Monthly Archives: March 2012
Co-authored by Josh Kaine, President, OWN Young Liberals and Sheila Gervais
Last fall, when OWNFLA held its “rebuilding” sessions, we repeatedly heard how important it is for the Party’s future to improve its relationship with it members and the community by engaging them more directly. This January, at the LPC’s biennial convention, we discussed how to build the Party into a modern, networked organization that is consultative and collaborative in its approach to public policy development and representation.
And so, when the association decided to hold a community consultation on a very timely issue- especially with our riding’s large aging population – the future of our pensions and Old Age Security (OAS) – we looked at various ways we could encourage members of the general public to come and participate with us, and to let them know that we are concerned not just when an election looms but that we are always interested in what they have to say. We decided to organize a canvass in the neighbourhood closest to our meeting location (the Ron Kolbus Centre)– the Britannia Bay area – to take our project “to the people”.
On the Saturday before the consultation, we assembled a small group of committed canvassers –both experienced and not-so experienced, but all committed Liberals keen on engaging our fellow community members. We also hoped to capture some important information about our constituents in both a broad and a targeted way. Over a period of two hours, armed with flyers about the meeting and the issue (and not so much about the Party), we were able to cover 3 polls, deliver information to about 500 households and speak with close to 100 people. The positive, if somewhat intrigued reaction we received at the doors less than a year after the election of a majority government was encouraging. It was very rewarding to realize later at the consultation that our canvass had encouraged several members of the public to join us and also that we had raised awareness of our association in the process.
People choose to participate in the political process for many reasons, but for many of us there is nothing more enjoyable or more central to the experience of being involved in a political party than canvassing. One of the reasons why it’s so gratifying is that it’s such a social experience. When you go out in a team to canvass, you get to talk to people about why they’ve decided to volunteer their time for the Liberal Party. Whether you’re speaking with strangers or with people whom you already know, you’ll get the chance to discuss and learn something new. In the process, you’ll also get a bit of exercise and you’ll be able to do something fun! That’s ultimately one of the great things about going on a canvass; it’s always a bit of an adventure.
Probably one of the most important reasons to go on a canvass is that you get to speak with residents of local communities. When we went door to door to advertise our OAS event we gave people the chance to talk to us about the ways that they would be affected by changes to the OAS and pensions. We spoke to a number of people who told us that they were pleased to hear from the Liberal Party about the issues including one woman who invited her neighbour out to chat with us as well. She wanted to make sure that her neighbour also heard about our event. Individual experiences like that show that when we reach out to the residents of the community, they appreciate that we want to listen to them.
This illustrates the importance to the Liberal Party of riding associations getting out into their communities talking with people about their individual views and not simply staying in the backrooms devising “policy” and working on electoral technique. The Party benefits from this sort of political activity in a number of ways, first of all because canvassing helps to get information about voters that the Party can use in the next election: information about issues, attitudes and intentions. Canvassing also provides the chance to talk to people on a one-on-one basis about the Liberal Party. Every conversation between a canvasser and a voter is a reminder of what it is that Liberals stand for. That’s another reason why canvassing is so enjoyable: you get to help fight for the policies that you believe in!
Last June Bob Rae said that we have entered an era of the permanent campaign; the campaign for the 2015 election begins now. He was encouraging Liberals to go out and connect with voters in their communities. John Baird or his staff have the chance to talk to constituents every day and that’s why our riding association is working to connect with voters and to encourage local Liberals to go out into the community and consult. The fact that the Ottawa West-Nepean Federal Liberal Association is out canvassing shows how our riding association is working to rebuild the Liberal Party at a grassroots level. That’s why canvassing is so important and that’s why, when you’re with a group of other Liberals, it can be so much fun.
Over the coming months, we hope to be at the doors in our riding regularly and often, discussing issues of general and particular concern, learning from each other and working together to better our community. We hope to create a stronger Liberal Party in our community and a stronger Liberal Party for the country. With such a positive experience from our first effort, we hope many more of you will join us!
The Ottawa West Nepean Federal Liberal Association’s newsletter is going to be released at some point in the next month. I write a blurb for the youth section every time that it is released and I thought I’d include it here.
The Ottawa West Nepean Young Liberals are more active than ever before! In the last couple months we have been out canvassing and we have been at a bunch of great federal events. We’re thinking about hosting a rebuilding session for Young Liberals and a couple of us are meeting to discuss that on March 18th at 1:00pm at the Royal Oak in Centrepointe. We’re looking forward to being very active in the months to come!
We do need your help with something. We’re looking for new members and we want you to tell any and all youth that you might know to come out to our next full meeting on April 2nd at 7:30pm at the Royal Oak in Centrepointe. Our club provides young Liberals with a chance to talk with other youth about the things that matter to them. Tell your friends between the ages of 14 and 25 about us; they’ll be pleased that you did!
This is, in fact, all very true. We are having a meeting on April 2nd and we would love to see you there!