A frank look at the election process
It is time to look back at a more joyful period in the history of Canada when all the political parties were pro-life and a candidate unwise enough to run on a pro-abortion platform would be just making a donation to the printer. This was the time when your humble columnist attempted to climb the political ladder of success to fame and an overly generous government pension.
I look back on my political career with a mixture of keen amusement and remorse. It all started when a friend of mine called me and urged me to run for the local separate school board. He was planning to run. Overcome with a surge of humility, I confessed to thinking that I wasn’t capable and I wasn’t smart enough. He said that he had met a lot of school trustees and I was not stupider than they were. Armed with this heady endorsement, I agreed to run.
I phoned my best friend, Bill Rae, buddy, crony and former fellow worker at Retail Credit (where we were both fired) of my plans and he asked: “Why are you running?” I replied that I needed the money. I was a freelance writer with an income that wouldn’t cover my bar bill. Luckily, my lovely wife Ileen had a great job and was filed with hopes for me and left me free to pursue my unsuccessful writing career. Her principal charity was me. I had convinced her that in a matter of days I would have at least two or three plays running on Broadway. (Alas she is a very trusting person and went along with my newest venture).
“What are you going to do for money for the election?” Bill asked.
“I’ll run it on my charge,” I replied.
“Why not?” Bill observed. “You run everything else on your charge.” Bill agreed to be my campaign manager.
So it was decided: everything that could be charged would be charged and hopefully, when I was elected, I would pay off the bills.
The trustee’s job paid $3600 a year. There was an open ward and I thought that maybe no other candidate would run and I would get in by acclamation. This is the secret dream of all candidates seeking political office. It meant that I wouldn’t have to spend a nickel or do any work.
No such luck. I had a competitor for the seat. I had gone to school with him and I knew him and his family quite well, especially his older brother who was my age. We’ll call him “Jack.” His family was highly regarded. He lived in the ward. I didn’t. Jack was married with three children. I had none. He was active in educational circles and I had never even been to a school board meeting. He was intelligent, personable, well-liked and active in a number of organizations in the ward. I think even my mother would have voted for him. Too bad for him it wasn’t a job he was applying for – he’d get it hands down. His only drawback was that Jack had a job – a real job – and couldn’t campaign full time. I could and I did.
The ward was made up of three public school wards and the voters were scattered thinly all over so you couldn’t drop literature in every house. You had to mail or drop literature into houses that were listed as separate school supporters. I used my wedding picture for the literature and even if it was a bit outdated, at least I looked good with my wedding suit on. Bill and I worked on the literature and we had considerable arguments over the content. I would complain: “What about my image.” And Bill would say: “You haven’t got an image.” I said we needed a slogan. “What about ‘He never let his incompetence interfere with his ambition’” Bill laughed. He liked it and even wanted to use it.
We mustered a hard working team of friends, relatives and people who couldn’t put up with me crying. I knocked on a lot of doors and we stuck up a lot of signs and just to prove how dumb democracy is – I won. In the next election three years later I ran again. I had three years experience, two kids and was quite well known in the area. I spent more money on this campaign – and I lost! There must be some kind of divine chastisement for guys who win when they shouldn’t.
During this period I also ran provincially for the Liberals in an area that was solidly and historically Liberal. I became famous for taking the Liberal Party from second to third place. I was known in Liberal circles as: “Mr. Third Place.” I ran again to try to get my old school board seat back and lost. Now when somebody calls me and asks me if I’m running again, I say: “No. I’ve done my bit for Canada.”