I recently became intimately involved with democracy in Canada by acting as the “Official Agent” for our local candidate in the Provincial Election.
I have leafleted for the Labour Party in the UK in the past and I used to go to the occasional branch meeting and even proposed a motion once.
In August with a provincial election imminent I was asked if I would be prepared to be the Official Agent.
Now if you are the sort who only wants to back a sure fire winner you would run a mile. The Nova Scotia NDP were in government but very much behind in the polls. In our electoral district we were running against the leader of the opposition who was the favourite to become Premier.
When I agreed to be Official Agent it looked like we may have a month for me to familiarize myself with the duties of the official agent and start working my way through the 80 plus page manual. This was not however the case as less than a week later the writ was dropped and the election called.
One of the main responsibilities of being the agent is dealing with the money. Apparently Nova Scotia has a bit of a history of votes being bought in return for bottles of rum in the dim distant past – so now the candidate is kept well away from the money and the agent has to account for every paperclip and staple used in the election (not quite to that degree but it felt like it at times). Our candidate Henry was very helpful in providing copies of the last election accounts and file, although there was a new Election Act in place since that election. The NDP office was helpful as was our auditor (accounts had to be audited) and the Elections Nova Scotia finance people. It was all quite daunting at times but I seem to have managed ok as our returns were accepted and we passed our audit.
The NDP Government did not fair so well. We lost some great sitting MLAs and some fantastic people did not get elected who should have done. The NDP actually received the second highest vote (narrowly beating the Conservatives) but ended up with only 7 seats to their 11 to become the third party. The Liberals won a majority and our MLA became the Premier.
My first involvement in Canadian politics was tough (due to the result) but I learnt a lot about the electoral system and met some fantastic people. It did not dampen my involvement as in February 2014 I became President of our local NDP branch and in April attended the NSNDP Convention in Dartmouth.