Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 3, 2008
Running for election opens doors, hearts, sobering realizations
It wasn't easy being Green given other parties' resources
By Glen Argan
In the fall of 2006, I finished publishing a series of 51 articles in the WCR on Catholic social teaching. It was a labour of love for me, driven by my belief that the Church has important principles to offer society.
These principles, in large part, are not uniquely Catholic, but are ones that should be seen as desirable by anyone seeking to build a better society.
Those principles include solidarity, subsidiarity (decentralization), the great dignity of the human person, the centrality of the family in society, the importance of participation in society and the political process, and protection of the environment, among others.
That series of articles for the WCR also reflected my own disillusionment with the direction Western society is moving. There was a lot in the Vatican's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church to bolster that disillusionment.
A political match
After completing those articles, I talked with a friend who thought I might be interested in getting involved with the Green Party. I checked out the website of the Alberta Greens and was astonished. The principles I had been articulating in my articles for the WCR were reflected to a high degree in the 10 "Green values" that the global Green movement is committed to pursuing - principles such as ecological wisdom, non-violence, sustainability, and personal and global responsibility.
It didn't take me long to decide that I should stand up for those values by running as a candidate for the Alberta Greens in the next provincial election. There are Catholics in politics, but to my mind few were articulating principles that reflected the Church's social teaching.
Editor to candidate
So, after due consultation, I was nominated a year ago as the candidate for the Greens in Edmonton Mill Creek. I began door knocking, fundraising and assembling a team. I arranged a leave of absence from my role as editor and general manager of the WCR for the period of the campaign - both to protect the newspaper's integrity and to allow me to campaign full time.
When the election was called Feb. 4, we were ready. Or, at least, I thought we were. We had raised roughly $8,000 - a small amount by today's standards, but enough for literature, lawn signs and a few extras. We had about 30 eager volunteers, led by my totally dedicated campaign manager Caterina Brophy and her husband Kelly, and off we went into the depths of -30C weather.
It was immediately apparent that the Conservatives, Liberals and, to a lesser extent, the NDP were much better staffed and funded than we were . . . and that this was going to make a difference.
Nevertheless, after a discouraging and very cold first week, we picked up steam. By the end of it, we had momentum. The day before the election, at the houses I visited deep in Tory territory, about a quarter of the people said they would vote for me.
I was optimistic that we would do well. Perhaps we did. The 728 votes I received were more than any other Green candidate in Edmonton. But the total fell far short of what I thought we might achieve.
Through the four weeks, I lost eight pounds, had several doors closed in my face, was sworn at, bitten by a dog, nipped at by two others, and reached out to shake the hand of a woman who had a snake wrapped around her right arm.
But mostly people at the door were respectful and attentive. I was humbled by the work that volunteers put in on my behalf, the financial donations from dozens of people and the good wishes I received from many others.
I participated in two forums - one on immigrant issues and another on housing - and received good coverage from The Edmonton Journal and CBC Radio. We produced three YouTube videos, ran an active website and had an ad on the side of a city bus. Many people make personal sacrifices to contribute to help create a better society. That was the most encouraging part.
And while the overall election results were not to my liking, the most discouraging thing was the low voter turnout. It doesn't take a lot of effort to read through some pamphlets and drag oneself through the snow to cast a ballot. When the majority of society is unwilling to do that, democracy itself is in trouble.
The Progressive Conservatives won a landslide victory with the support of only 22 per cent of eligible voters. While I congratulate Premier Stelmach and wish him well, I have to say that's not much of a mandate.
Sat on their hands
Too many people sat on their hands.
As for me, I remain committed to the principles of Catholic social teaching and to the political process. Many years ago, Archbishop Joseph MacNeil told me that probably only about 10 per cent of the Catholic community paid much attention to the Church's social teaching. (Forgive me, Your Grace, if I have not remembered you accurately.)
I got five per cent of the vote in Mill Creek. Presumably, the remainder of MacNeil's 10 per cent voted for someone else. As long as those folks are working for social change too, that's fine with me. But maybe next time, we can convince them to switch sides.
Letter to the Editor - 03/24/08
Letter to the Editor - 03/24/08
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