Over the last week, the Free Press has tagged along door-knocking with three main candidates in Kildonan-St. Paul. In that riding, where the outcome is tough to predict, the candidates are spending nearly all their time at the door and doing only modest amounts of phoning. All three were canvassing in friendly areas, but each had a very different style at the door. Here's a snapshot of a campaign's most important art.
Jim Bell - Conservative
The former Bomber executive invariably opens with a "sorry to disturb" and a "thanks for taking the door," and never fails to introduce his wife, Helen, who nearly always canvasses with him. Bell is well-known as the former president of the Winnipeg Football Club, and Bomber talk often helps break the ice.
Bell is efficient at the door but not rushed, and very gentlemanly. He also has a deft way of consistently asking the mercenary questions a candidate must -- can I count on your support? How many voters are in the house? Would you take a sign?
Most voters don't ask any policy questions, but Bell said he occasionally gets a comment on the economy, his party's strong suit, and the environment. Asked what he says about green issues, which aren't a priority for the Tories, Bell said he likes to do a lot of listening at the door. "Then I try to do some research," he said.
MaryAnn Mihychuk - Liberal
The campaign veteran has an effervescent, back-slappy style at the door, opening with "I'm MaryAnn, and I'm the Liberal. It's election time. What do you think of the election so far?" Then, she tailors her script on the fly to the voter in front of her. To a Filipino voter, she name-drops Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux, whose link to the city's Filipino community is legendary. To a middle-aged man, she talks up her business experience and the party's middle-class tax cut. To a Punjabi mother, Mihychuk mentions her Ukrainian roots and her party's promise to speed immigration and family reunification.
On the day the Free Press tagged along, former Manitoba Liberal leader and expert door-knocker Jon Gerrard was canvassing with Mihychuk, acting like an advance party on the block. He'd race ahead, chat up a voter and beckon Mihychuk over with a little seven-word précis of the voter, allowing Mihychuk to take it from there.
"I will have a look at you more than Trudeau," one voter to Mihychuk. "He's too young."
Mihychuk had a quick answer -- Trudeau is only a couple of years younger now than Harper was when he became prime minister, she said.
Suzanne Hrynyk - NDP
The nurse and former council candidate is aggressive about finding a voter, but more low-key once she does. Door-knocking on Matheson Avenue Saturday afternoon, Hrynyk often headed straight to the back door as the more likely way to get an answer. After introducing herself, she usually sticks with the classic "any questions or concerns?" She then highlights two key NDP promises -- the two-point cut to the small business tax rate and a plan to save money on prescription drugs by buying in bulk as well as move toward a national pharmacare program. On Matheson, she mentioned the fact she lived for years around the corner on McAdam Avenue. And she often ended with an "I hope you'll consider voting for me" -- a soft-sell approach that didn't always result in a check mark in the voter-identification database, but one Hrynyk said leaves a better impression. But, at the door of a palliative care nurse with whom Hrynyk shared mutual friends, she didn't hesitate to bring up the issue of physician-assisted suicide. Later, she said delving into such a controversial topic wasn't a risky move, because most nurses who have cared for the dying believe patients ought to have the choice to die with dignity.