Orange balloons heralded the official opening of Nanaimo-Ladysmith NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson’s campaign office over the weekend. There were orange election signs, too, and cans of Orange Crush, of course, and even a bowl of oranges.
But it’s one thing to colour co-ordinate a campaign office – it’s quite another to colour in an electoral map of Canada.
Some eye the horizon with hopes of an orange wave; others favour blue breakers, a red rising or a green groundswell. These things can happen. In an election such as this one, parties that are tightly bunched together today can see momentum swings tomorrow. Some remember Trudeaumania, we’ve all witnessed orange waves, and we’ve all experienced – to borrow a favourite phrase of the prime minister’s – a strong, stable Conservative majority government.
There is some science to politics, but even mad scientists in campaign war rooms can’t figure out the formula. Is there one? Can parties create an environment conducive to a wave that sweeps them into office?
“I don’t know that it can be created,” said Malcolmson. “I think it’s a really special point in time.”
Someone who’s always voted one way can sometimes be convinced to check a different box. Someone who’s never voted before can sometimes be persuaded to go to the polls. People can change, and so can a country.
“My role as a candidate is to give people hope that there is a better way,” Malcolmson said.
Knocking on doors, she’s finding folks who are swearin’ mad at the government.
“So that passion is not something that we (the NDP) are responsible for…” she said. “But people who are engaged and ready to vote, we can give them something to vote for.”
Mark MacDonald, the local Conservative candidate, said giving people something to vote for is central to his whole campaign. He believes voters will decide life is good and business is brisk, and positivity, rather than negativity, will motivate them to mark their ballots.
Tim Tessier, Liberal candidate, is content with a slow build for his party, for now. A long election is a blessing, he said, because it gives voters time to make up their minds about the kind of leadership they want for their country.
“We’re not doing this,” he said, making a roller-coaster motion with his hand. “We’re doing a nice, steady climb. And I do believe Canadians are going to get caught up in the real change.”
If any wave is rolling in, perhaps it is on Vancouver Island’s shores, where the Green Party is polling at historic highs. As of last week, candidate Paul Manly’s local campaign had already raised 15 times more money than in the last election.
“That’s ordinary people inspired by what’s going on,” he said.
I don’t think it’s naive, as a voter, to want to be inspired. Some of that responsibility falls to party leaders. But maybe we shouldn’t expect that there will be some zinger in a debate, or one single issue or one moment that will define this campaign and win this election.
Which means it really is up to us as voters. It’s up to us to care about Canada, and to care deeply. Casting one ballot apiece, we can’t make a wave. But maybe we can turn a tide.