What I Learned Canvassing as an Introvert

Biting the bullet to canvass for the first time for the upcoming federal election on October 21, 2019 was not my choice. I had always admired those seemingly more vocal and knowledgeable students who embraced the gritty side of political participation and activism, which is the art of canvassing. Going door to door sounded terrifying to an introvert such as myself. Then the moment came when I found out one of the requirements for my seminar was to participate in canvassing for a local female Member of Parliament. I decided I would volunteer for one of the City of Ottawa’s greatest female leaders, Liberal MP for Ottawa-Centre and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.

Let me get one thing straight before I continue, there are a multitude of reasons I chose to volunteer for her, the primary being her eagerness to serve her community and how, like a badass, she gets things done. There are also on the other hand some issues I have with the Liberal federal party candidate and the Liberal party platform more generally. All of this to say, there is no perfect candidate with a perfect party and it is up to every Canadian to decide what they would like Canadian politics to look like and inform themselves in making a choice based on those criteria.

Showing up Saturday afternoon to the campaign headquarters I was comforted to see other young women from my class who also chose to volunteer for McKenna. We were greeted by some of her most accomplished campaigners and nervously awaited the moment when we would set out. McKenna herself appeared, engaging the room with confidence and eagerness. I can say confidently that women such as McKenna leave me a bit in awe. As a woman studying politics in what is still a male-dominated faculty, I never underestimate just how hard women work to achieve political success. McKenna approached us, making up the last member of the circle myself and my classmates are standing in, speaking to us directly about why young people, particularly young women, matter to her campaign and to politics more generally. She spoke with ease and thanked us for coming to help her engage with voters by reaching as many people as possible using our voices. With the rally over, we set out in our groups to go canvass.

The reality of going canvassing I realized within about 30 minutes of knocking on doors is that most people will engage with you. Keeping McKenna’s advice in mind, I decided the key of being an activist or even a politician is to get to know the desires and concerns of your neighbours. I believe McKenna is particularly gifted at this, not trying to convince people to vote for her through selling herself as a candidate but rather letting them know she is listening. There will be times people will disagree with you and tell you they don’t believe in your cause, which is to be expected so you thank them for their time and move on to the next. There is a sense of genuineness and vulnerability during canvassing which most respond overwhelmingly well to, particularly when expressing why you believe in the person you are at their door canvassing for.

The upcoming election on October 21, 2019 is going to be an incredibly important election where young people have the ability to have their voices heard.

I urge you to be engaged with your local and federal politics, but don’t feel like you need to canvass or volunteer to be involved. Do some research about who is supporting the causes you find most crucial and go vote. There is no perfect party or candidate for each person, and this might be discouraging to some, but choosing someone you believe in even 80% of the time is better than there being no contest for someone you don’t believe in at all. No matter what your political beliefs may be, being involved is the key to exercising your right to express what you feel you and your community would like to see expressed in Canadian politics in the future.