2 weeks have now passed since the nomination meeting for the Alberta PC's in Calgary-Fish Creek. As most of you are no doubt aware, I was unsuccessful in my attempt to win the party's nomination, and will therefore not be appearing on the ballot for this spring's provincial general election.
I'm going to warn you now that this is going to be an intensely personal post. I don't plan these things out - I just write what pops into my head - so I can't be sure, as I type this, that I'll actually even hit "publish" at the end. But just in case, I want you to know that this post is not normal, run-of-the-mill "Enlightened Savage" fare.
There is nothing - nothing - in this world that I have ever wanted more than to run for office. Other kids dream about being a policeman, a millionaire, or a war hero, or a rock star, or an NHL player... but not me. The first sign, I guess, that I'm "not normal".
I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, the jobs that I do have. I'm incredibly blessed to get paid to do things that I love - and would do for free. Every morning when I wake up, I say "I GET to go to work today", instead of "I HAVE to go to work today", as so many do. This blessing is not lost on me.
And yet... I've always felt the desire to serve. I've always felt CALLED to serve. When my Firmware was installed, I was clearly wired for this role. To serve my neighbours with a smile on my face, representing their interests and opinions. Engaging them in the process. Speaking truth to power. Trying to leave the world a better place than it was when I got here. Setting the table for future generations to do even better. Showing that a life spent in politics can be a noble pursuit, and that government can be a force for good. Elevating the level of debate, and making campaigns about ideas and vision, instead of personality, dirty tricks or who can shout the loudest.
People who came into my life intent on changing me would tell me this was a foolish dream. An unworthy pursuit. An exercise in futility. I refused to give up the dream, and those people left my life when they realized that my dream to serve wasn't a passing notion - it was hard-wired into me. As much a part of me as my big German cheeks or my impish grin.
I wanted to stand for election, with every fibre of my being. So I prepared. I planned. And I waited.
On November 14th, 2011, the waiting stopped. I jumped into the pool with both feet, and declared my intention to seek the PC nomination in Calgary-Fish Creek, a geographically-large constituency in Calgary's suburban south in which I grew up, went to school, and worked.
After a 69-day campaign, the vote was held on January 21st, 2012 - and I narrowly lost the nomination contest. Wendelin Fraser, former Dean of the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University, will represent the PC's on the ballot in Calgary-Fish Creek this spring. I congratulate her on a hard-fought victory, and will do all that I can to ensure that she is successful in the election.
This is not the end of my dream, however... it is just the beginning.
While I am disappointed in the final result, I do not despair: Far from it. My team of supporters and volunteers - the "O-Team", as they came to be called - ran a campaign based on ideas and vision. We knew all the dirty tricks, and chose to employ NONE of them. We decided that we were going to appeal to people's better angels, instead of trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. We ran a campaign on a shoe-string budget - we were outspent by a VERY significant margin - and yet, despite all of what experienced political operatives would call "these handicaps", we very nearly WON.
This is what gives me hope for the future. This is what gives me hope for politics as a whole. We engaged the voters - both those who had held party memberships before, and those who never had - with ideas, positivity, and vision instead of the tried-and-true tactics of platitudes, attacks and innuendo. And the voters ENGAGED with us. They bought in. They came out to vote. All of the self-styled "experts" were WRONG - you CAN run a campaign without dirty tricks or piles of cash, and appeal to voters.
Not by being angry. Not by operating in a sleazy manner. Not by mud-slinging, or name-calling, planting questions in a forum or by outspending your opponent.
You can appeal to voters by being genuine. Articulating your vision of the future. Asking for their ideas. Engaging with them, on their level (which is, by the way, always much easier to do when it's the level you live on 365 days of the year anyhow). Asking them about their hopes, and their dreams for their kids, and how government can help - even if the best way for government to help is by getting out of the way.
I have SO much hope, and SO much to be thankful for, coming out of this campaign. The voters showed me that they're ready for a change in how politics is done. My team showed me that a dedicated team of good people can, and WILL, change the world for the better, without resorting to dirty tricks or selling out their principles.
The winds of change are blowing. Not against any one party or candidate, but against the "politics as usual" that permeates EVERY major party, and so many candidates. The voters know it's not good enough any more, they know there is a better way that some of us are just crazy enough to try, and they're willing to do something about it.
If the politicians don't embrace that change, they're going to be blown away by it.
In my speech, delivered on January 21st, I spoke the following line:
"Today, the people of Calgary-Fish Creek are going to choose to light a candle, rather than curse the dark".I've got a truck-bed full of waterproof matches. Let's do this.
Hold on to your hats, kids - it's about to get windy in here.
And as for Joey O.?
I have not yet begun to fight.