Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/4/2011 (3131 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
So you care about an issue that, so far in this federal election campaign, has yet to be addressed to your satisfaction.
What do you do to get that issue onto the agenda before May 2?
Take housing, for example. Like pretty much every other urban centre in Canada (and some rural communities, too), Winnipeg is experiencing a serious housing shortage on multiple levels.
Those trying to buy into a hot market are paying more for less and crowding out other would-be buyers who can’t afford a bidding war. Renters, meanwhile, are dealing with record-low vacancy rates — Winnipeg’s has been hovering just below 1% for some time, now; one of the lowest in the entire country. And God help you if you’re poor. Welfare shelter rates don’t cover today’s average rents — if you can find a suitable place to rent — while long waiting lists remain for social housing (a.k.a. subsidized units with rent geared to a person’s income) which is often mediocre at best.
Housing is usually considered a provincial responsibility, but provinces remain reliant on federal dollars to operate local programs. And so it is that those advocating for increased federal investment in housing, preferably in conjunction with a nationally co-ordinated housing strategy, seized the opportunity presented by this election and sprang into action.
The need for a national housing plan was mentioned in early April by both the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. (Since then, the CHRA has also released analysis of each major federal party’s platform with respect to housing; you can read it here: www.chra-achru.ca).
Then there’s the Red Tent Campaign, an anti-homelessness initiative that organized a Canada-wide day of action on April 19 — including here in Winnipeg — no doubt to attract media coverage and, in turn, the attention of both politicians and average citizens.
But do any of these tactics actually work, in terms of influencing the narrative of an election?
I put the question to Chris Adams, an adjunct professor of politics at the University of Winnipeg and the vice-president of Probe Research, Inc.
"How do you get something on the agenda? You try to work in the back rooms, you find out who the people are who are setting the agenda, who are designing the party manifesto, who are putting things on the party platform — and, if you can’t do that, then you’re on the street, banging pots and pans and hoping that maybe it’ll work; maybe someone will take notice," he says.
While housing is not presently a top-of-mind issue for Manitoba voters (that would be crime and safety), Adams says pushing a specific agenda during an election can be beneficial in the long term, in that it can influence the way people understand an issue and eventually lead to an increase in public support.
Ultimately, though, Adams says the most effective strategy for single-issue voters is probably direct communication: call the candidates in your riding and ask them where they and their party stand on what matters to you.
"Even if you don’t see it in the newspaper as an issue, it will be on the minds of those candidates."
Marlo Campbell wants candidates to know she cares about affordable housing.