sleeves. They have built-in donors, pre-existing sign-lists from provincial (and federal) elections, shared lists from sitting party members, lists from sitting councillors, and lists from the Mayor himself. Of course, there is no party support or party politics involved in municipal elections….but we all know better.
No matter what you think when you start a campaign, there is no doubt you will finish feeling pretty proud of what you accomplished. I know I did. But no matter how altruistic and honest, and legitimate your campaign is, you stand little chance of winning against a “party” supported candidate in Toronto. That is where the scrutiny of accounting should fall. Not in the nickels and dimes but on the influence peddling, endorsements by sitting politicians, team sharing, staff sharing, and list sharing by the parent parties. That is what needs to be accounted for and is not. The city should crack down on the clear and obvious involvement of parties in the Municipal election. Alternatively, they should throw out the rule altogether, let the parties do their thing, and give up on the charade that municipal elections are a chance for anybody to get involved. They are not, and that is the way “they” like it.