Monday, June 20, 2011

Making a difference

In the federal election just passed, the number of rejected ballots in Markham-Unionville beat my total as the local Libertarian candidate, again. But this time it was closer. I’m not discouraged because I know I made a difference. People don’t necessarily vote for or against a particular individual or party, so I don’t feel slighted in any way with only 0.5% of the popular vote.

As a case in point, look at the NDP surge in Quebec and elsewhere. One young NDP candidate never set foot in her riding, had no election signs or campaign office, spent a week of the campaign vacationing in Las Vegas, and was virtually invisible, but won her election handily. Effectively she was a “paper candidate,” riding on the coat tails of her leader, Jack Layton. The Harper majority has presented her with a four-year contract and an annual salary of $157,731 plus perks, just for showing up; not bad for agreeing to help out her party. She obviously made a difference with very little effort. For the NDP it was important to field candidates in every riding across the country for the sake of credibility, even if their candidates were not credible themselves. Helping the party is one important lesson for Libertarian candidates and potential candidates in the upcoming Ontario Provincial election.

For all the considerable effort that I put forth in this election campaign, my vote count barely budged from my 2008 results. It was not for lack of trying. I had an unpopular package to sell the voters of Markham-Unionville. Some day, in the future, that package may look more attractive to voters, but not yet.

This campaign was my second attempt. This time I had signs throughout the riding, attended “all-candidates debates” (except where I was involved with other party matters), I was profiled on the local cable channel, and local newspaper, had a widely heard radio interview on a Toronto Rock station, I used social media like my blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. I also had short YouTube clips online, and a website dedicated to the election campaign. I campaigned with pamphlets from door-to-door and in public areas.
Did it have an effect?
Well it certainly did not translate to votes. However, on several occasions people that I met on the campaign told me that they saw my signs, but didn’t know what the Libertarian Party represented, or more often, they had never heard of the party before. The point is, now they have. No party wins voter trust instantly, and it takes repetition and familiarity; look at the NDP story.

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the creation of the NDP, and it has taken 50 years of repetitive collectivist rhetoric and thinking for them to achieve the trust of a large percentage of the electorate. Over 30% of voters across Canada (much improved from 18% in 2008) chose an NDP candidate in this election, making the NDP the official opposition for the first time. In those 50 years Canada has changed enormously from a nation that accepted a relatively limited role for government with emphasis on individual, family and community responsibility. The current paradigm in Canada, is one where government should do as much as possible for as many as possible. This happened in a slow but steady evolution, with the assistance of politicians that pandered to the public sector unions, corporations, and was abetted by the public school system, and the mainstream media.   

The other important lesson we Libertarians should take to heart is the role of leadership. If we are going to act like a political party and ask people to vote for us, they need a face, and a persona to go with the party name. The NDP example demonstrates my point; look at what Jack Layton accomplished. In ridings all over the country, disenchanted Liberal and Bloc voters chose NDP candidates sight unseen. That will not happen to us necessarily, but an effective leader allows the generally lazy mainstream media to zero in on one individual who can deliver the message for us all.   

We have much to offer to a thinking electorate. We are the only party where principles of freedom would direct policy.  The only party that openly advocates free enterprise, reduced spending, reduced government, and actually means it. The problem is we are few, and it will take each of us to make a difference, but make no mistake, you can if you try.

The above article originally appeared in The Libertarian Bulletin, The Newsletter of the Ontario Libertarian Party Summer 2011, Vol. 31 No. 4

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