Doorstep Postings: What comes after they get those votes out

Mark Adler vs. Ken Dryden in York Centre in 2011. (Credit: CBC screenshot)

This is the 15th in a series of opinion columns on the 2021 Canadian federal election, written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN—you can find more in our section called Perspectives.

Mailboxes up and down Brighton Avenue were stuffed with glossy blue cardstock reminders to leave the house and cast a ballot—the result of my handiwork over the last 20 minutes. 

A few blocks north was the corner of Wilmington and Overbrook, the site of the old Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto building (now, the Anne and Max Tanenbaum campus of CHAT), across the road from King David Pizza and the 2011 Mark Adler campaign office. There, and away from prying eyes all across the riding, calls were being placed. Thousands of them, pouring in from all across the country in some cases, bothering people until they voted. Ridiculous sums of money being spent just to edge out a few more votes.

There was even talk of a new automated phone message system. “Robocalls,” they called them.

A lot of things change between the years, even if you can’t see it happen. I remembered running past these same houses without caring how many votes each one held, when I couldn’t wait to get free and see the world beyond the Jewish community. Now I was back in the neighbourhood, trying to do what had previously been thought impossible: turn the York Centre riding blue for the first time since the 1960s. 

That night, the campaign manager wept with joy as we clinched the riding with just over 1,000 votes separating us from the Liberals, electing the first-ever Jewish MP for the Stephen Harper-led Conservative Party of Canada. (And it happened first in York Centre, for the record. Eglinton—Lawrence, home to future finance minister Joe Oliver, was called about 20 minutes later.)

It had taken every one of those calls to beat Ken Dryden, goaltending legend, former cabinet minister, and someone who’d given the many Montreal expats in the riding his personal assurance that the transfer payments to Quebec would keep flowing so their relatives who’d stayed behind would be unharmed (or so I heard, anyway). Jews of all sorts piled into the office, with a few even linking arms and dancing for the Citytv cameras. 

Get-out-the-vote (GOTV) is half a campaign packed into a single day. All the nonsense you’ve endured over the last few weeks is the preamble to GOTV, where you must get your identified vote to vote. If not, the entire campaign is flushed down the toilet, just like the one CPC campaign in Scarborough that lost to the NDP on the same day of that CPC breakthrough—because they decided it was in the bag for them.  

I’ve been part of so many GOTV operations over the years that they tend to bleed into one another. The one where they finally introduced the doorknob hangers so I didn’t have to cram my lit into already overflowing mailboxes. The one where they finally got the walk lists on digital tablets so I didn’t have to write illegible notes while holding a pen in my gloved hands. The one where I found out weeks after the fact that people had blamed me for the failure of an entire GOTV operation. 

Everything from (purposely?) malfunctioning technology to high-profile endorsements to foreign interference has been blamed for GOTV going awry. Ignore these excuses. GOTV is pure chaos, making a bad joke of any insider’s predictive abilities. I’ve heard every possible outcome from a breakthrough for Liberals in Alberta to six Green seats, to the People’s Party of Canada vote disappearing because they allegedly have no GOTV apparatus. 

So I’m not going to bother guessing what the map will look like after the sum total of 338 individualized multi-front wars are finally over.

If, by next week, the airwaves aren’t clogged with mutual allegations of voter fraud, consider that a victory for all concerned. 

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.

HEAR more weekly election thoughts from Josh on Bonjour Chai