Condo access by election canvassers

At a time when more and more people in the GTA are living in condos, our political candidates want to meet the residents, learn what issues are important to them and try to win their votes come Election Day.

Yet, this needed human contact between politicial parties and the public is becoming more difficult to accomplish as more condos are being built. New owners and renters may have lived in their downtown condos for less than a year, so canvassing can be harder than in other neighbourhoods.

It's hard to get in
As reported in a CBC news story, Rosario Marchese stated: "You apply a variety of strategies to meet renters and condo owners. There is constant movement of people which makes it difficult for us and secondly, it's hard to get in.”

Progressive Conservative candidate Roberta Scott adds that the issues for condo residents are the same as everyone else's: jobs, health care, education and getting to work — the latter issue often seen as a particular challenge in that riding. "It's by far the most popular topic I hear at the door, transit, an express bus and also bike lanes."

The large turnover in residents every four to five years is a big concern for political candidates but so is getting access into condo corporations in order to talk to the voters and to drop off campaign literature.

Need the board's permission?
I talked to Soo Wong, Liberal MPP for Scarborough—Agincourt. Her canvassers often have difficulty getting access into condos. The managers may say that they need to get the boards’ permission before they can come in or they say that the candidates have to phone ahead to book appointments.

No polling station

A different issue is that there isn’t a polling station at a new large four-tower condominium complex just to the northeast corner of the 401 and Kennedy Road. Voters have to travel to distant school in order to vote. Therefore 1300 voters do not have a polling station within the distance guidelines mandated by Elections Ontario.

What is with condo managers and boards? Do they have something against democratic elections? Here are a couple of recent postings that were published on the Internet:

"Candidates for Political Office – Door Knocking Considerations
Campaigning politicians exercising their right to campaign door-to-door in condominium buildings may not be acting in their best interests.

Section 118 of the Condominium Act, 1998 says that: “No corporation or employee or agent of a corporation shall restrict reasonable access to the property by candidates, or their authorized representatives, for election to the House of Commons, the Legislative Assembly or an office in a municipal government or school board if access is necessary for the purpose of canvassing or distributing election material“

Many condo residents prefer the privacy that comes from not dealing with unsolicited door knockers. They appreciate the protection they receive when uninvited guests are prohibited from accessing their building and individual suites.

Campaigning politicians who exercise their right for special treatment in this regard obtain the access they desire but may damage their cause through this special treatment.

It may be more prudent for campaigning politicians to respect the condo rules, not leave print material, and seek more effective ways to campaign."

This was published in the June 2014 issue of Yonge-Sheppard Condominium News.

That article may have been influenced by an article published In by Marc Bhalla who suggested:

“Rather than simply exercising a legal right of entry in the course of canvassing, politicians may be wise to consider each unique condominium community in their riding and reach out to property management and/or the Board to determine the most appropriate approach to connecting with the community.  However, there is not much time to do so with the provincial election a mere six weeks away!”

What rubbish
Calling election canvassers "uninvited guests" and suggesting that: "campaigning politicians to respect the condo rules, not leave print material, and seek more effective ways to campaign" shows a complete disregard for political discourse and a disregard for democracy.

As reported in the Mississauga News, Dipika Damerla explains how she won her re-election by such a large majority:

"Damerla credited her victory to good old-fashioned shoe-leather campaigning. Over the last 30 months, she said — even as she tended to routine constituency business — she estimated she knocked on 10,000 households — all with an eye to a sudden election call."

Supression of democracy

In a riding with dozens or even hundreds of condos, what candidate has the time to work out that many individual arrangements with property managers? What’s more, why are the managers and boards not calling the candidate’s offices to invite their canvassers to come an visit and suggest the best times to canvas the residents in their buildings?

Residential condo buildings are not monasteries, army barracks or prisons where the residents want or need to be protected from all outside influences.

Finally, what right does a manager or a board has to block or hinder political canvassers from communicating with the voters? How else can some of the residents going to learn how to get registered to vote or learn where their polling station? How else will the disabled learn that they may be able to vote from home?

I am talking to election canvassers and they tell me that sure there are some condo residents who will not open the door when they knock and others do not want to talk to them but that the percentage of negative reactions from condo residents are no different than what they experience when they go door-to-door in neighbourhoods of townhouses or detached houses.

The narcissist that Marc writes about that pushes the elevator close button when they hear a neighbour approaching so he does not have to share the elevator and the director who freaks out because an owner knocked on his door are not well suited to communal living and our democratic condo corporations should not consider such anti-social behaviour as normal.

What is the real problem here?
Can it be that the condo boards do not want political parties canvassing in “their” buildings as they are afraid that it may encourage candidates for the yearly AGM condo elections to canvas their fellow owners for electoral support prior to condo elections?

It is quite possible.

Trend in voter turnout
Overall voter turnout in Ontario provincial elections has been declining for at least 25 years.

•  1990: 64.4% of eligible voters
•  1995: 62.9%
•  1999: 58.3%
•  2003: 56.8%
•  2007: 52.1%
•  2011: 48.2%
•  2014: 52.1%
Source: Elections Ontario

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