Last week I got a very pleasant surprise. The most electable Green I know in Toronto, Chris Tindal, threw his hat in the ring for the race to replace Kyle Rae as city Councillor for Ward 27. Kyle Rae has been a very popular Councillor, but last year he announced that he would not seek re-election.
Lesson number one in Municipal politics is that incumbents get re-elected. There’s really not much more to be said about it. Gnash your teeth all you want, but name recognition, and the concerted efforts of those who stand to see their development plans proceed under the incumbent will trump any and all efforts to unseat said incumbent. This is why this race in Ward 27 will be very hard fought, and will have a whole lot more than the usual crop of self promoters, and people ‘positioning’ themselves. There will be a handful of Candidates who are playing for keeps, and I would have to say that Chris is in a great position to go against the moneyed interests… and win.
The opposition is already shaping up, and at this early date there are already 6 Candidates registered. At this moment, Susan Gapka looks to be the NDP candidate, while Smitherman, the Liberal MPP for Toronto Centre, and Mayoral Candidate has brought along one of his former aides, Ken Chan to run in this Ward for the vacant council slot. It should be obvious to all that Chan will have the backing of those parts of the Toronto Centre Liberal machine loyal to Smitherman, and Chan will almost certainly pin his bid hopes on the coat-tail effect. Take note Chris, this is a wedge that will seperate Chan from parts of his natural constituency. Make him wear his affiliation when it is something he wants to sweep under the carpet. Test his supporters, and split away those who cannot stomach a Liberal. Then there’s Enza Anderson, the relentlessly self promoting candidate who reached a degree of national fame as the would-be Trans-gendered candidate for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party. Don’t dismiss her! She got a quite respectable 15% of the vote against Kyle Rae last time she ran, in 2003 I think? I don’t see Enza winning, but she will play a significant role, and her presence should be accomodated, and planned for.
Lesson number two in municipal politics is that City of Toronto councillors are amongst the most powerful politicians in the country. That’s right, I said the MOST powerful. City councillors make and influence decisions that affect billions of dollars in development, and infrastructure spending. Through their committee positions, they have a direct impact on policy formulation that guides these billions of dollars towards favoured recipients. The local councilor eats, drinks, and breathes local issues. They make or break local businesses, and have enormous political influence at the grass roots level. These are the facts of life, and as you can imagine, when the electorate is asleep, and billions of dollars are at stake, the Liberal Party will be not far behind. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I think that Chan will have some pretty telling resources placed at his disposal by the local Liberal organisations. At a minimum, he’ll have access to very detailed electoral databases of voting intentions, and will be able to very scientifically target his efforts. If Chris Tindal is to win this race, he will need a lot of assistance, which is part of the reason I am writing this blog.
Lesson number three in Municipal politics is that personal direct voter contact is the most effective tool in your’ arsenal. Getting media exposure is nice, and a sea of signs will help out with name recognition too, but NOTHING can replace the Candidates canvas. It happens ‘under the radar’, and it is going to be too late for the Liberals to counter if Chris has locked up a few thousand voters before the Liberal cliques machine kicks into gear for the final 8 weeks. There will be approximately 45,000 electors in Ward 27, and ultimately the candidate who canvasses the most will be the one in the winners circle. If Chris is serious, (and I’m pretty sure he is), then he will be out every single day between now and E-Day meeting another 250 voters. It’s a grind, but it is the magic formula for winning an open seat like this. A retail pitch, one on one, repeated hundreds of times per day. I know that Chris presents himself very well, and will win if he manages to Canvass the Ward three times over. Chris also has a big advantage over the other Candidates. He is very recognisable as the Green Pary candidate from the last two Federal elections, plus one by-election. Provided the Toronto Centre EDA’s, and CA actually canvass their own identified voters with a strong endoresement for Chris, there ought to be about 1,000-1,500 Green voters in the bag for Chris.
Which brings me to the main point of this blog. Please help Chris Tindal to be elected in October. Chris Tindal is the real deal. He lives and works green and Green. He is seeking an extremely important and influential elected office. He has a real chance to win, but he will not succeed without a lot of help and money. I am confident that Chris will campaign on several issues that are dear to the hearts of Greens, and that Toronto Centre will have a great opportunity to start bulking out their supporter database with some issues related voter information. Chris could, and should ‘tag team’ with the Toronto Centre CA/EDA by sharing a communications plan to get local issues on the local agenda, and then capturing the same voters for the Green Party’s at the Federal and Provincial level. It’s a total win-win strategy, and will definitely serve both Chris and the EDA well. I know that there are many thousands of identified GPC supporters in Toronto Centre, and the EDA should really welcome the chance to contact them all, and find out what they think about local issues. The worst case scenario is that they acquire tons of detailed information about their supporters. The best case scenario is that Chris Tindal gets elected, and all of a sudden, there are local political staffers, office space, electoral data, and a sympathetic colleague in City Hall, pulling for the Greens at every opportunity. That’s how the NDP took over parts of Toronto, it’s why the Liberals will fight hard for their candidate,and will probably rally around their chosen one, and it’s why the Greens need to be electing people to these vitally important offices across the land.
So reach into your’ pockets, and take out your’ chequebook. Chris will need about $50,000 for a fully funded campaign, and the developers will be lining up with cheques from themselves, their families, their pet dog etc. to fund the other guys, while Chris will have to rely on those few people who donate for the right reasons. Plan to make a week or two available to Canvas in downtown Toronto this summer. If you’re coming for the GPC Convention, come for an extra few days, and just blast the crap out of Toronto Centre, and Ward 27. Volunteer as a policy researcher, or media relations, or whatever skills you have, that Chris could use. If you blog, then blog about Chris, and help build his name recognition. This is a big deal, and every little bit you can do will count.