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Yesterday, a complete stranger offered me some coffee.

I was in an apartment building half-filled with people who don't speak the same language as me, half-filled with non-citizens, and about 98%-filled with people who care way more about the World Cup than why some downtown white boy is knocking on their door.

This complete stranger doesn't speak English. She was pretty old, and I'm betting she's not a Canadian citizen (yet?), and so when I knocked on her door she couldn't help with electing my friend to council, and she couldn't even understand why my friend would make a good councillor. So I said thank you and moved to the next door.

But she stayed in her doorway, and asked if we wanted a drink. When's the last time you offered a drink to someone who knocked on your front door?

---

My friend Idil Burale is running for City Council in Toronto. She's super awesome, well-informed, rational, friendly, smart, and would be a wonderful asset to her neighbours and the city as a whole. If I had to pick just one new person to make a councillor, it would totally be her. (sorry Luke, Peter, Keegan, Lekan, JP, Alejandra, Saeed, Alex, Dan... just if I had to pick only one!)

I went canvassing with Idil and some other volunteers yesterday. It was amazing.

---

Matt Elliott keeps track of council votes, and calculates who votes with Rob Ford most. That used to be a thing we worried about, even though today our Mayor is more of a media celebrity than a vote winner. But here's the thing: even recently, some important votes have been close.

Here is a list of significant items that passed by just one vote:
2011.CD1.9	Don't condemn fed govt cuts to immigration agencies
2011.EX3.4	Cut $75,000 from the Tenant Defence Fund
2011.MM8.6	Kill the Fort York Pedestrian/Cycling Bridge
2011.MM10.9	Reject two provincially-funded public health nurses
2011.EX10.1	Consider eliminating the Hardship Fund
2011.EX13.2	Start charging charities & churches for waste collection
2013.ST11.1	Keep Adam Vaughan off the Executive Committee
2013.EX36.18	Don't exempt charities from paying waste collection fees
2013.EX37.3	Don't allow council vote separately on a general property tax increase 
		and a Scarborough subway extension levy

I list these because the current councillor for ward 1 supported every item listed above. And those decisions affected residents across the whole city.

---

I've never canvassed before. I've never done anything for a candidate. Other than vote, and ranting online about bad candidates, I haven't done much else. I've never joined a political party, because I disagree with too many things in every party I encounter (and truth be told I'm not good at toeing a line unless I really believe it already). I was drawn to municipal politics because of the lack of political parties, which meant I could focus on one issue but not have to consider everything else a specific councillor might support. One inch at a time seems to make sense for me.

I always assumed volunteering for a political candidate would be really hard to do. Or maybe boring. Or maybe too political, when I value being (in my mind) independent and non-partisan. Plus I've never known any personally until this year.

I've had a really busy year (sold our house, bought a new house, started the adoption process with my husband, got promoted at work, traveled to Thailand, plus other things I've forgotten already). So it's been easy to be too busy to help out. Oh, I'll retweet things that seem important, but that's not a way to effect change, it's just a way to participate in a very small circle of more-affluent, more-privileged, more-downtown friends. Slacktivism is the term some people use - pretending to have an impact because it makes us feel better.

But finally I realized that if Idil didn't win, and all I did was sit in East York posting encouragement on Twitter, I would be really unimpressed at myself. I can't spend way too much time at work and at home complaining about bad decisions by city council, but really do nothing beyond complain - that's a Rob Ford tactic! He rants and moans and complains but doesn't offer any solutions. I can't let myself do essentially the same thing. I'm lucky in that I have a pretty progressive and rational councillor, but council votes affect everyone.

So yesterday I hopped on the TTC for 90 minutes to get to the top-left-corner of Toronto. I met up with Idil and five other volunteers, and we set off into a few apartment buildings to talk about Idil and her ideas.

It was a revelation, because it was fun!

It was really nice people who care about their community, talking to other really nice residents who never get asked their opinion and love their community too! In just 30 seconds I would mention a few things Idil wants to improve in that area like transit, housing, child care, community centres, fixing potholes, and residents would not slam the door. Not yell. Not ignore. They would smile. They would engage. They would frequently agree to VOTE for her.

After just 30 seconds, THEY WOULD HAND OVER THEIR NAME AND PHONE NUMBER TO COMPLETE STRANGERS AT THEIR DOOR.

It was like being on a different planet.

Canvassing was fun, interesting, and it was a tangible way to have an impact on my community. I can't wait to get back to Etobicoke North to do it again, and you should come with me. The more people the less time it takes (or the greater impact we have!), and the more cool people we all get to meet.

---

In 2000, the current ward 1 councillor lost by 97 votes.

In 2003, the current ward 1 councillor lost by 882 votes.

In 2006, the current ward 1 councillor did not run.

In 2010, the current ward 1 councillor won by 509 votes.
---

Yesterday, I personally knocked on 90 doors.

What I'm saying is you can make a difference.

So come on, let's go.

Seriously, message me - I'll take you along and you'll have a buddy!
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