Feel the thrill of being involved in a campaign

In 2016, Ontario passed legislation introducing new election financing rules. This week marks the beginning of the first campaign period that will take place under the new framework.

As the rules were being developed and debated I remember being especially worried about the outcomes for first-time female candidates. Fundraising for political campaigns is a difficult undertaking, particularly for women.

I imagined the struggle placed on new candidates now restricted from being in the room at their own fundraisers to thank donors. Donor appreciation is a large part of fundraising. When an individual decides to direct their generosity to supporting your political vision and your ability to execute it, it only feels natural to have an opportunity to look them in the eye and thank them.

The legislation also drastically reduced (by nearly 90 per cent) the total amount of money individuals could donate to campaigns. It further banned corporations, unions and other groups not affiliated with political parties from making political donations.

It was a game changer.

Campaigns are in need of volunteers and individual donations now more than ever.

This isn’t an election to sit out, press mute, or wait for an outcome. This is an election to be engaged, informed and critical of the vision being offered by each party, and contribute in whatever way you are able.

Begin by making sure you are registered to vote. Elections Ontario launched a new online tool last year to make this more convenient. It only takes a few minutes.

Next, get to know the candidates. It has brought me immeasurable joy to see a new generation of women self-select and run successful nominations across the province.

It’s difficult for so many of us leading just-in-time lives, but I hope you’ll find a couple of hours to find a candidate you support, walk into their campaign office and ask how you can help.

Let the bug catch you. Step into the excitement of the movement. Offer your time and energy. Canvass, deliver literature, make phone calls, fundraise, or help organize an event.

If party politics aren’t for you, consider contributing to an issue-based campaign.

#OntarioThrive was launched this week by a powerful coalition of non-partisan organizations aiming to ensure measurable commitments on gender equity are at the forefront of the discourse throughout the campaign.

They are organizing events and asking candidates for their positions on a range of issues, including health and education, campus sexual violence, gender-based violence, child care, housing, minimum wage, ending violence against Indigenous girls and women, and anti-racism.

The best gift that comes with volunteering on campaigns, no matter the outcome, is the family built along the way. Lifelong true friends connected by a passion to make impossible things happen, forever tied as you grow one another into your best selves, better prepared to impact the world around you.

Each time I get involved in a campaign it is with a sense of responsibility to my own ancestors who were not always afforded the ability to contribute to shaping political outcomes. Black women who had to fight for the right to vote, participate in political discourse, and run for office.

I contribute because I believe it is my job to help shape the world I hope to bring children into. I look forward to one day teaching my daughter, by example, the same appreciation for this civic duty.

There was a portion of Barack Obama’s farewell address in Chicago on Jan. 10, 2017 that particularly moved me: “Because of all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. […] Show up, Dive in. Stay at it.”

I’m committed to volunteering as much of my time as possible to supporting #womenforwynne. I look forward to the new friendships forged along the campaign trail in the coming weeks.

The title track on my campaign playlist is “Without a Fight” by Janelle Monae.

I want to look back at this election after June 7 and know I did everything I could do. Whatever that is for you, I hope you will be moved to do it too.

Tiffany Gooch is a Liberal strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight and an advocate for increased cultural and gender diversity in Canadian politics.

(Published in The Toronto Star on Sunday, May 6, 2018)