Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Election time Employment

(or, How I Almost Ran for The Greens But Decided to Pass My Classes Instead)

One fine evening in July, after a few beers, Will finally convinced me that the fact that the Green Party did not appear to have a candidate for Durham meant that I had to present my candidature. I crafted a very eloquent e-mail to the guy from the riding association, outlining my qualifications (young smart left-winger, strong connections to the community, nominally bilingual). A few weeks later, he e-mailed me back, full of enthusiasm and talking about an upcoming nomination meeting. By this point it had become painfully clear that a writ was going to drop right smack-dab in the middle of the academic year. Sheepishly, I conceded that running in a riding six hours away from school might have a large negative impact on my GPA. Maybe next election.

The under-25 crowd has been seeing more than its fair share of nominations this election. The Liberals, for example, are running Gabriel Arsenault, a 20-year-old second-year U de M student, in Chambly-Borduas. Meanwhile the NDP is running a handful of under-20s, not unlike the Canadian Action party, and the Green Party will run just about anyone who's had their 18th birthday before the writ drops. The Tories' youngest candidate is 24, but they have plenty of old candidates and don't need fresh faces quite as badly. Shawn Reimer, 18, is running as an independant in Fort McMurray-Athabasca. How is it that so many fascinating political newbies can crop up amongst the demographic with the lowest voter turnout rate? Maybe they can at least rouse their friends to the polls, highschool-prez style.

Running in your local riding, or a riding nowhere near your local riding, is not however the only avenue of active participation in the electoral period. Many people choose to campaign for their local candidate of choice -- a particularly popular choice with students, as "payment" tends to come in the form of pizza most frequently. Perks include all the buttons and pamphlets you want. Campaigning can take the form of putting up signs or cold-calling unsuspecting electors, or it can also take the form of going door-to-door passing out lit and asking people if they have a personal relationship with Jesus how they plan to vote. Especially during October elections, it is not unlike Halloween, but instead of giving you candy, people launch into tirades about why they are or are not voting for the candidate you represent, or just kind of look at you awkwardly.

Finally, there is non-partisan work available through Elections Canada, in the form of working as a poll official. (If you are dying to work on E-day but still cling to partisanship, you can always be a scrutineer and just spend all day annoying poll officials.) As a poll official, you will get the sweet sense of satisfaction which comes from having upheld democracy in its purest form, without endowing it with political ideals. You will also get cranky voters who refuse to show you ID, don't speak English (or French), and are confused as to where they are and what they are supposed to be doing. But you will get good money for it -- assuming your definition of "good" is "better than $10/hour". But since you are working as a poll official, you probably do not have a regular full-time job anyway. You are probably either a poor student, or a bored retiree or housewife. Unfortunately, they specify that you cannot bring booze to work as a poll official during the training period (one can only imagine what kind of problems necessitated this specification), but the job itself is pretty interesting as it is, except for the slow period between noon and 7 pm.

I would elaborate, but it's past midnight and I must be getting to bed -- I have a poll to officiate tomorrow morning!

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