Written in the lead-up to the May 2 Federal election
Anita Vandenbeld laced up her sneakers before leaving the campaign office this morning. The first-time Liberal candidate is quite literally running for election in the Ottawa-West Nepean riding.
Along with a contingent of volunteers campaigning door-to-door, she’s out introducing herself to voters. If a door opens she’s rushing because she wants to meet her potential constituents.
Especially if there is a Conservative sign on the front lawn, those houses she reserves for herself. She is up against the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, John Baird, who has won the past five elections in the riding, three at the provincial level and the last two at the federal level.
“There is nothing better than putting yourself in front of the voter, giving them the respect of showing up instead of calling, going where the voters are and bringing the election to them,” Vandenbeld said.
She says she likes people and their stories, and just today she met a former candidate for the Marijuana Party, seniors, students and lots and lots of dogs. And the local colour certainly came across more red than blue, she insisted.
“People are getting tired of Baird barking in the House and want someone who’s more present in the community, our campaign is about listening,” she said.
Her BlackBerry alarm goes off at 7 a.m. and she is answering emails before she is even out of bed. She plans to knock on doors three times a day, unless something else comes up. Yesterday she had lunch during the monthly buffet at the long-term care facility Villa Marconi.
Every Saturday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. she can be found for coffee at Carlingwood mall. Look for her red pea coat specifically chosen for its colour.
“It’s a great way to keep the pulse of what’s going on, even if it wasn’t a federal issue, you hear seniors complaining that bus tickets are going up a dollar and that the dollar makes such a difference because there is a problem with pension plans.”
People she meets on the street are welcome to drop by. “It’s a way to keep in touch, not closing the conversation, but giving the opportunity to continue it when it’s convenient,” Vandenbeld explains.
She had been working at the UN in New York promoting women’s political rights and participation before returning to Ottawa to run. She was struck by the low number of women in Canadian politics so she quit her job and decided to become a candidate, but she’s been a Liberal for much longer.
“I joined when I was 15, almost as a rebellion, it was in the late 80s, my parents had never been in politics, and I think they thought ‘How did we raise a politician?’ It was because my father would watch the news and then he would pontificate over dinner.”
Her parents have supported her, her mother made phone calls for her during the nomination process, but now they are getting older and she wants to know the Canadian pension plan will be enough to support them.
Her volunteers are stressing that she understands the issues and is comfortable with the area. She believes, “if we have good voter turnout then there will be a good chance for change.”