My friend Terry Beech is running for parliament in the Burnaby North-Seymour riding. Charlie and I are helping with his campaign – Charlie is his campaign manager, and I’m part of his team of volunteers. It’s shaping up to be an exciting three-way race between Terry (the Liberal), Mike Little (Conservative), and Carol Baird-Ellan (NDP). The press has highlighted Burnaby North-Seymour as a “riding to watch”. Go Terry!
One of the highlights was attending a local candidates debate last week.
It took place at a Burnaby community hall that could seat around 120. Incredibly, close to 200 people showed up, and most had to leave before the event could be started for fire safety reasons. Terry’s wife Ravi and I tucked in behind the doors in the atrium to listen. Other people stood outside in the parking lot, huddled around the open windows. We weren’t allowed inside, but we still wanted to take part.
Terry did a fantastic job. If I lived in the riding, he would have my vote for sure. But Lynn Quarmby would be a close second. A biologist from SFU, Quarmby put her lab on hold to campaign for the Green party. She has written about the connection between algae and obesity, the value of curiosity-driven research, and the impact of the current Conservative government on science in Canada.
Brian Sproule was the biggest surprise of the night. I had initially written him off – who knew Canada had a Marxist Leninist party? Sproule has run in 11 federal elections going back to 1974 (!), garnering a steady 0.1% to 0.3% of the vote each time. So what makes him do it?
Towards the end of the night, one of Sproule’s answers really struck a chord with me. To paraphrase, he summed up his commitment by saying that he believed everyone should participate in the democratic process, and he would continue to do just that and encourage others to do the same. Pretty refreshing given all of the negative ads, appeals to fear, strategic voting, and the complete absence of Mike Little the Conservative candidate.
So for a couple of hours at least, thanks to Sproule and the rest of the crowd, democracy seemed a little more real in Burnaby.