Well before the federal election writ dropped last week, Newmarket-Aurora candidates have been knocking on doors in the hopes that the personal connection will gain them votes.
One hundred doors, nine volunteers, and a lost Boxer pup named Lawrence returned to its owner was all in a night’s canvassing for federal Liberal candidate Tony Van Bynen and his campaign team.
NewmarketToday tagged along with Van Bynen Monday night as volunteers fanned out in the residential streets around Newmarket’s downtown to speak with voters and hear what’s on their minds.
The campaign team had plenty to talk about: a newly announced promised top-up to the Canada Child Benefit for babies and a 15-week leave for adoptive parents; a vow to create 250,000 more before and after-school child-care spaces and; a pledge to tweak the First-time Home Buyers Incentive that would increase the maximum purchase price to $789,473 for people in high-priced markets in Victoria, Vancouver, and the GTA, including Newmarket and Aurora, and a bump in the maximum household income to $150,000 for participants in those markets.
The first knock that was answered was at the Prospect Street home of Will Veerbeek. After listening to Van Bynen explain he’s running because he’s concerned about the future of health care, affordability issues, and the environment, Veerbeek said he’s “cheesed off” about the growing divide between the “have and have-nots."
“The divide between government workers and non-government workers is concerning,” Veerbeek said. “I have a well-paying job but no pension plan. The government can preach all they want, but they have to sort it out. We need pensions.”
As Van Bynen walks to the next home, he said there’s no replacement for the conversations he has with people at the door. When no one answers, he writes a personal note on his brochure and tucks it into the door.
“You can look at charts and graphs all day, but there's a lot to learn out here. I just love it,” he said.
Farther up Prospect, a resident said, “You’ve got my support,” but another person who lives in the home is undecided. Other homes appeared to have residents who hold differing political views.
A resident of Queen Street and Van Bynen supporter passes on putting up a Liberal election sign on her lawn, saying with a laugh that it would cause “too much arguing with the old boy.”
One Prospect resident who was sitting on her front porch shakes her head vehemently as Van Bynen approaches. She said, “I don’t like Justin Trudeau,” but takes the campaign material anyway, adding she’s “on the fence”.
Other residents on Prospect and Queen streets express cynicism toward promises made by party leaders during an election, another said he won’t be voting in the Newmarket-Aurora federal riding as he’s renting out his home in Newmarket and moving to Toronto because the commute is taking a toll.
“I walk to the GO station, but it’s still a three-hour commute,” he said.
For Prospect resident Jeremy Anderson, the federal election is about the climate crisis.
“I traditionally vote Green,” Anderson said. “Of all the parties I think they have the best climate change protocols. And I think they need all the help they can get.”
The canvassing winds up about 7:30 p.m. and volunteers say it was a “productive night”. The team disbands and heads back to campaign headquarters at 12 St. John’s Sideroad to make calls to voters.
On a bright September morning, Conservative candidate Lois Brown is out knocking on doors in a quiet, well-manicured Stonehaven neighbourhood of executive homes, getting resident information and tracking progress on an app on her cellphone as she goes.
She wears a navy blue suit and pumps, saying she considers herself on a "job interview" when she seeks voters' support, and dresses accordingly.
On the advice of Brown's campaign manager, Peter Seemann, NewmarketToday wasn't permitted to accompany Brown and campaign team volunteer Jerry Verhovsek to the doorstep, however, photographs were acceptable when residents provided permission.
"Lois is very hard-working," said Alex Forbes, with wife Pat, after chatting amiably for several moments as Brown catches them as they pull into their driveway.
She and her team have literally knocked on thousands of doors across the riding since she was nominated in March 2018.
"What's the issue that gets you out to the ballot?," Brown begins each conversation when a door is answered.
"The environment," one man was quick to respond, prompting an opportunity for Brown to assert that the Liberals' federal carbon tax isn't an environmental program, but rather a tax collecting funds for general revenue — "It's making everything cost more for people."
Whenever she has a moment at her desk, Brown personally writes messages on the thousands of door-hangers left at the door when there is no answer: I'm sorry that I missed you when I was here today. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions. Kindest regards, Lois.
Out working in the garden, Roald Abrahamsen identifies the economy as a concern — which Brown agrees, saying the $71-billion deficit "should concern every Canadian". He acknowledged with a grin that he may follow controversy-plagued U.S. politics more closely, as a snowbird who heads to warmer climes for the winter.
Brown said the most common concerns she and her team are hearing at the door is the economy ― taxes, the cost of living and affordability.
Many residents are saying "they are only two weeks away from not having enough money to survive," and that even families with "good-paying jobs have nothing left at the end of the month", she said.
Meanwhile, federal NDP candidate Yvonne Kelly says she and her campaign team were the first out of the gate this summer, as the NDP released its platform ahead of the other federal parties.
Kelly said she's been hearing two main concerns at the door in Newmarket and Aurora neighbourhoods: affordability, and the environment.
“What we’re hearing a lot about is affordability and quality of life, which relates to the cost of living and the cost of housing, in particular, which is growing exponentially and making it very hard for people,” Kelly said Wednesday as the local team made tracks to Barrie where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is making a campaign stop.
“They’re paying somewhere between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of their income on housing, which makes them vulnerable to homelessness. Almost everyone’s feeling the pinch. We rack that up to inequality, and that’s the top tabletop issue we’re hearing from people.”
Local residents also expressed concerns about climate change and want to know which party is going to do something about that, Kelly said.
“People are aware we don’t have years and years to think about this anymore, that is a concern to everyone, from grandparents to families and young people,” she said.
“Some young people have said they don’t think they’ll have children or a family of their own because work and education is hard enough, but when they think about the climate, it seems like a dismal future. And that’s hard to hear,” Kelly said. “That stage of your life is supposed to be hopeful and optimistic, but this is so much bigger than any one person can do on their own, that’s why progressive policies are so important.”
— With files from Debora Kelly