#NWELXN18 – a wrap

I have gone through the numbers of the recent election in a couple of posts, (here, here, and here) but I did so recognizing that I was perpetuating a trope that plagues democracy in North America (and perhaps the world?) – looking at politics like it is just another a sport. Line scores and a zero-sum-game of winners and losers are the easiest and laziest way to report on elections. It leaves little room for the more important discussions we should be having during an election: the debate of ideas and values and visions for the future.

I need to say that this has been a difficult blog post to write. There are a couple of 1,500-word drafts that have been deleted, because they all fell into the mode of being an us-vs-them analysis, and were more critical than helpful. I spent most of the last three months biting my (digital) tongue and not reacting to the messages of those who would have rather they be elected than me, because I wanted to avoid being drawn into a useless spat everyone would regret. It would serve no purpose (other than a little personal catharsis) to go there now.

**That said, I feel the need to stick one of my regular caveats here where I say all of this is my opinion, not the opinion of my council or election colleagues, City Council, the City, or any rational person or organization. If you disagree with me, let me know!**

This slipped once during the campaign when I made a reference to Daniel Fontaine, in reaction to a pretty ham-fisted attempt on his part to demean me on his blog, using what I think was an appropriate amount of dismissive humour, but then following to point out how disingenuous the hit piece was:

Trust me, the hardest part for me this election was not reacting to opponents on-line. There were many drafted-then-deleted tweets. Maybe I’m growing up.

But what was this election about? Other cities had clear narratives (Surrey wanted someone to deal with crime, Burnaby was about the need for housing, Port Moody about slowing the pace of development), but what was the New Westminster election theme?

After the fact and looking at the numbers, it is easiest for me to take the message that voters are generally happy with the way the City is being run, and were not as interested in change as in some of our surrounding communities. This reflected what I heard on the doorstep during three months of doorknocking, and what I heard in a thousand small conversations I had during the election. Things are not perfect, there are definitely things we could do better, but for the most part, things are headed in the right direction, and few are interested in a big shift in direction.

In the end, our main opponents must have heard that as well, and were challenged with messaging “things are mostly OK” along with the “time for a change” idea. In the end, they fell back on the familiar and tired narrative that New Westminster is run by organized labour in a poorly-defined but somehow nefarious way. This is the same narrative that James Crosty used to no success in New West for several elections, and the old Voice New West relied upon. Like running against bike lanes in Vancouver, this campaign message is exciting to a group of people in the City and gets amplified every election by the local media, but has never been one to motivate voters to come out and create a change. New Westminster happily votes for Labour-affiliated and NDP-affiliated candidates enough to elect them, and have done so in increasing numbers in every election for the last decade or two. This is why orange signs were a cynically good idea.

To the credit of my colleagues and voters, the winning candidates never stopped talking about the important issues to New Westminster – housing, transportation, inclusion and accessibility in schools, and livability of our community. They also worked hard to knock on doors and meet people. When I look at the new names at the top of the polls – Nakagawa, Ansari, Beattie, Dhaliwal – these are the candidates I saw out there every day earning votes with shoeleather and ideas. On election-period effort alone they earned every vote they got.

There was one big difference between this election and the previous one – the remarkable shrinking of the media space. Last election there were four (4!) local newspapers a week in New Westminster, now there is one. At the risk of poking those who buy ink by the barrel, there was not a tonne of coverage in the last few weeks of the election in the lone paper standing.

Since Labour Day (when the public starts properly paying attention to the campaign), there were a few news stories that announced the new candidates as they trickled out, a couple of pieces covering NWP messaging around how unfair the entire election process was, and not a lot else. The two substantial pieces were an October 4th quote-mining review of two All-Candidates Meetings (which strangely emphasized May Day as the biggest issue), and a really excellent 2-page spread on October 11th on diversity. However, through the entire election period there were no printed candidate profiles, not a single article discussing housing policy, infrastructure needs, transportation challenges, or any of the other top issues that might have informed voters about contrasts between what different candidates were offering. The final edition before the election (October 18th) had a single opinion piece admonishing people to vote, but no other coverage of the election or issues at hand. I don’t remember being asked a single election-related question by a single reporter between Labour Day and the close of the polls.

I recognize there are limited resources and limited column inches in one edition a week, and there was more material available on-line, but even that discussion was dominated by discussing the process of the election, with paltry discussion of policy issues. The emphasis on click-baity open-question headlines on Twitter and Facebook probably just worsened partisan bickering between supporters instead of actually inform on any issue. Indeed, here is where I missed the old Tomkinson-era Tenth to the Fraser that provided a really strong and well-curated online discussion. I suspect print is still more important to a significant number of voters than on-line content, and I can’t help but feel that the Burnaby Now side of the local Black Press Glacier Media office got a lot more attention, and their election got more column inches. Perhaps their election was more exciting.

So what now? The things I tried to talk about during the election are still my priorities after the election. We need to continue to improve how the City communicates and engages the public, and I want to have a serious talk with the provincial government on reforming the Public Hearing process. We are already leading the region in affordable housing policy, but have no intention of taking our foot off the gas, and will work to get new funding and new policy levers provided by the province (such as Rental Zoning) working for us locally. On transportation, I want to push a conversation forward about changing the culture in our roads. I want us to prioritize making vulnerable road users feel safe at all times. It is time for us to grow up and talk honestly about the goals of our transportation plan, which is not the destructive (and ultimately self-defeating) goal of “getting traffic moving”. 

Of course, I am just one of 7 on Council, and finding consensus on strategic plans for the next 4 years will be the main conversation for the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

#NWelxn18 – poll-by-poll

The final election results are out, with poll-by-poll results. This gives us an opportunity to infer a bunch of things about the election. Note that this is more like reading tea leaves than defensible analysis, because anyone in the City can vote anywhere during a local election. We don’t know if the typical Queens Park Voter cast their vote at the Armoury, Glenbrook Middle School, or in an advance poll at the Lawn Bowling Club or City Hall. It is somewhat safer to assume mostly Queensborough voters voted in Queensborough, and the Pensioners’ Hall probably captured most of lower Sapperton, but where did Downtowners vote? There is a lot of fuzziness here, but here is a poll map:

Messy data doesn’t prevent me (or some other local blogger) from trying to glean insight from it.

This table shows the poll-by-poll vote for City Council. I marked the winner of each poll in dark green, the second place in medium green, and the rest of the top 6 in light green. Orange is for the 4 people who finished just below the threshold:

No surprise here that overall winner Nadine Nakagawa won the most polls with 13 – she not only won the popular vote, she won the Electoral College! She was also the only candidate to “place” (finish in the top 6) in all 20 polls. She dominated. Mary Trentadue and Daniel Fontaine each won two polls, with myself, Jaimie McEvoy and Chuck Puchmayr each winning a single poll. I had far and away the most second place polls, and all of those elected “placed” in between 18 and 20 of the 20 polls.

Team Cote candidates dominated almost every poll, except in Queensborough, and (arguably) Howay – the poll used mostly by Massey Victory Heights residents – where the New West Progressives (NWP) had a solid showing.

People paying attention to the campaign will have noticed that the NWP put a lot of effort into Queensborough, stoking some discontent around a few long-standing neighbourhood grievances, and benefiting from support of a small but vocal group of Temporary Modular Housing opponents. Team Cote members also did a lot of work in Queensborough (I personally knocked on hundreds of doors there), though we can look back now and say that the ~200 vote gap between the best NWP candidate and worst Team Cote candidate in that neighbourhood was hardly a factor in the overall election result.

For the fun of it, I looked at what percentage of their total vote each candidate received in the advance and special polls:

Interesting that Team Cote candidates received between 21% and 22% of our votes in the advance polls, NWPs around 20%, and others under 20%. I’m not sure if this relates to the relative get-out-the-advance-vote efforts, but it seems a consistent trend.

School Board data looks a lot like Council results, though perhaps a little more diffuse:

Overall winner Anita Ansari won 11 poll of the 20 polls, with Dee Beattie winning three and returning champions Mark Gifford and Mary Lalji each winning two. Queensborough resident Gurveen Dhaliwal won both polls in that neighbourhood. Beattie was second in most of the polls she didn’t win. NWP candidate Danielle Connelly didn’t win any polls outright, but did finish 2nd in three of them. Ansari was the only candidate to place in the top 7 in all polls, although Beattie only missed one (the Q’boro advance poll) as did Connelly (the Special Poll for hospitalized voters). Also note that the Team Cote candidates finished in alphabetical order – likely a coincidence, but fun to speculate about.

Mirroring the Council result, the NWP candidates did better in Queensborough than any other polling station, but also clearly had good success at the FW Howey poll in Massey Victory Heights, along with Mary Lalji. The standout among the others was Alejandro Diaz, whose success seemed to track along with Team Cote success better than the NWP, suggesting he was the most popular “6th vote” for those who voted the Team Cote ticket, where Lalji had stronger results where Team Cote did less well. Again, the Advance vote percentage closely mirrors that of Council:

I’m not going to say to much about the Mayor’s race, because it was a blowout by pretty much any measure. Cote finished with less than 70% of the vote only in two polls (Queensborough and Howey), and won more than 80% in his own neighbourhood. Nikki Binns was clearly the second most popular candidate:

Outside of the statistical analysis, I am struggling to write a piece about “what it all means”. As someone who did well in the election, I don’t want to be seen as punching down in my analysis of why others didn’t do well. I have had a lot of conversations with different people since the election, and have heard a lot of opinions about the result. I am tempted read into New Westminster bucking the general regional trend of this being a “change election”, as seen in Port Moody, Vancouver, and Burnaby as a testament to the good work this Council has done, but getting out of my bubble a bit on this will be a challenge.

Bonus chart: Since I mention the quirk of the alphabet order of the top 5 in the School Board election, I thought I would do a quick scatter chart of election results and order the names appear on the ballot. Blue is Council and red is School Board (with best fit lines and R² provided by Excel):

The Council result is close enough to random to be considered so, but you could convince me there is something going on here with the School Board ballot…

#NWELXN18 – THE TRENDS

One of the discussions during this election (and in all local elections for the last few decades) was voter turnout. Already low across the region, there was some concern that this election would see even lower than usual turnout. We don’t have official numbers yet, but I thought it would be good to compare this year to previous years.

There was some reason to suspect lower turnout this year. As charming and important as School Trustees and City Councillors are, it is really difficult for normal people and occasional voters to connect with that level of government. Occasionally, we have a candidate who is really compelling (I think of Jonina Campbell in 2011, Kelly Slade-Kerr in 2014) who drive some increased interest, but I doubt even that draws more than a couple of percent of eligible voters. Much like federal election interest is driven by the candidates for Prime Minister (sorry, Peter), the reality is that local elections often carry the weight of the Mayor’s race. And the reality is we didn’t have much of a Mayor’s race this year. Nothing against the challengers, but they all started very late and had limited campaigns (only one had lawn signs, one other had a website, and attendance at all-candidate events was spotty). I think in most people’s minds, even those who opposed him, Cote as a safe bet to win.

However, there was also a reason to suspect turnout may be higher, and that was a well-coordinated and -funded party running in opposition to the existing Mayor and Council. There is good potential for a party with strong political connections and good messaging to drive turnout, both by their own efforts, and by forcing the incumbents to get off their duffs and work to keep their jobs. I knocked on almost as many doors this year as I did in my rookie year, and direct voter engagement – actually looking at people and telling them to vote – is the proven Get Out The Vote strategy.

So how did that all work out?

A note here, I am using the unofficial voter stats released by the City for 2018, and the City’s open data number for previous elections (we don’t yet have official numbers for 2018). I am also using population stats from the BC Government website. These numbers are not “voter turnout” in any official way. New Westminster’s population is about 74,000 people. We had just under 50,000 registered voters going into the election, though some of those people may have died, moved out of the city, or otherwise not been eligible to vote this election. There were probably a fair number of people who were eligible to vote but were not registered to do so, and registered on the day of the election. Short story: numbers are complicated, and everything below is an estimate.

This graph shows the number of votes for Mayor, Council, and School Board for every election since 1990 (the first year these stats are provided by the City), alongside the population trend for the same period:

As the numbers are hard to compare on a single y-axis, I indexed all of them by dividing all of the numbers by their 1990 value to allow a closer comparison. Numbers below 1.0 are lower than the 1990 value, numbers above 1.0 are above the 1990 value:

Finally, to see how the vote numbers compare to population change, I divided the Mayor’s vote count by population, and the Council and School board votes by population *and* by dividing them by the total number of available votes (6 for school council, 7 for school board). See the above caveat about this not being “voter turnout”, but it does provide a clear indication of how voter number change when population change is removed:

In short, voter turnout dropped in the late 1990s, turned around in the early 2000’s, and took until 2014 for it to catch up to the losses of the previous decade. 2018 turnout is slightly down in 2018 for Mayor and Council, and slightly up for School Board when compared to 2014.

This does show the importance of the Mayors Race. In 1999, the Mayor was acclaimed, and the School Board and council vote turnout suffered. The 2002 Election was an exciting affair with Wayne Wright unseating the incumbent by 18 votes, resulting in a jump in voter turnout across the board. The next three elections were relatively lackluster as a popular mayor won fairly easily, and the Council and School Board vote more or less flat-lined. (the 2008 School Board jump possibly related to the Grimston Park school controversy? Or am I getting my dates mixed up?). 2014 was again an exciting mayoral race with a strong-campaigning challenger unseating a popular incumbent. And much as I would think I am responsible for the huge jump in Council votes that year, the turnout across the board (if not my lackluster 5th place finish) belies this hope.

One thing that does stand out is uptick in School Board votes this year while Mayoral and Council votes were slightly down (on a per-capita basis). I would love to hear a theory to explain this. Good candidates? The fact they are finally pouring concrete for a new High School? Or perhaps it was because no group ran a full slate, so there was seen to be more room for challengers to get onto the board? Enter your theory here.

Poll-by-poll results are yet to be released, and that is where the real fun is! I will write another piece once I get a chance to chew on them.

#NWelxn18 – first the numbers

That was interesting!

I have avoided talking too much about the election over here, relying on my election website to carry the campaign load while I kept this site on the day-to-day of council life. However, I am going to spend a bit of time between now and the resumption of Council stuff in November looking back at the election.

I am still thanking my many volunteers and supporters, the feelings are still a little raw, and lots of Monday morning quarterbacking is going on, so I am going to hold off on all that stuff for a bit and start with just the (preliminary, not yet official!) numbers, starting with number of votes:

On Council, Team Cote clearly dominated, not only taking the top 6 spots, but doing so with a clear numbers gap over the members of the NWP Party (6th place had 25% more votes than 7th place), who in turn had a pretty solid gap ahead of the 4 independent candidates (10th place had 38% more votes than 11th).

Voting percentages are a little wonky for Council elections because we don’t know how many votes each voter decided cast, but there were 71,627 council votes and 14,368 votes for Mayor, so we can infer an average of 5 votes per voter. There were something like 50,000 registered voters in New Westminster, so turnout it tentatively a little over 28%, about the same as last election (the exact numbers will have to wait until the official report- as we don’t know how many voters registered on the day of the election) .

The pie chart allows a little more clumping analysis. We can see that Team Cote candidates earned 59% of the vote total, NWP candidates 27%, and others 14%. Of course, there were 50% more Team Cote candidates than the others, so perhaps a better comparison is that the average Team Cote candidate earned 9.9% of the votes, the average NWP candidate 6.7%, and the average Other 3.6%.

Nadine Nakagawa surprised even herself by dominating the vote. The last time a rookie candidate led the polls for Council was in 1996 when a young Jerry Dobrovolny pulled off the feat. The vote count of all 6 elected Councillors (7,764 to 6,595) is quite a bit higher than last election (6,262 – 5,517), though the vote count for the 7th place finishers is not that different (5,297 in 2018, 5,165 in 2014).

For the fun of it, I made a bar chart mixing this year’s election results (blue) with last elections (in red) so you can get a sense of how the vote distribution changed:

There were more candidates in 2014, which makes for a longer tail on the distribution, but this display really makes the gap between Team Cote candidates and others stand out – getting about 20% more votes than their cohort in the previous election, where the NWP had very similar vote counts as their 2014 cohorts. This was a convincing win compared to last election.


On the School Board side, things are not as clear. The Team Cote candidate still swept the top spots, but the vote count was much closer:

There also isn’t a big gap between 7th place (and elected) and 8th place (less than 4%). The NWP candidates were not clustered, it is clear there was no “block vote” for or against the NWP. Danielle Connolly got 25% more vote than the NWP average, J.P.LeBerg got almost 30% fewer votes than that average.

The average ballot included 5 Trustee votes (72,335 compared to 14,368 for Mayor, see assumptions above) – curiously the same average as for Council even with one more opportunity to vote, and they broke down like this:

43% of the votes went to Team Cote candidates, 25% to NWP candidates, and 32% to others. Again, since there were different numbers of candidates in those three clumps, the better estimate may be that the average Team Cote candidate earned 8.7% of the vote (and all were pretty close), the average NWP candidate 6.2% (with a wide spread), and the average Other 4.5% (with two candidates standing well above the average).

The comparison between 2014 and 2018 is more interesting here than with Council. There were more votes in 2018 (about 14% more), but in contrast to Council, less of that vote went to the front-runners. With more candidates in 2018 the distribution is more spread out, but it will take a smarter political scientist than me to tell what this means!

Finally, in a campaign where there was much discussion of how diversity was defined, all of the new candidates elected were women – three on City Council and six (6!) to the School Board. This, and the cultural diversity of the candidates, may be historic for New Westminster. Though it is worth noting that between 1993 and 1996, there were three women on New Westminster Council, and Betty Toporowski was Mayor. Whether a person of colour has ever served on Council in New Westminster is the kind of question you would need to ask an historian.

Ask Pat: Elections?

Ed Sadowski asks—

When will we know if you will be running again in the upcoming municipal elections?

Yes, I am running for Council again. Sorry for the delay responding to you, but I did have to do a bit of serious thinking and also put a few things in place so that when I announce my intention to run again, people have a way to contact me and I don’t lose that initial campaign bump on that is (apparently) important.

If you want to read about my campaign, why I am running, what I want to do next term, and why I think you should vote for me, please go over to my campaign website (PJNewWest.ca). It is a little bare-bones right now, but I will be updating and improving it as the campaign goes on. One of my challenges with “launching” my re-election campaign is trying to figure out how I can keep this conversation – 8 years of blogging, hundreds of blog posts, its gotta be a million words by now – and keep it a little separate from the rhetoric necessary for campaigning. The election is in October, but I still have 4 months of work to do before then, so here is my strategy.

This website will pretty much stay the same, with blogs, updates on City stuff, random opinions on topics that interest me, and Ask Pats answered when I get a chance. My Campaign website will talk campaign, will have all of that campaign “why you should vote for me” stuff. My regular Facebook Page will be pretty much as it always was, and my Campaign Facebook Page will have campaign Facebook stuff like updates on where I am going to be, special campaign events, and probably a fair amount of campaign-related opinions. There is no way I am managing two Twitter accounts, or two Instagram accounts, so those are staying as is.

In the meantime, I’ll be out in the community as I have always been, ready to talk about the City and sharing ideas with the citizens of New West. It’s going to be a busy 4 months, but let’s take the time to talk.

10 things I learned.

As the campaign wraps up (I’m going to be way too busy to blog Friday, and a regulated communications blackout occurs Saturday), I thought I would wrap up by talking about the things I have learned this election. Some I knew already, but learned to view a different way, others were complete surprises. It was a great learning experience, and for the most part positive. I hope I did enough work to get it done, but the people will decide.

With no further ado, the Top 10 Things I learned this campaign.

1: You can’t do it all: I had dreams of what I would do this election. On-line interactivity (I could hardly keep up with the e-mail!), an “Ask Pat” booth (when did I have time?), weekly strategy sessions with my A-team (I ended up only having 3), pro-active issue management (ended up more reactive that I would have liked), practiced and smoothly delivered speeches (ugh). None of this took place.

The 4-month campaign time was a flurry of activity, early to rise to get to work, home from work, door-knock for a couple of hours, do some writing or planning, to bed very late, turn it on again tomorrow. I got to take some vacation time in the last two weeks, but there was still more than one night I went to bed a zombie. As a first-time candidate, the effort might not have been as directed as possible- there was a lot of learn-as-you go. I am happy with the way the campaign unfolded, but I will do it better next time, because I will have a better understanding of what is coming, allowing better planning.

2: People just want to be heard: Sometimes people just need to vent, and a politician arriving is a great opportunity for them. Especially when they have a gripe with the City (Pro tip: use caution when door knocking at a house with Stop Work Order taped to the door) they don’t care that you are not on Council now. Sometimes you don’t have the answer, but just as important, trying to make them happy by talking about solutions to their gripe may just irritate them. Instead you need to empathise with them. You need listen, and try to understand the core unfairness they are griping about. If you can demonstrate that you hear them, that is 90% of what they want.

3: People want answers: Notwithstanding the above, some people really want concrete answers. In the media or at the all-candidates events, you can sometimes talk around issues (“we have to do better at X”), but on the doorstep, people push you to provide tangible examples of what can be done, or clear explanations of why the simple answer isn’t so simple. People who know me know I love this stuff; hashing out ideas, sharing experiences, learning and teaching, listening and responding. These are the skills a Councillor needs, and the last 4 months on the doorstep have been great training.

4: Door-knocking is fun: This was very much my favourite time of the campaign. It is a bit of a hassle to set up with volunteers, weather, route planning, data collection, etc., and sometimes knocking on that first door is the last thing you want to do during a busy week or on a rainy night. But once you start knocking and talking to people, it is a lot of fun.

There are practical applications to door-knocking – you want to get sign locations; you also want to identify who your supporters are so you can get them our on E-day. Problem is I loved the conversation so much, those parts often suffered. I had a great 2-hour doorknocking session on Alberta Street in early November where I only hit 20 doors. For data collection, that is brutal (usually you can hit 60 to 80 in that time), but for my spirits it was my best day at the doors. At 20 doors I met 15 people who really wanted to talk about issues, and a half a dozen who were super engaged, and made me want to go for beers with them! My poor, bored volunteer was the only thing that made me move on to the next step!

5: Signs need a strategy: Yeah, I might have done this better. I have put a lot of signs out, but I have definitely not won the “sign war”. I spent my door-knocking time listening and learning in a variety of neighbourhoods, when I probably should have been what some other candidates clearly did: concentrate on the major streets hard-selling for sign locations. There are a few quiet streets where I had really good feedback, and the sign locations came to me, and I was appreciative of this support. However, as I saw the major streets filled with the signs of others, the three magic words of real estate (location, location, and location) came to mind.  I bought the right amount of signs, and I got them all out there, but I probably should have been more strategic with their location.

6: Teams are great: I was lucky enough to surround myself with incredibly talented and dedicated people this election, and many hands made for light work. They know who they are, and I have tried to express my appreciation as often and as sincerely as I could, but it won’t be enough. My campaign manager is genius, my graphics guy is a whiz, my financial agent is precise and dedicated, my data manager loves data, my dozens of door-knocking volunteers were cheerful and patient, the campaign office coordinators were hardworking, dedicated, and always on. They let me concentrate on connecting with people and developing ideas that I heard at the doorstep into policy concepts. They kept me connected and grounded. They kept their eye on the prize, and me pointed in the right direction. I hope I don’t let them down!

7: Stuff costs money: I have a really well financed campaign. It is actually a little surprising how much my budget was exceeded. All of the in-kinds and spending isn’t over, but I will spend about $20,000 this election (!), which is $5,000 more than I expected. Again, all of the totals are not in and these numbers are subject to change on the official declaration, but it looks like about $5000 of that will come from various CUPE locals and committees, $2000 will come from businesses in town, and the other $13,000 from individual donations from people across the City.

This means I was able to buy bigger ads in the local papers than I expected, I was able to buy a lot of lawn signs, I was able to do some web advertising, have a good web presence and set up a data collection back-end from my door-knocking to help get my vote out on E-day. I was also able to hire a great photographer and a great video editor, and other professionals to do things I would not have been able to do myself. As a first time candidate, it was unfortunately expensive and difficult to get my name out, I couldn’t rely on the type of name recognition that some long-standing candidates have. However, being recognized at the doorstep in November tells me it worked. In any election, those selling advertizing are the real winners.

8: The media control the message: I have been advised by a wise campaigner to never anger people who buy ink by the barrel. One must approaching criticism of the media with great caution. However, it is clear during this election one of the two local papers took an editorial position early and ran with it. In my opinion, they did so unfairly. They took an issue that no-one in my three months of door-knocking raised, and created a narrative where voters were warned about alleged “undermining of democracy”. For about week and a half, that discussion started to appear at the doorstep, unfortunately crowding out issues people were talking about before – traffic, the high school, spending, business development, the pace of growth and density. Fortunately, the allegations were easy to refute on the doorstep and on-line, people were quick to understand that some windmills were being tilted at, and discussion soon returned to issues impacting the future of the City. However, it was a powerful reminder that a local paper, even one who explicitly won’t endorse candidates, can shift the narrative with a single editorial decision.

9: People say untrue things: During a campaign people will stand up on a stage and say something to a crowd that is not true. Whether they are lending themselves a bit too much to hyperbole, or whether they are unable or refuse to accept reality, I cannot speak to their motivation. There are times during an event (and almost every hour on social media) one wants to hop up and say “Actually, that is not the truth”, or stronger language involving “bullcrap”. But you can’t, because it just looks terrible. It becomes a he-said she-said jumble that draws you down to their level. So you bite you lip, and stick to your own positive message, and you trust the voter to see through it all. Frankly it would be helpful if the media did the fact checking for you, but with 40 candidates spouting off for hours on end, that task would be monumental, and the burden of proof would fall on the media, not the generator of the terminological inexactitudes.

10: Keep it positive: Those last two points sounded like gripes, so the final lesson is that you cannot react to negativity. There were candidates this election who did nothing but point out the flaws of others, instead of giving people a good reason to vote for them. I think voters will see through that. When you dwell on the negative, you are not just telling people not to vote for a particular person, you are telling people not to vote, and that truly undermines democracy.Voting is a hopeful activity – it is something you do with a hope that it will make a positive difference, that the future will in some small way be better because you spent 2 minutes in a booth filling in circles.

So go vote, be positive about it, and know it will make a positive difference.

Labour Council

As I made clear in my previous post, my “machine” comprises volunteers, friends, donors, and a diverse group of supporters who have made this campaign fun. I really hope I have the stuff to make it successful. But what about the New Westminster and District Labour Council? If it isn’t a “slate”, it isn’t a “party”, it isn’t an all-powerful shadowy cabal bent on power, what is it? 

*I need to emphasise here, I am not speaking on behalf of the Labour Council, nor have I asked their permission to print this or asked them to review this. Everything below is what I have learned from my experience as a first time candidate that has been endorsed by the Labour Council. Other candidates may have different views and different experiences, and I can’t speak for them.*

When I started thinking about running for City Council in the spring, I reached out to several people for advice, including my immediate support group, a few prominent local business people, some volunteers on boards around town that I’ve worked with, and some of the current Council. I also went to City Hall and had a meeting with the Mayor.

I asked basic questions: what’s it like? Is my understanding of the job accurate? Am I electable? Through all of these conversations, I received nothing but encouragement, and more than a little advice.

Several people advised me to send a note to the Labour Council to let them know I was considering running, and so I did. A few weeks later they sent me an application for endorsement. It was a survey similar to the ones I have filled out with the NewsLeaderRecordVancouver SunDogwood InitiativeAlliance for the Arts, etc., and not unlike the questions I am being asked at the doorstep: Why are you running? What is your history in the City? Why should people vote for you? What do you think are the City’s biggest issues? I thoughtfully filled it out, and a few weeks later I received an invitation for an interview. 

At the interview, it was more of the same. I was asked questions about the Pattullo Bridge (something I was happy to talk about!), about solid waste management (another topic I was comfortable with), about examples of my community service (an easy one), and about what my plan was to get elected- did I have a support team? Did I have any idea how to fundraise? Did I have any name recognition in the City? It was a friendly and non-confrontational discussion, and my impression coming out of it was they were mostly interested to see if I knew my stuff, was able to present myself as a rational and reasonable individual.

A month or more later, I was informed that I should anticipate receiving NWDLC endorsement, and that I should contact the other endorsed candidates to determine if we wanted to work together. I noted at the time that there are people that are endorsed by the Labour Council that are not members of labour unions, and there are people running in the election that are in labour unions but were not endorsed. Clearly, “membership” was not a primary selection criteria.

The other candidates and I arranged a meeting sometime in September, and discussed if there was anything we wanted to share resources on. I had already been out on the trail for about two months, and had already done a lot of the prep work, so it was an interesting discussion.

Did we want to share design services? (No, I have my own skilled volunteer). Do we want to share pamphlet printing costs? (No, I already have that worked out). Do we want to share the cost of an office? (Sounds like a good idea). Do we want to pool sign printing costs? (Yes! Darn things are expensive!) Do we want to run a phone bank for Election Day? (yeah, I’ll share that cost), Do we want to hire a staff for the phone bank? (No, I have enough volunteers). Etc. etc. At no step was I pressured to buy into anything I didn’t want to buy, participation was voluntary at every step, and the discussion was between me and the other candidates, no puppet-masters pulling strings here.

Of course, the endorsement meant that labour unions were more likely to provide funds to my campaign. As a proud member of CUPE, I primarily had access to CUPE funding, and up to now, that is the only union that has cut me a cheque. Fundraising is not completely over, but I estimate somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of my funding will come from Labour, the rest from individual donations. Did that money help? Absolutely. Was it essential to my running a strong campaign? Probably not. Besides, non-endorsed candidates had received money from labour in previous elections.

The third leg of the “Labour Slate” bogeyman is that somehow my independence as a Councillor is sacrificed by that endorsement. I can unequivocally say no member of the Labour Council has ever told me what to say on this campaign, nor have they told me how I will be expected to vote at the Council table. If anyone thinks Chuck Puchmayr,  Bill Harper and I are going to agree on everything at the Council Table because of our shared endorsement, they don’t know any of us very well. We all have our own ideas, and our own passions about the City, and I look forward to debating with them. Further, I have a five year legacy of writing my opinions, my ideas, and my vision for this City, long before I sought or received endorsement, and I stand by that record.

As for the fear that “Labour dominated” councils are monolithic and all powerful, pushing taxes up while writing sweet union deals? The evidence just doesn’t reflect that. Here is a table that shows the total Municipal tax paid per resident in the 17 Municipalities in the Lower Mainland, according to those radical lefties at the Fraser Institute. The red bars represent Municipalities where a majority of City Council was endorsed by their District Labour Council last election. I’m sorry, the correlation just isn’t there:

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So instead of tilting at the windmill of “Labour Slates”, I encourage you to go to this page, and see what your neighbours in New Westminster are saying about my candidacy. I have always challenged people in this City to look past the rhetoric and the silliness, and look at the facts. I plan to bring that fact-based straight-forward approach to City Council. That is who I am, and that is why I have received endorsements from many people across New Westminster. I am proud that the Labour Council thinks I am a candidate worthy of endorsement, and I am proud of the other endorsements I have received from people I respect in the City’s volunteer, public service, and business communities.

The Machine

I’m surprised this is the story: that some portion of the 21 independent candidates running for council received endorsement from the New Westminster District Labour Council, like they have in every City in the Lower Mainland for decades. I’m surprised that for some reason this requires three stories and an Editorial in the same edition of a newspaper, all with rather sideways assertions of something untoward, from being unfair to undermining democracy, complete with a nefarious-sounding expression: “the Machine”. Everyone should, apparently, fear “the Machine”.

For a subject that is allegedly “front and centre in the community”, it has hardly been raised at the 1,500+ doors I have knocked on since August. Instead, people want to talk about the Pattullo Bridge and truck traffic; condo development, high rises, and attracting businesses to New Westminster; taxes, spending, and wages; community amenities like Canada Games Pool; and when we will see that high school. You know, actual issues facing our community.

However, as a candidate, it isn’t enough to say “that doesn’t matter”. It is my job to share my view of the issue with you. This is going to take two blog posts, because there is so much wrong in what is being inferred around the NWDLC endorsement. I am first going to talk about my campaign.

Disclosure: Is my campaign backed by a “Machine”? Absolutely! Let me describe this Machine to you:

I have an amazing Campaign Manager (not a member of a labour union, not a member of any political party), who understands how to get my name out, has a keen sense for the mood of the City, knows a lot of people in the City, and has earned (through decades of community service) the respect of the community. She has provided unbelievably good guidance, advice, and planning, and has been quick to call me out when I might be headed in the wrong direction. She is brilliant, dedicated, and effective – a serious “Machine”.

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I have a great Graphic Designer who has taken my pencil sketches and vague ideas and created a clean, crisp, effective look for my signs, ads, webpage and pamphlets. A stay-at-home-dad and freelancer, he is not a member of a labour union, is not a member of any political party, is volunteering at strange hours to meet various deadlines, and has an amazing eye for design. The guy is a total Machine.

 

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I have a sign coordination volunteer (a Machine with a portable drill!), an ad coordinator to keep up with sometimes-frustrating newspaper standards and guidelines (another organizational Machine), a data-management person who is helping with the management of my door knocking (a real database and census Machine). All of them volunteers, one of them is a member of a labour union (I think – I actually never thought to ask), and I have no idea if any of them are members of political parties. Same goes for the guy who took my photos and edited my video, and the great people who volunteered to take part in the video. Add to that the amazingly cool couple who made me neat little buttons as conversation starters, and people who have called me up and asked for signs on their yard. 

I have been door knocking since August, and every two-hour shift I have done includes a volunteer. I have had more than a dozen volunteers stand up and volunteer to go hit doorsteps with me, every single one of them a person I respect and want to have standing beside me at the doorstep, and every one of them has wanted to stand beside me on the doorstep and tell their neighbours that they support me. I set up a Doodle poll, sent out a call for volunteers, and I’m amazed how quickly people step up to fill the roles. Machines, all.

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I had a fundraiser, and had more than 100 people show up on a Sunday evening to show support to my campaign. That room was an amazing cross section of New Westminster: labour activists, environmentalists, business owners, professionals, retired people and students, and yes, there were a lot of NDP supporters, but there were also Liberals and a few true-blue Conservatives. More than a dozen small business owners in New Westminster donated door prizes to make the fundraiser more successful, and local businesses provided the food and drink. Everyone had fun, and we exceeded our fundraising goals. Thanks to a team of 10 volunteers, it ran like a finely-tuned Machine.

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Speaking of fundraising, I have had almost 100 different individual people donate to my campaign. Individuals from across the community: small business operators, union workers and non-union workers, managers, scientists, students, retired people, parents.

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None of them asked for a benefit for donating to my campaign, except that I do everything I can to win, and keep being the person I am. Some people gave $20, some gave a few hundreds, but the amount doesn’t matter as much as their expression of belief in what I stand for and that I can do a good job. These “cogs” allowed me to have a well-financed campaign, better than I thought I might have. This allowed me to buy signs with a little colour splash, to buy ads in the local papers, to make my pamphlets two-sided and colour: the things that make a campaign look professional. I couldn’t have done any of this without them.

None of them donated to me because I was part of a “Machine”. They donated to me because I have interacted with them over the last decade as a volunteer, a community activist, and a vocal advocate for sustainable development and our community. 

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In fact, every person I listed above has donated money or provided volunteer effort to my campaign for the same reason – they know me, and they believe in me. They have seen the work I have done over the last decade in New Westminster, from organizing Community Groups like the NWEP to delegating to Council on important issues and leading conversations about important topics on-line and in print. They started reading my Blog or following me on Twitter, and liked what they read. They saw me seek out and secure grants to help raise the new roof on the Curling Club, and they saw me show up on event day and help set up tables, then show up at the end to take tables down again. They saw me across the committee table at another meeting we were both suffering through because we knew we could make a difference in the City. They know I have been busting my ass for the last decade in this City, and they want to support me. Their support is incredibly humbling, and fills me with a desire to do right by them.

Now, I am not in this campaign to run other people down. I don’t have to, because I would rather run on my positive contributions, my work ethic, my commitment, and my ideas. But a few candidates in this election who have nothing positive to talk about as far as their vision for the City wish to reduce all of what I have said here to a meme about me being supported by a mysterious and shadowy “Machine”. Frankly, I find that insulting. Not just to me and my demonstrated dedication to this City, but to all of those people I’ve described who have volunteered and contributed to my campaign because they know who I am and what I stand for. Those people, they are my Machine.

As for receiving a Labour endorsement? I’m damn proud that the Labour Council also recognized the good work I have been doing in this City, and saw me as someone they could recommend to their members as a good candidate for Council. I will discuss that more in Part 2 of this blog post, in the next few days.

 

Media, Social and Coroplast

There have been a few stories in the extant media about how this fancy new “Social Media” works, and what it means in the election. Speaking as either the local expert in social media, or the third best so far depending on which paper you read, I thought I would talk about the media, aside from the message…

I love social media, because it has been good to me. I enjoy writing, and it gives me an outlet. I love conversations and debates, and one is always available on-line. I have also met many great people through social media connections. Pretty much my entire campaign team (aside from my long-suffering partner and Financial Agent) are people I met in some way through social media, from the cool couple who make my “P@J” buttons to my exceptional graphic designer and the best darn Campaign Manager money can’t buy.  

But if there is one thing I have learned on the doorstep (and there is more than one, but let’s avoid that tangent just for now) it’s that our hyper-connected social media worlds can give us a false sense of connection to our physical neighbours. Many people I meet on the doorstep have never heard of @NWimby, never mind the blog I have spent 5 years stuffing with words. To get those people connected, even in this on-line age, requires traditional media. You need to buy ads in the local newspapers (which is why we candidates sometimes beg for money), and you need to do the oldest form of advertizing ever: hanging out the shingle. 

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The shingle we hang out today is made of Coroplast (corrugated plastic), and we don’t just stick it in front of our own homes, but hope others will hang it in front of theirs, to get the name out into the wild. In a local election, when the TV and Radio exposure is nearly non-existent, this is still the most effective way to get your name out. Of course, I put my website URL on there, hoping to send folks to my website and other social media so they can find out who I am, but the Coroplast still rules. 

So if you “like” me on Facebook, if you “follow” me on Twitter, if you read and enjoyed a “NWimby.blogspot.ca” blog post, then please spread the word, not just through the social media, but by contacting me at info@patrickjohnstone.ca or calling me at 778-791-1002, so I can hang a shingle in your yard and spread the good news.

Thanks!   

Support

Last weekend, we held the big event of the Campaign, a “FUNdraiser” at the Royal City Curling Club. We had a few expert coaches come out and show people enough basics of the game that they could have a fun two- or three-end game, and judging by the laughter and smiles, everyone has a great time trying out the Roarin’ Game. We then had dinner, prepared by Michael and Lindsay at Re-Up BBQ, and Jorden from Steel & Oak Brewing tapped a special cask of Raspberry Roggen-Weizen. I made a speech, people pretty much laughed at all the right times, all went well!

You can see the many photos here.

I tried to thank everyone personally: the attendees, the volunteers who helped with the organization, the people who donated to help with the campaign, and the many local businesses who donated doorprizes. If I missed thanking you personally, we will surely catch up in huge coming weeks!

What was special for me looking around that room was seeing the broad support from across the community. There were leaders from the business community, the labour community, and the arts community. There were people voting in New Westminster for the first time, and 4th Generation New Westies. I was honoured to feel the support of that room, and was energized for the race ahead over the next 5 weeks.

The audience also got to see Version 1.1 of the Campaign Video – where people around the City talk about their reasons for supporting my Campaign:

Many thanks the Daniel Fortin for film and edit work, and to the many people who took a few minutes out of their busy lives to talk about what they want in a City Councillor.