A troubling aspect of our electoral system is that elections are becoming very complex, big money affairs. Are we heading toward an American-style system? Shudder!!
As campaign manager for Irene Mathyssen, I experience first-hand how complex election campaigns are. A campaign requires quickly setting up a high-level organization with a budget of up to $80,000 or so. There will be about 6-10 full-time staff and many more part-time volunteers. Very demanding and precise Elections Canada or Elections Ontario rules MUST be followed. The Chief Financial Officer must have professional level skills. There are many tasks that must be done at a high level of efficiency and competence: various forms of writing and design work; media and advertising tasks; organizing contact to over 40,000 households and close to 100,000 voters; internet and telephone logistics; people-managing challenges and requirements. Effective relations with a variety of organizations is mandatory: providers of election materials and services; Elections Canada/Ontario; the NDP central campaign; neighbouring campaigns; traditional and electronic media providers – and many more.
Who will do this? Given fundraising challenges, for the NDP volunteers are essential, though there may be a few (under)paid staff in an election campaign. Unions can no longer provide personnel. Retired folk? The unemployed? Students? The other parties are on much firmer ground because they, especially the Conservatives, have much more money, and can afford to hire staff and contract out specific campaign tasks.
The big risk is that the challenges listed above can force election campaigns to be professionally run, by those who can afford the tab. It may become almost impossible for a group of “citizen volunteers” to run an effective campaign, and that would seriously challenge our democratic ideals. Do we want a world where only “big money” can elect our MPs and MPPs?
This is why our NDP members and active volunteers are so crucially important. Without them we couldn’t function, and it would be increasingly difficult to elect outstanding MPs like Irene Mathyssen. So thank-you for your support of our Riding Association executive and of our election campaigns. Your time, however little, and donations, however small, are absolutely critical.