Campaigning during the epidemic: a new challenge for candidates


Running a campaign can be a tough, non-stop, month-long journey that often involves shaking hands, policy making, fundraising, debating and trying to woo voters.

But it can be especially difficult during an epidemic.

We asked four candidates competing in the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th wards to share their experiences of running the campaign in the fourth class of the Kovid-19 epidemic. There he was a former municipal councilor, former chief of staff, former military doctor and current doctor.

It is a challenge for all of them to connect with voters, some of whom keep candidates away from their doorsteps, while others hesitate to get too close, realizing that many of these politicians may have come in contact with a lot of people.

This has changed their campaigns. One candidate has completely avoided knocking on doors. Everyone is finding new ways to connect with voters.

Marilyn is proud of her First Nations ancestry as a member of the North Pagan Blackfoot Federation.

“She’s the first Blackfoot woman to run,” she said before knocking on another round in the northeastern community of Tuxedo Park.

North Pagan is running in Ward 7 — a broad race to replace long-time council member Druh Farrell, who is not seeking re-election.

North Peagan says her team is following all Kovid-19 restrictions, including masking and knocking when knocking on doors.

“We go through a briefing before we knock on the door … how you approach people, you smash and you walk away. You move back,” he said.

North Peagan says some of her supporters who were helping the campaign were turned away after testing positive for COVID-19. She says one of her key aides is experiencing chronic symptoms from a disease known as “long covid”.

As a former military doctor, health and safety is a top priority, says North Peagan, and he honors voters who don’t want to get in the doorstep.

But some do, and admit that they were astonished when they wanted to talk about reconciliation with the people of the First Nations.

“It was an inspiring aspect and I couldn’t wait for it.”

The paramedic pulls the plug on the doorbell

Nate Pike is running for city council for the first time, but he’s not a political neophyte. He hosts a political podcast called Partition, And he once ran for a seat in the legislature for the Alberta party.

He was a paramedic and made the decision to stop knocking on doors in Ward 3, a move he acknowledged could harm his chances.

“Do I kneel a bit without knocking on the door? Of course.”

“But I’ve heard from many people that this is not the right time.”

From the back room to the front and center

Stan Sandhu is an experienced political activist, former head of the Council. George Chahal, recently elected Liberal MP for Calgary-Skyview.

Sandhu hopes to occupy the old seat of Chahal. Ward 5 includes several northeastern communities, including Taradale, Cityscape, Castleridge and Falconridge.

He has worked full-time for the former councilor for the past four years and believes the city track gives him an inside track with his contacts.

Sandhu says his team continues to knock on the door through the fourth wave of infectious disease and they have encountered very few people who do not want to get involved.

“We are very careful and respectful of people,” he said.

“Most people appreciate that we’re still going to the door, and we’re still coming, but we’re maintaining our distance. We’re taking a step or two back, and if someone is more careful, we’ll respect that and we’ll move on.”

At the time of the epidemic, political debates and forums had moved into the realm.

This is not the preferred option for the Sandhu, but it is the safest one.

“Of late, you know, cases are on the rise, and it’s becoming a virtual platform.”

“I like virtual in terms of safety. But, of course, it’s always nice to connect with people, face to face. But for me, it always respects people’s preferences.

The former councilor runs again … in an epidemic

This is the third municipal election campaign for Richard Pootmans. He served as a councilor in Ward 6 from 2010 to 2017 and is now trying to get back to his old job – but in different circumstances. He says the mood has changed as the 18-month-long epidemic has affected people physically, emotionally or financially.

He says many people experience “stresses and tensions.”

And because of the restrictions, it becomes more difficult to connect with them.

“It reduces the chance, of course, of being able to have open discussions,” he told Coach Hill’s community.

“That doorway conversation is definitely a little smaller than they used to be. And it’s very bad because the main reason for doing this is to listen to people.”

He now describes the conversations as “small explosions.”

“They don’t get a chance to talk about it as much as they want to. In part they are afraid of us. They see us wandering from house to house, and it’s not the best thing to do.”

He says his team is fully vaccinated, everyone wearing masks and practicing physical distance.

The door-to-door tradition is for anyone trying to win votes, and some candidates are hesitant to leave it.

For Pike, this was the right decision.

“There is no doubt that knocking on doors is the most powerful tool in the political toolbox.”

“But the thing that really impresses me is that I hear from other health-care workers, other paramedics, doctors and nurses, who really appreciate the option.

“So when it definitely comes with trouble, I’m confident I’m doing the right thing.”


Brian Labby is an Enterprise Reporter with Calgary. If you have a good story idea or suggestion, you can reach him at bryan.labby @ .ca or on Twitter @Bryan.

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