Opinion: Running for political office is a hard road that deserves our respect

Years ago I asked a high school friend if he had voted in the recent election. “No, I was going to but it was raining so I stayed home and ordered pizza.” That summed up my friend’s passion for exercising his democratic right. Pizza on the couch over a polling station.


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It reminded me that not everyone gets excited about a good political campaign like I do. Most people don’t take the time to vote or, like me, wait with baited breath to find out who the winners are. Come election night you will find me glued to the television, with or without pizza.


With such an interest in politics my father would often suggest, “Why don’t you run for office.”


I always winced and shrieked the same answer, “Are you kidding me, who would want that job.”


Imagine, for just a minute, the effort it takes to run for a political seat. Your family has to be on board because they won’t be seeing you for a while. There’s the financial output because no matter how much money you raise, a campaign is going to cost you. You have to recruit and organize volunteers, go door knocking, make phone calls, participate in debates and have a rock solid platform on dogs pooping on private property.


When I was a radio reporter one of my beats was covering Vancouver council. It was the heyday of Vancouver municipal politics when Mike Harcourt and Gordon Campbell were mayor. With colourful councillors like Harry Rankin, Libby Davies and George Puil, there was never a dull moment. 


At that time reporters worked closely alongside mayor and council so I attended way too many meetings. As a result I can attest they are overworked and underpaid. It’s shocking how much reading material there is, long daytime and evening meetings, emails to answer and ribbons to cut. Social media has only compounded the pressure for politicians to engage 24/7.


We should be impressed there are 43 qualified people who have stepped up to the plate to run for office this time around in Delta. That’s a commitment that demands a lot of community engagement, so the least we can do is give them our respect by showing up to vote. 


Municipal elections are unique because the issues are so personal. Municipal bylaws have the ability to dictate the minutia of our lives. Mayor, councillors and trustees have the power to organize our schools, close or open businesses, raise taxes, decide how we build our homes or choose where our pets can run. This is important stuff. 


Only 31 per cent of eligible Delta voters cast a ballot in the last election. That is a dismal turnout. I encourage everyone to review the candidates and vote as it’s a very important time for our community and we need your participation.


I hope I’ll see you at the polling station on Oct. 20. I’ll be the one rushing home to watch the results with my good friend chardonnay. 


Ingrid Abbott is a freelance writer and broadcaster who won’t divulge who she will vote for because journalists have to keep their personal bias under wraps.

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