“You can see that a campaign brochure also makes a good rain hat when standing and talking with voters.”
This weekend’s Times-Colonist, in its Monitor section, features interesting articles about voter outreach, suggesting that there are a variety of ways to get one’s message across at election time.
Some candidates don’t do signs at all (as in the case of outgoing Oak Bay Mayor Christopher Causton), preferring to meet residents in local gathering places such as coffee shops and restaurants. One candidate does no door-knocking and instead, spends time connecting with residents in village centres and on the street. Others door-knock and not just at election time, as with Victoria Councilor Chris Coleman, who door-knocks throughout the year whenever he has time.
Then there are the All Candidates’ meetings that I strongly believe can be a deciding factor in an election. My advice to candidates is, “Fail to show up at your peril.” All Candidates’ meetings for me have always been an important forum in which candidates introduce themselves and their platform and residents and voters learn about who’s running.
Depending on format, these meetings can be revealing to both candidates and audiences, although I admit that they sometimes feel scripted. At the very least, All Candidates’ meetings give residents a glimpse into how effectively (or not) the candidate will represent the community (speaking style, general knowledge, demeanour and ability to connect with residents).
During this Oak Bay municipal election, I have adopted a variety of approaches. Pamphlets, signs, door-knocking, coffee party, mainstreeting and visiting gathering spots, including the Oak Bay dump, have provided some good and not so good opportunities to connect with Oak Bay residents. I tend to be a bit hesitant about invading personal space — I would have made a poor “cold-calling” salesperson. Perhaps because of my training and career experience, one’s body language tells me a lot about comfort level.
I’m also aware that many residents do not like strangers knocking on their front door, especially after dark. If you are like me, I don’t like answering the door when I don’t know the person on the other side. For older residents, answering their doors to strangers brings with it legitimate feelings of potential risk to personal security and safety.
For new candidates, election signs are one of the few tools that reach voters related to name reognition, often a vital factor for voters when scanning the list of candidates on a ballot. But I agree that signs do distract from the landscape when they litter public spaces.
I still prefer person-to-person, one-on-one contact with residents and regular town hall and neighbourhood meetings throughout the year can be effective, especially if you are willing to linger after these meetings. Some of my most meaningful contact has been after meetings end, when residents approach to talk about something you have said or to raise an issue not covered during the meeting.
Social media is now one of the most effective tools to reach voters and I use this blog and Facebook to get my points across. Four years on and my blog is still important to staying connected with residents (since the beginning of this election, this blog has generated nearly 3,000 visits, 73% of which are new). It is timely and current, as long as I keep it up — the worst thing that can happen to a blog or website is failing to update it regularly and letting it lapse and become static.
How candidates reach voters is definitely a personal choice but I recommend a variety of methods to ensure that residents and voters have access to their candidates. It’s true to some extent that “you never know what you’ve got until you’ve got it.” But in a culture where communication has overtaken us, there really is no excuse for a candidate who doesn’t try to reach out to voters to inform and communicate with them.
P.S. The Oak Bay Council meeting on Monday, November 14th at 7:30 will be an important meeting for those of you concerned about the future of Oak Bay Lodge. It is anticipated that Mayor and Council will make their final decision at this meeting about moving or not moving forward with the project. I am unable to attend because my second to last North Saanich Council meeting is on the same night at the same time. But I encourage as many of you as possible to attend.