CBC News Federal Election


Neither sleet nor snow nor grumpy electors…

Ely Fish is not dressed for canvassing in Toronto in January. It's �3 C with big, wet clumps of snow falling from the sky. Fish is wearing a thin ski jacket, jeans and running shoes – no hat and no gloves. He's been out here five minutes and already his hair is wet and water is creeping up his pant cuffs.

Ely Fish, 15, a Conservative party volunteer, wants the Liberals out of office. "They�ve become corrupted," he says.
Fish, 15, approaches his first door of the day, his first door ever. He's never before volunteered in a political campaign. He knocks. A moment later a man opens the door half way.

"Hi, I'm with the Peter Kent Conservative campaign," Fish says. "We're out canvassing with him today. Would you like to meet him?"

"I don't care for the Conservatives," the man says, shutting the door in Fish's face.

Fish comes back down the walkway. "OK, that was kind of scary," he says.

Fish is taking part in Peter Kent's youth day. A dozen or so of Kent's young supporters, ranging in age from 15 to 29, have just gathered with Kent on a street corner in an upscale neighbourhood in midtown Toronto.

This is poll 137 in the riding of St. Paul's, where Kent is running in a tight three-way race in the upcoming federal election. His opponents are Liberal cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett and NDP candidate Paul Summerville, a successful investment banker. Today's plan is to canvass four polls, twice as much ground as Kent typically covers in day.

"The idea is to create a storm," says Peter Atkins, Kent's campaign co-chair. "We've looked at the numbers. This area is critical for us. If we get the votes here, we win."

Fish is here because he wants to turf the Liberals out of government.

"I was very angry and disappointed in 2004 when they were re-elected," he says. "They have such a bad track record. They've become corrupted."

Conservative candidate Peter Kent and volunteer Leah Brown plan their canvassing route.
The day is also meant as a way for Kent to thank his young supporters. His campaign is largely run by men and women in their 20s and 30s. After a few hours of canvassing, the group will head back to the campaign office for a question-and-answer session with Kent.

The team works rapidly, with campaign youth co-ordinator Jonathan Colford, clipboard in hand, giving directions. But every 30 minutes or so the team has to wait to let Kent catch up. He is too much in demand.

Voters recognize him from his work as a television news anchor.

"Sorry I took so long, but I just had a complete conversion," Kent says, on one such occasion.

"The woman started out by saying she was definitely voting Liberal. She was concerned about women's issues."

Kent holds up the Tories' policy book. "I told her that it's part of our platform to not touch a woman's right to choose," he says. "She didn't know that."

As the day wears on, the volunteers get wetter and colder. They turn up their collars, and make fists inside their gloves. Megan Patterson, 29, does jumping jacks on the sidewalk.

Fish looks the worst. Icicles are forming in his hair. The hood of his jacket is full of snow. Patterson brushes him off and empties out his hood. Someone else lends him a pair of leather gloves.

It's clear by now that the team won't get through four polls today. Two is more like it. Otherwise the day is a success. They're getting plenty of requests for signs and Kent has converted a number of voters.

"Who are you guys with?" shouts a man across the street, brushing snow off his car.

"The Conservatives," Colford answers.

"Can I get a sign?" the man asks. "My wife doesn't want one, but she's not here right now so it's the perfect time."

Colford arranges to get the man a sign.

The team carpools back to Kent's Eglington Street West campaign office, where chicken wings, Chinese dumplings and hot chocolate await. Kent has 30 minutes or so to chat before his next appointment. Volunteer Maddy Bourgeois asks him how the Conservatives plan to deter gun violence.

"There's no one solution, but the first thing we need to do is stiffen the Criminal Code so judges don't have the leeway they now have," Kent says.

Kent is eager to talk about social issues with his young audience. "Gay marriage is a no-brainer in St. Paul's," he says. "Stephen Harper has been portrayed as a fundamentalist Christian. He's not. He was demonized in the last election, and Canadians, this time around, aren't buying into it."

The Q&A wraps up early. There aren't many questions. The team seems more intent on eating chicken wings and getting their toes warm.

"I guess I didn't have a lot of luck, but I'm still glad I came," Fish says. "A lot of times people don't really want to talk to you. It kind of deflates you."

Nevertheless, Fish plans to help canvass again. "I enjoyed getting reaction from the voters. I very much like talking to people and knowing what they think," he says.

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