As part of MLPD’s ongoing project with Elections Canada, MLPD recently held a  virtual town hall where three politicians or candidates spoke about their experiences campaigning. 

We had the pleasure of speaking with:
Cindy Gilroy – City Councillor for Daniel Mclntyre;
Jennifer Howard – Chief of Staff to Jagmeet Singh;
and Whitney Hodgins, an honorary MLPD Council member and candidate from Brandon, Manitoba.

If you missed the Town Hall, please have a look at the captioned video below:

We asked Whitney to share their advice for future candidates. Here is what they had to say:

Have you thought about running in a federal election, but you’re not sure how to get there? Not to fear! I will be walking you through not just how to become a candidate for federal politics, but also will pull from my personal experience being a former federal candidate myself living with a disability.

Before you get started, the first question you need to ask yourself is, what is driving you to run for federal politics? You need to know what your personal motivations are before you run. Everyone has their own reasons for running, whether that be to fight for environmental justice or to advocate for the disability community. Whatever your reason is, it needs to be clear to you, and you also need to be able to translate that to everyone who interacts with you during the campaign.

The second question you need to answer for yourself is, are you planning to run as an independent or as a candidate of a political party? If you plan to run as an independent, you will financially fund your own campaign or fundraise donations from community members. You will also need to fill out the nomination package from Elections Canada and return it to the Returning Officer by the designated deadline.

I decided to run for my federal riding of Brandon-Souris under a political party where I was already a member, the New Democratic Party. Before I could seek the nomination from the party, I needed to put together a candidate’s package which I accessed by contacting my local riding association president. If you do not know who your local riding association president is, you can reach out to the federal party of your choice, and they can assist you. Afterall the objectives of any party are to have more people interested in participating and who are engaged to help shape a better Canada for all.  That is a non-partisan objective we all have in common.

Be warned, vetting to become a candidate for a political party is a much lengthier process than what most would think. Many prospective candidates plan months in advance before the writ is dropped. A writ is the mechanism by which government bodies like Canada use to call for the next general election. That’s when a campaign can officially begin. Some candidates are successfully vetted by the party of their choice and move onto the nomination phase, while others are not successful. During the nomination phase, the membership will vote on your candidacy if you are competing with multiple prospective candidates. If you are like me with no competition, you will be acclaimed, if your party constitution allows for it.

Let’s say hypothetically you pick your political party; you complete the vetting packages and now you have been nominated. The next phase is that you are then an official candidate under the banner of your party. How exciting! In my case, I was considered a candidate 24 hours before the writ was dropped. I received an email from a NDP federal representative congratulating me on successfully being acclaimed as the candidate, and that we were creating a formal announcement later. The next day my phone started ringing off the hook from media outlets and newspapers. That very morning, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, had announced the writ was officially dropped. He also said that election day would take place on September 20th, 2021, which was 36 days later.

Once you have reached this stage, the work is just beginning! You can then as a candidate start collecting signatures to get your name on the ballot once the writ drops, and before the designated cut off date. Elections Canada requires all federal candidates seeking to have their name on the ballot to have 100 signatures from residents in their local riding unless you fall within a riding that is considered exempt. In my case, I needed the standard 100 signatures. You may think that number is incredibly overwhelming, but my advice is start by turning to family and friends for support. You may also find yourself like me, dropping off lawn signs, doing media interviews, attending community events, and fundraising for election materials all at the same time!

If you are running under a party banner, you will have people behind the scenes there to help you. You will be tested and pushed to your limits as the clock counts down to “E-Day”. That means its also important to know your personal limits and what you’re realistically able to do.  Do not feel afraid to ask for help during this period of time. One piece of advice I wish to share is that your campaign is your campaign. You may have to follow a party platform and message but how you wish to get that message out to the broader community is quite flexible. Have fun on the campaign trail, because not many people get the privilege to run in a federal election and to be the voice of that community.

Which brings me to the final stage of being a candidate in a federal election; if you lose the election, lose with grace. It’s important to congratulate the winner of the election and to thank the many people who supported you over the course of the campaign. You may feel a mixture of feelings or if you’re like me, you may feel too exhausted to feel anything in the moment and you might not feel anything until you go back to pre-election routines. If you win, win with humility. Congratulate and thank your opponent(s) for putting their name forward because it takes courage to put yourself out there and its important for democracy that there are options for people to choose from. When the dust settles, and all the media cameras and reporters have left for the night its also important you go out there and assist in the clean up efforts of all your campaign materials that were put out. Oh, and one more thing, keep one of those lawn signs for yourself. After all, you’ve earned it.