By Danisha Bhaloo
On January 25, 2016. I filed my nomination papers with the City of Edmonton to become an official candidate on the ballot for the February 22nd by-election. The day was a culmination of the months of hard work to earn votes in Ward 12 for election day. While nomination day is only a month prior to the actual election, the hard work starts way before that. For me, nomination day was an important day in the process, but certainly not the start of it. Nomination day reinforced my love for this city.
For all first time candidates out there who think they know what to expect, nervousness is expected. I woke up that morning nervous. I had a slight jolt wondering if I was doing the right thing. And that this might be my chance to back out and go back to my normal life. Don’t get me wrong, I spent almost a year debating if this was the right move for myself, my family and my community. I can safely say, after the fact, that I have no regrets and am proud to have been part of the process. But to formalize a major life decision will always make you edgy (for all those married candidates, I’m sure it’s a similar feeling to your wedding day).
What differentiates this day from the happiest day of your life (presumably), is knowing you’ll be in the same room, for the first time, with other candidates running in the same ward as you. It’s especially difficult when there are over 30 of them in the same space. Hopefully, you won’t encounter this particular discomfort since it’s a general election. Nonetheless, when I think back to this day, it was a combination of pride in putting myself out there, and slight intimidation in being in a space that might provoke competitiveness. For any first time candidates out there, I strongly suggest bringing a few close friends or family members who can calm your nerves and support you throughout the day.
The nomination process itself took less than one hour. You attend City Hall, meet and congratulate other candidates on their decision to represent your community, complete your paperwork and ensure you have all the required signatures to support your candidacy, and pay your fees with the nice City of Edmonton employees, and walk out of the room to a number of journalists with note pads and/or mics, and TV cameras in your face (see picture to the right). Don’t fret – everybody there is very nice. Reporters just want to get to know you and why you’ve decided to run. A tip: come prepared with your 30 second elevator pitch on why you’re running. Also, if you speak French fluently, come prepared with your pitch in French – because CBC-Radio Canada will also be there and will look for the candidates that are bilingual. Answer their questions, despite the fact that you will be itching to get back to the crux of campaigning – door-knocking and meeting voters.
You have months until nomination day. Don’t wait until this day passes to door-knock, learn about the issues, meet voters in your ward, recruit volunteers and fundraise. This is work that starts now, not after nomination day. Use nomination day as the day you put everything else aside and ramp up on these efforts, but don’t use it as a time to start your campaign.
Nomination Day was just one day in a four month campaign, but it is a special day that you will never forget. Take the time you’re given that day and treasure it. It’s an experience that not many others get – and so take the most of it – be proud of yourself for getting this far, hold onto the support of your family and friends who are with you on this journey, and use this day as an opportunity to re-motivate yourself about why you’re doing this in the first place.
And regardless of the outcome of the election, know that you will grow and change as a person. You will realize your strengths and resiliency in the face of hardship and struggles. And that learning will take you far in your journey forward.