“Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.”
— Napoleon Bonaparte
Political candidates make easy targets during election campaigns, and this one has been no exception — particularly if you’re a party leader.
All three contenders for the premiership have political baggage, and it’s no trouble to use it against them if you’re so inclined.
Commenters have been pretty dismissive — Kevin Aylward just needs a job; Lorraine Michael’s platform is financially unfeasible; Kathy Dunderdale is riding Danny Williams’ coattails.
I think they can handle it, though. Being a leader means being out in front, after all, and attracting negative attention just comes with the territory.
But every single candidate in this campaign — leaders included — deserve credit, as much as criticism. Because unlike you and I, they have put themselves out there and are adding their voices to the debate about how to make this province a better place.
That may sound a bit Pollyanna-ish, but it’s true.
Listening to 24-year-old St. John’s Centre Liberal candidate Carly Bigelow on CBC Radio Thursday morning, I couldn’t help but be impressed that a university student who admits she’s saddled with student debt, and who is already actively involved in leadership roles in campus life, chose to get involved in a provincial election campaign in a district where her competitors are an internationally acclaimed filmmaker and a high-profile cabinet minister.
Foolhardy? You might think so, but perhaps Bigelow’s desire to make a difference was influenced by her life experience — she said she grew up in a single-parent home with a household income that was below the poverty line.
And even though, according to a Corporate Research Associates poll commissioned by The Telegram, topics like housing, the environment, child care and taxes seem to be barely registering with the electorate, the 144 candidates in this campaign have been out there on the hustings discussing all those things and more, because even if those issues don’t matter to you, they do matter.
When the dust settles Tuesday night, I suspect the world will look much like it does today, and we’ll soon be back to our regular routines. But for candidates, many things will change.
Some will lose badly and find themselves quickly forgotten — also-rans relegated to being footnotes on the Elections NL website.
Others will lose but will be so buoyed by the experience that they will seriously consider trying again.
Successful incumbents will pick up where they left off, but newly minted MHAs face the challenge of figuring out exactly what’s expected of them.
Offering yourself for public office takes guts. And it’s not just a matter of going door to door and exposing yourself to tough questions and perhaps even derision. It can mean opening up yourself and your past to public scrutiny.
It can also mean long days and short nights, time away from loved ones, out-of-pocket expenses and too much bad food on the road.
The limelight can be harsh and it is not necessarily flattering to those who aren’t used to media cameras and probing questions or having their face plastered on campaign signs.
Running as an election candidate acknowledges your willingness to be judged, and that judgment will not necessarily be fair or based on your political platform.
And there’s the sheer humility factor — who wants to garner 60 votes in a district where someone else walks away with 3,500?
As the media goes, we tend to be fairly gentle in this province, at least with political neophytes. No one takes any pleasure in flaying some rookie candidate just because their inexperience is showing.
When NDP Leader Lorraine Michael’s Liberal opponent in Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, Drew Brown, was quite obviously nervous during a debate Tuesday night, no one mocked his performance.
At least Brown, unlike former auditor general John Noseworthy — who’s running for the Tories in the same district — had the fortitude to show up and take on a seasoned, canny party leader.
Here’s hoping Brown takes something positive away from the experience. After all, it takes a lot more courage to show up than it does to skip out on high-pressure events.
Yes, politics tends to attract egomaniacs, those intent on self-aggrandizement and die-hard partisans — sometimes even zealots — but it also draws people who are willing to align themselves to a particular party because they figure that’s the best way they can affect change.
I salute the candidates who gave their time and energy to this campaign, particularly those with few supports behind them. They felt they had something to contribute, even if winning was a longshot.
And let’s face it, unlike in the last federal election, they won’t have someone keeping a Senate seat warm for them.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s
story editor. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.