Author Don Currie – Political Action Course

CUPE BC puts on educational courses each spring and fall. The spring courses are usually held at a retreat in Naramata. However, due to a strike at the retreat, this year’s program was moved to UBC Okanagan in Kelowna.

There were a number of courses offered, but I chose to take part in a course called “Politics in Action”. The course was facilitated by Tania Jarzebiak and Nathan Allen. Both facilitators have extensive experience in various roles in municipal, provincial and federal political campaigns. The course was designed for the participants to learn the fundamentals of how to plan for, and run, a municipal election campaign for a progressive candidate.

The facilitators spent the first couple of hours leading a discussion about why local elections matter and why we as Union members should get involved. We are used to seeing conservative parties with privatization agendas at the provincial and federal levels. We are now seeing, for the first time, a major and concerted effort by conservative organizations to bring these same ideas to local governments across the province. Since the upcoming local elections will be 4 year terms instead of 3, the stakes are higher than ever.

As the course went on, the class organized into 3 groups. Each group was assigned a specific project to be completed by the end of the week. Over the course of the week we split our time between learning from the facilitators and applying that knowledge in our group projects. My group of 5 was tasked with building an election campaign framework for progressive candidates for mayor, councillor and school board trustee for the City of Cranbrook.

As we learned, the basic elements of a political campaign are:

Developing realistic goals
Raising Visibility
Communications and Publicity
Voter Contact and Identification
Getting out the Vote on Election Day

Of course there are thousands of details buried in this framework and we learned many of the pitfalls of poor campaigns. The course made the participants very aware of how important it is to plan ahead, identify how many votes you need, where you can potentially find those votes and strategies to ensure those votes are actually cast on Election Day.

One important strategy for all of us to be aware of on Election Day is known as “plumping”. If you do not know what this means, you are like most of my class at the training session…including me. Plumping is a term to describe the strategy of only voting for candidates you are sure that you support. That means if there are 6 councillor spots in your city and only 3 candidates that you know support your views, you should only cast 3 votes for councillor. If you cast 6 votes just to fill out your ballot, you are basically cancelling the votes for the 3 candidates that you really want to elect.

As the week wrapped up, each group presented the details of their project to the rest of the class. It was very impressive to hear the comprehensive plans each group had come up with, especially since there were very few of us with any first hand campaign experience.
Overall, I can say that the Politics in Action course was definitely worthwhile. It was a lot of work both in and out of the classroom. The teams worked hard and creatively on their projects. At the end of the week, my group had prepared a sound election campaign framework that will be used by candidates in Cranbrook this fall. The course also inspired me to get more involved in local politics. I will be looking at volunteering in the municipal elections this fall.

If you are interested in getting more involved in politics or if you simply want to know which candidates support the goals of the Union movement, please contact CUPE BC or one of your CUPE 1767 representatives.

In solidarity,

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