So far, door-knocking has been my favorite part of the campaign. Getting out and talking to folks about politics, hearing their stories and answering their questions is far more interesting than the grind of creating campaign literature, organizing volunteer schedules and attending meetings with Elections NS. With such a small team though, the task of knocking on every door in the riding seems a little daunting. But this past week we managed to find our groove and talk to quite a few people.
My interactions with people have been overwhelmingly positive. People are thanking me for getting involved, and more often than not, admiring my “bravery” and “courage” for doing what I am doing. I am not sure if their word choice is related to the fact that I am a woman, but the term “old boys club” has often accompanied these conversations.
One particularly keen fellow, a business owner in Downtown Dartmouth, shook my hand vigorously and told me that he showed my story to his granddaughters, to show them that anyone could do anything if they put their mind to it. I don’t mind being a role model for political girl power one bit. However it is interesting to contrast this praise to the only confrontational interaction of the campaign involving some old school traditional partisans who don’t believe that women have any business being in politics, let alone women who look and dress like me. I thanked them for their perspective and advice, and by the end of the interaction, they actually apologized to me for attacking me the way they did. I won’t be counting on their votes.
Overall, though, my message is resonating with people.
My message is simple and clear. Too many people are marginalized from decision-making power, the party system is directly interfering with representative democracy, the will of the people and their well-being. There are many complex problems facing Dartmouth South and all our Nova Scotian communities right now, and if we don’t start changing the way we deal with these problems, our future is not secure. My message is change. Not change in terms of parties and leaders, voting this one in or that one in has repeatedly yielded the same results. I’m talking about fundamental change in our governmental priorities, our policies, our processes.
‘”New Politics” will never come to be without “New Politicians” guiding them.
Specifics that have come up more than once on the campaign trail this week have significantly revolved around the following topics:
- Dissatisfaction with Government – People like the idea of a change in the status quo way of government. They are getting pretty fed up being ignored and in some cases, trampled on They are cynical of politics, and have never had anyone to vote for before. People are disenchanted with party politics, and even the partisans are acknowledging the problems the party system creates. This is by far the dominant theme across neighborhoods, age and class. One 80 plus woman enthusiastically told me that her husband always said the best Legislature would be one full of Independents. Too many are still loyally bound to their parties and the system which keeps them in power, despite their acknowledgement of inadequacies and inequities within those parties and systems..
- Increased Cost of Living – Power rate hikes, increasing rents, and more than once this week the cost of a loaf of bread came up. One lady in a more impoverished part of town noted that it had to have been a hard winter, cause many surrounding tenants were moving out this month likely due to high unpaid power bills finally catching up to them. Many were commenting on how hard it was to get from paycheck to paycheck, especially the young families in the areas I went to.
- Community Identity – There are many residents of “old Dartmouth” in this riding who are proud and determined to keep Dartmouth, Dartmouth. I have heard an increasing dissatisfaction with the current municipal branding strategy, tagging all unique HRM communities with the Halifax label. The issue of community identity is just one of many unresolved and perceived inequities leftover from amalgamation such as property taxes, service loss, and centralization of power. It is too soon to say whether this dissatisfaction is represented in the majority of Dartmouth South residents, but the passion driving this movement has got me to thinking about an evaluation and review of HRM Amalgamation, to ensure it is the most effective and equitable governance structure for the municipality.
- The Portland Street stabbing – I spend a lot of time on Portland Street. I know many business owners there, and more of their regular patrons. The community was saddened and disturbed by the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Bradley Knoll. Some residents were upset by some of the online comments, denigrating the area as some hotbed for violent crime. Downtown Dartmouth has had among the lowest incidents of police-reported assault in the HRM in previous years, this incident should not be used as an indicator that the area is unsafe or characteristically violent.
- Senior Accessibility – I spoke to a number of senior’s this past week who have many challenges getting out of their homes to socialize and/or run errands. Many don’t have vehicles themselves, and are affected by physical disabilities which keep them housebound and vulnerable. This past winter was especially hard for many seniors. One woman I spoke with told me she was housebound for 2 straight months this past winter. Relying solely on her son to deliver her groceries and other necessities.
I’m sure there are many more themes to emerge from this campaign trail; issues that have not yet been identified, and alternative or opposing perspectives added to the ones that have. Week Two begins tomorrow. Can’t wait to get out and hear what others have to say.