Thursday, 31 July 2014

Dancing with the Municipal Election Act

Prior to entering politics, I thought I had a lot of neat ways to promote myself as a candidate. It turns out there are a number of restrictions on where and how you may campaign. Here are just a few examples.

Dundas Cactus Parade

I thought it would be a lot of fun to put a float in the Dundas Cactus Parade. It's a really popular event and I had a great idea: I was going to decorate my Honda Element to look like a Borg cube from Star Trek (the theme is TV and movies). The deadline to enter the parade came up very shortly after I entered the race so I really rushed and got my application in place. 

It turns out that the Parade organizers don't allow politicians to participate. They were very polite about it and I said I understood and was comfortable with their decision since it applied to everyone. No problem.

Corn Roast in the Driving Park

I thought it would be a lot of fun to buy a pile of corn from Dyment's and invite any and all to the Driving Park for a free party - no fundraising would be done. I planned it for the Wednesday before the Cactus Parade and contacted the Elections staff at the City to double check that it was OK.

It turns out that using a public space, such as a City park, for a campaign event could be interpreted as a donation to my campaign by the Municipality, which is strictly prohibited by the Municipal Elections Act. Again, no problem.

Handing Out Cycling Maps at Cactus Fest

For the last five years, I've set up and staffed the Hamilton Cycling Committee booth at the Toronto Spring Bike Show. It's a great way to promote Hamilton to a very wide audience. I have literally handed out thousands of the Hamilton Cycling Maps - it's practically second nature. I thought it would be great to hand out maps at Cactus Fest since so many people visit from across the City and they are a natural conversation starter. Again, I checked with City staff.

It turns out that this activity could also be interpreted as a campaign donation by the Municipality, which, as mentioned above, is bad. No problem.

Inviting Residents to Visit Me at the Dundas Library

I thought it would be nice to have a safe, accessible and central public place to invite people to drop in and chat with me. Having people over to my house seemed odd and asking people to a café didn't seem appropriate since people might feel like they needed to spend money there. I thought the library was the perfect venue - plus I already visit there two to three times per week and they have wi-fi.

It turns out once again that this could be interpreted as a campaign donation by the Municipality. Sigh.

So, that's the kind of week it's been behind the scenes. I want to be quite clear and up-front about this: I am not trying to skirt or break any rules. I am just trying to come up with some fun and novel ways to run my campaign. I completely understand and accept the advice I've been given by the City Elections staff.

I am sharing this with you here as a matter of transparency. I am not infallible but I am committed to fairness and adherence to the rules. Besides, I still have plenty of cool ideas in the hopper!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Building a Platform

Way back in my very first post to this blog, I talked about my five-point platform:

1. Attract Families
2. Welcome Innovation
3. Encourage Diversity
4. Enhance Infrastructure
5. Increase Prosperity

I've been talking to a lot of people over my first week and a half of canvassing and it's helped me to understand that broadly, the issues that really matter to folks are covered in this platform. It is reassuring to know that I'm on the right track.

Today's Spec contained an article that brought point #5 of my platform to the fore this morning: Hamilton food banks meeting growing need with extended hours.

"Under the plan, one of [a group of] food banks will be open Thursday night from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each week on a rotating basis." 

They are doing this to accommodate the "working poor" who have difficulty accessing the food bank during normal hours since they're already busy working. The Dundas Salvation Army will be part of this program.
When I was formulating my platform, point #5 originally read "Reduce Poverty" but I really didn't think that fully expressed the message I was trying to convey. 

I much prefer the sentiment behind "Increase Prosperity". It implies that poverty should not be worn as a stigma and that what benefits the least-fortunate among us benefits us all.

Many residents don't realize that Dundas actually has the second-highest poverty rate in Hamilton. We also enjoy the third-highest median income. What all this means is that income disparity in Dundas is a real issue. 

Food banks have a special place in my heart. When we lived in Toronto, before moving to Dundas, Kim and I volunteered as order-pickers and screeners for the Daily Bread Food Bank. It was there that we learned about the breadth of a food bank's clientele. 

It was really eye-opening to see that ordinary, well-educated people needed to use the food bank due to nothing more than unfortunate circumstances. There but for the grace of God, go I.

My Mom runs one of the neighbourhood food banks back in Sudbury and I know things haven't changed a bit. If anything, they've gotten worse.

Food banks serve a noble purpose but they symbolize a fundamental failure in our society that leaves people and far too many children on the margins. It is deeply troubling that seniors or people doing an honest day's work have to go begging.

As Councillor, I pledge to do what I can to eliminate the need for food banks in Dundas and Hamilton. Let's put an end to this debilitating cycle!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Love of Family

It was rather gloomy when I set out to canvass the Yorkview and Grove Cemetery areas this morning. I was debating whether to drive, gave my head a shake and realized that the best way to get there was to walk through the Driving Park and sneak along the path to Lowe Court. Duh!

I'm so glad I did because it gave me a great excuse to visit one of my favourite sculptures, Love of Family, which is located across from the tennis club, nestled in the rock garden that was liberated by Parks staff last summer. It looked especially pretty surrounded by the blooming black-eyed susans.

Love of Family
It struck me as a particularly timely image given all the local hubbub about nursing recently in the news. That there should even be a controversy about something so fundamental is perplexing but I digress.

Visiting the sculpture did the trick and I was off with renewed vigour.

This end of town is a fascinating blend of old, new and really new homes. Some places date from the 1850's and others were built just a few years ago. This sort of mixing is a very hot topic on the Dundas Facebook page I mentioned yesterday.

I'm of two minds on the topic. On the one hand, I love older houses. Ours is about 130 years old and I think it has tons of character, despite its many, many quirks. On the other hand, I did three years of design school and have a deep fondness for contemporary design. 

I personally believe they can coexist quite happily. Heterogeneity can be a really positive influence on a neighbourhood.

Speaking of the future, I attended a Metrolinx presentation this evening at the Hamilton Workers Arts and Heritage Centre concerning the new James St. N GO station. We got an update on progress and an up-close look at the final design for the structures and plaza. 

I thought it looked fantastic and incorporated a lot of features (a stage, parking for food trucks, public art...) that one doesn't normally associate with a mass-transit portal.

As I left the open house, I snapped a picture of the new piles at McNab St. The future does indeed look bright!

2001, A Transit Odyssey

Monday, 28 July 2014

Coping with Adversity

Nope nope nope

Canvassing in the rain is a lonely job. I am generally trying to do my best to keep things very low-key for my first round of canvassing. After all, this is summer time and to most people, the municipal elections seems like a lifetime away.

If someone is out in their front yard, on the sidewalk or sitting on their front porch, I have no qualms about introducing myself and handing out a card. Beyond that, I do my best to respect people's privacy. Besides, I would say that probably 50% of homes in Dundas have some sort of "No Soliciting" or "No Junk Mail" sign hanging outside.

I rationalize to myself that my cards are not junk mail but important election information.

This approach has served me well so far. I can move through most neighbourhoods relatively quickly, which is good because I have a LOT of ground to cover. When someone is open to a conversation, I give them all the time they want to spare me. I've learned so much in just one week! Unsurprisingly, the people of Dundas have a lot on their minds!

With the hundreds and hundreds of cards I've distributed, I've only had four people go out of their way to reject them. To them, I smile, wave and wish them a nice day.

Despite all the great and valuable encounters I've had, I am a fairly sensitive guy and it's the rejections that stick with me.

Then, out of the blue, I get an e-mail on my phone that's a cogent and thoughtful response to my cards. My smile is instantly restored and the bounce is back in my step. People really are responding to my message and it is very gratifying.

It was just shortly after I received just such an e-mail that I was tracked-down by the gentleman that puts all that fine work into the Dundas Facebook page. If you haven't been yet, you should visit - it's great. Don't forget to "like" it.

Anyhow, we've been trying to connect for some time now and we finally had a chance to get our first video interview "in the can". You can find it here:

It wasn't such a bad day after all!

25 Days Down, Three Months to Go

The municipal election is exactly three months away. Three months seems like a long time but in my corner of the automotive world, this is where we start planning for the future and anticipating the worst.

Inevitably, I bring the same discipline to everything I do from campaigning to trail building. It's second nature.

Sundays, as I've explained, are special days. This is where I get to reconnect with myself and my friends and build trails at Christie Lake.

While I do go on about this, there is a lot more than you might expect that goes into building a "simple" single-track trail.

Our focus is on building "sustainable" trails. Sustainability means something to different to everyone depending on the context in which you use it. For us, it means building trails that require as little maintenance as possible once they're built. Ideally, these trails will need no further work to keep them open, except for clearing the odd fallen tree.

In the beginning, you sit down with a giant topographical map and lay out your basic loop structure. You decide on way-points and pencil in loops starting with the easiest near the most likely starting point and gradually increasing the level of difficulty as you get deeper into the woods.

Next, you walk through the woods and start sketching in attractive possibilities. Sometimes you find a really pretty tree or other feature that you really want your trail users to see. This process generally begins months or even years in advance of the actual building.

Commonly known as "corridor flagging", it can be done in the dead of winter. It involves tying bits of coloured flagging ribbon to trees to define a general route for a trail. You work with the topography of the land (as opposed to against it) to develop what are know as "contour" trails. The idea is to keep water "shedding" across the grade and away from the tread.

Different difficulty levels allow you to work within different average grades.  Beginner trails shouldn't exceed 5% average grade either up or down. Intermediate trails are generally limited to 10%. Advanced trails can often go beyond 15%.

All this is dependent on the the half rule. Simply stated, no trail grade should exceed half of its side-slope grade. While that sounds complicated, it's not. We use clinometers to double-check our work; if a trail looks too steep, it probably is.

Here's a picture of a trail I flagged almost two years ago.

Insert trail here
It may be tough to see but there are little dots of orange in there that show you the way through the brush.

Once built, a proper trail will look like it's been there forever. Here's a picture of the trail just ahead of the section shown above. It's only two weeks old but it already looks like it belongs where it is.

Hey there, handsome!
That's enough trail building 101 for today. I hope it was informative and gave you some insight into the planning and forethought that go into designing a high quality trail network. I want you to know that I am putting the same kind of effort into running for Council. I'm already hard at work looking to the future and planning what I want to accomplish in my time at City Hall. Just think how far we can go!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hamilton, the Other Dundas

As I mentioned last week, Saturdays are family days around here. If you read the various guide books about how to conduct a proper municipal campaign, they emphasize the importance of canvassing on Saturday. Apparently, that's when most people are at home.

I'm not sure where the people who write this stuff live but at our house, Saturday is the last day you want to be approached by a stranger. We're way too busy! Saturday is the day when you finally have a chance to get stuff done!

Anyhow, the minute we turned off TSN (Hungarian GP qualification), we were out the door on our way to Fortino's for groceries.

After that, we were off to mid-town to check out The Hamilton Toy Museum's open house. I don't know who had more fun, me or the boy. This project is clearly a labour of love and we were glad to drop in and support such an amazing initiative. Plus, I learned that the boy is an adept air-hockey player!

Oh my gosh!
By this point, we were all pretty hungry so we dropped by the Bread Bar on Locke for lunch, which was very tasty. Just a few steps away was the the Locke Farmer's Market and we were "compelled" to grab a bottle of Tawse Cab/Merlot to go with dinner. I still maintain that the Ontario government's decision to classify wine as an agricultural product was pure genius.

WARNING: Campaign message ahead. I think it's really important for a candidate for council for Dundas to understand the City beyond the reaches of our town. Dundas is part of Hamilton and our councillor has a duty to understand the City in its entirety. Ideas that benefit Hamilton will ultimately benefit Dundas.

I've been hearing a lot of discontent about how Dundas subsidizes the rest of Hamilton and I do believe there is some truth to this. However, I think the best way to stabilize our tax rate is to revitalize Hamilton and enable the core to pay for itself. Just think about how attractive downtown Hamilton could be under full employment. This is something we can accomplish right away with the right mindset!

Anyhow, that's enough politicking for a Saturday. I'll just cap off this post with a recipe. Tonight, we made glazed BBQ ribs. I adapted the recipe from the LCBO's Food & Drink. I generally find their recipes a bit fussy so I aim to simplify them with an eye to achieving the same results.

Step 1: Season (salt and pepper) the ribs.

Step 2: Give them a good char over HOT charcoal.

Step 3: Cut the air to the coals and put the ribs aside to cook on indirect heat for a really long time.

Step 4: In a good size sauce pan combine (per rack of ribs) 1 cup root beer (we actually had some home-made root beer in the fridge!), 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, as many garlic cloves as you dare, some green onions, a good knob of ginger, some sriracha, black pepper, fish sauce and lime juice. It should look something like this:
Step 5: Reduce, reduce, reduce. Keep going until it coats the back of a spoon. Strain out the solids.

Step 6: Once the ribs are done on the grill, baste with the glaze. Cook about 4 minutes per side or until everything is good and sticky.

Step 7: Serve with chopped salted peanuts, all the other great things that summer has to offer (corn, tomatoes, lettuce, whatever... ), lots of wine and ENJOY!

Friday, 25 July 2014

3,000 Words

After picking up the boy from pre-school this afternoon, we were off to a BBQ hosted by one of my wife's colleagues. If you've not been part of the post-graduate environment, you may not be familiar with the concept of a "lab party".

This is special event where a senior researcher will invite their grad students and various other co-workers over for a pot-luck. It's meant as a thank-you for all the hard work the students do throughout the year. The best ones are BBQs.

They're a lot of fun. I've been to lots of them and it's interesting for me to notice the shift for us in moving from the "student table" to the role of "grown-ups". We're the ones eating corn-on-the-cob and hamburgers on the run, chasing after kids who are trying to eat glow sticks.

After the week I've had, it was nice to relax, sip on a Pabst and enjoy the company of some fine people.

If you'll indulge me in a cliché, I'm going to let the following three pictures do the bulk of the rest of the talking for me.

Luckiest kids ever
Somebody (probably a Dad) is building this amazing tree house just a few blocks from me. I noticed it as I was on my way out on my "afternoon shift". I have no doubt it will be epic and I will follow its progress with great interest.

So awesome
This is far and away the best "No Soliciting" sign I have ever seen (and I've seen several hundred this week...). I was tempted to write "Good for one free beer" on the card I left in the mail box but, alas, I'd left my pen at home. If this is your house and you're reading this, I owe you a beer. All I will require as proof is an address - you name the brand and I will deliver it personally. Thank you so much for the much-needed laugh!

Campaign, they said, it'll be fun!
Finally, the orange highlights on this map show all the streets I canvassed on foot this week. I can't be sure but I must have distributed a couple of thousand postcards by now. Dundas is a strange town and there's no better way to discover that than by foot. Downtown is a grid... sort of but once you start spiralling outward, things get funky as we become constrained (as we are) by our unique topography. In a word, it's an adventure.

I (mainly my feet) are looking forward to taking it a bit easier over the weekend!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Challenger Emerges

I got home from another long day of canvassing (nailed the area south of King up to Spencer Creek - gosh there are a lot of houses in town!), and unrolled my copy of the Dundas Star News to learn that yet another candidate is about to enter the race.

Mark Coull is a retired high school teacher and seems like a nice guy. He intends to officially enter the race in August and I wish him well. While I still want to win, I appreciate it when people engage in the process. It's a big leap for anyone to take.

Looking back on it now, I really think I made the right choice entering the race when I did. I'm really having a great time doing this and meeting lots of really great people along the way. Plus I don't think I could sit still knowing I couldn't start campaigning for a month!

With it now being a (likely) five-way race, it should prove to be very interesting and I'm really looking forward to the all-candidates debate.

I capped off a rewarding day with a relaxing visit to the Dundas Farmer's Market. We got basil, yellow beets, cherries, plums, eggs, cheese and corn - a real bounty. I love summer!

The parking lot of plenty

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

More Parades Please

Today was a banner day! Well no not literally. Allow me to elaborate.

First thing this morning, I popped out on to the front porch to grab the paper and what I found there made my entire day. I got my first postcard back!

For those either out-of-practice or unfamiliar with "kindergarten-ese", the card reads "More Parades Please". I couldn't have said it better myself.

Speaking from experience, "parades" should be a lot easier to organize in Hamilton. One has only to look at the difficulties Cactus Fest is having to understand that something needs to change. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I organize a really big Provincial-level bike race in Ancaster every Good Friday. I've done this with the help of the Community Partnership Program (CPP) and the Special Event Advisory Team (SEAT). Everyone on Staff at the City has been most helpful and it's been a pleasure to work with them.

However, it is far from the most straightforward process I've ever encountered and I pity anyone who is a first-time event organizer. To the City's credit, Staff has been directed to streamline and simplify the process. 

As an event organizer, I've recently been invited to review and comment on the proposed new system. It looks really promising and it makes grant applications for every sort of funding a one-stop affair. I really hope it works so that we can have a lot more parades!

Finally, I've just fulfilled a boyhood wish of mine. I just ordered 1,000 custom printed balloon. I can hardly wait until they get here!

Balloons for all!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

It's Time for a Change

Day 2 of canvassing has come and gone. My feet are killing me but the Heritage District is in the bag (minus a short length of Park Street). It's been a very eye-opening experience, to say the least and I'm really enjoying getting to know each and every street of our town so intimately - and I'm still basically in my own neighbourhood!

With temperatures reaching the low 30s this afternoon, I smartened up and made sure to take some electrolytes in the afternoon. Salt was still crusting my temples as I got home. It was a HOT one!

Hitting the pavement for three-hour stretches is like a series of small vignettes interspersed with long stretches of sweating and dropping cards in vexingly difficult to locate mailboxes and slots.

Naturally, the people I meet are the highlights (also, the cats are really nice too).

Here are just few "moments" from my day:

"It's time for a change!" This came from the first person I ran into this morning. I was actually quite surprised considering its source. It pays to keep in mind that Dundas is a voting town - our turn-out in the last Provincial election was well in excess of 60%!

I also came across our crossing-guard as she was jogging by. "I didn't know you were running!" I explained that I am expressly keeping my public persona separate from my private life. When I'm "Daddy", I"m off the clock.

My last anecdote for today concerns a car that pulled up to a very nice house I was visiting. "Do you live here?" Nope, it was Meals on Wheels. It turns out it takes three volunteers to cover Dundas. It was a brief but enlightening chat.

My dogs are barking, as they say, so I'm looking forward to my "office hours" at the Dundas library tomorrow morning. See you there!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Right Back Where I Began

My first job as a kid was as a paper carrier for the Sudbury Shopper. Wouldn't you know it, here I am almost 30 years later and I'm walking around handing out post cards door-to-door. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

As you may recall, I'm fairly new to all this. For now, I've decided to break my canvassing into two three-hour chunks. I'm going to go from 9AM-noon and 1PM-4PM every day until I've hit every home in Dundas. That leaves me enough time to check on e-mail and social media in the morning, again at lunch and once more before I go pick up the boy from pre-school.

I emerged this morning all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Good morning Dundas!
Did I mention the heat... and oh, the humidity? I was a sweaty mess before even 10AM but here's where all that endurance training I did as a cyclist pays off. I persevered!

I spent the morning around the old quarry neighbourhood and the afternoon around Parkside and the heritage district. I met some really nice people and was really impressed how engaged most were in current events, even three months out from the election!

I'm hoping my "reader response cards" generate a good amount of feedback but I can tell you from the conversations I had today that there are definitely some things that are getting on people's nerves.

Top 3 Things Making Dundas Angry

1. Taxes
2. Parkside
3. Condos

Does this make you angry? It probably should.
When I got home this afternoon around 4PM, I was absolutely beat. I haven't felt quite this trashed in some time. Thankfully, the boy succumbed to our goading and we got to spend a great couple of hours at the splash pad in the Driving Park after dinner. I really needed that.

Tomorrow, we tackle the west end of the heritage district. I'm hoping to cover from here to the Dundas District Lofts.

For now, I'm going to tune into the CHCH evening news and then collapse into bed!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

My Summer Reading List

Eliabeth Renzetti had a great piece in the Globe this weekend. It was all about the impossibility of summer reading lists. Essentially, movers and shakers publish these lists of insurmountable tomes and we're all left to stumble around wondering why the books we "should" read aren't more fun.

I could sit here and try to impress you by saying that I'm just digging into Hillary Clinton's new bio or tell you that I just *love* Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century but frankly, the summer is just too freaking short to plow through something so serious.

Here's a picture that illustrates the depth and breadth of my summer reading:

Now, I will say that Pearls Before Swine is no ordinary comic strip. Its author, Stephan Pastis (in the grand tradition of Charles Shultz, Gary Larson, Berkeley Breathed and Bill Watterson) has a unique insight into the human condition. The collection I'm currently reading dates back to 2008 and while some of the references are an interesting window into the "past" (George W. Bush is still President), the truths elucidated therein are still very real.

Oh ya, and the X-Men book... what can I say, I'm a Marvel geek.

We had another great day in the woods today out at Christie Lake. While it was rainy and somewhat miserable in the valley, once we emerged from the fog to greet highway 5, things weren't all that bad. 

Misty, like the corners of my mind
Everything was so still and dense. Getting there before all the dog-walkers and trail-runners is an immensely fulfilling thing.

Most of the guys that come out to build are Dads and we're all comfortable enough with the general scene that we mostly let the kids we bring with us roam free (my boy being the exception since he's not yet three). It's a great way to give our kids an appreciation for nature and a better understanding of the wild world around them. To me, it's an important educational experience.

Mr. Jumpy, the trail-building toad
We made some significant progress again today and if you've never been, even if you're not a moutain biker, I strongly encourage you to come visit. The trails we're building are there for everyone to enjoy. Pack up a picnic lunch, prowl around the woods and enjoy the serenity. You'll be glad you did!

As is our habit, we stopped by Taylor Farms on the way home (just across highway 5 from Flamboro Downs) to pick up some corn, field tomatoes (already!) and blue berries. If you haven't visited there yet, don't wait! It may be the best local produce market in the region. Almost everything they have in stock was picked that day. It is outstanding! 

Taylor Farms - so good!
Anyhow, tomorrow is the start of my campaign postcard blitz. I'm going to be canvassing Dundas six hours a day until I've reached every single home in town. My goal is to have reached everyone in time for Cactus Fest. I anticipate some sore feet!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A Quiet, Rainy Saturday

I'm not gonna lie; outside of Twitter, I didn't do a whole lot of campaigning today. The Mrs. is up to her ears writing a textbook chapter right now and that means that on weekends, I'm on parenting detail.

Don't get me wrong, I love it but there is little time to come up with amazing election strategies when you're busy repeating gems like "Look with your eyes, not your hands!!!"

I finally appreciate my Mom so much more than I did when I was a teenager.

Anyhow, I understand it's not that big a deal since my blogging friends tell me that traffic is really low on weekends at the best of times.

I know; let's talk about cooking!

I love cooking and with our busy schedules, I try to get most of mine done on Saturday afternoon while the boy is down for his nap. That way, no matter what the week may hold, we know that we're just a trip through the microwave away from a delicious yet nutritious dinner.

Today, I attempted something new: beef Rendang sliders. It's Malaysian (if you're Malaysian, please forgive my poor attempt at this).

Step 1: Break down a proper chunk of beef. I chose a short rib roast.

Step 2: Raise some peanut oil to high heat and fry a lot red curry paste until everything is bubbling nicely.

Step 3: Add cubed beef and get it all coated with the curry paste. Throw in some palm sugar (brown sugar is a fine substitute).

Step 4: Add 2 cans of coconut milk, 2 cinnamon sticks and 2 cups of nice homemade chicken stock. You can throw in a few kaffir lime leaves too if you have them.

Step 5: Let it simmer forever. You'll know when it's ready when it turns a deep mahogany brown and there's almost no liquid left.

Step 6: Serve on cute little slider buns with pickled red onions (I'll give anyone this recipe on request.), a few cilantro leaves and enjoy!


After (yes, it's supposed to look like that)

We also had a great time at the Dundas library this morning. If your kids aren't yet enrolled in the Summer reading program, don't delay! There are contests and prizes and all kinds of fun activities. The boy has already earned three new books to call his own - it costs nothing to join and it's so much fun! Do it!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Playing Hooky

You'll have to forgive me if this post is somewhat brief as I've just returned from Hog Town with the boy on our first ever trip to the Honda Indy. Today was Fan Friday and admission was "free" with a donation to the Make A Wish Foundation.

I sprung him early from pre-school and we scooted down the QEW to the Ex to take in all the sights and sounds. We had an EPIC afternoon.

I have to admit that despite all my pretenses as a progressive and environmentally-minded individual, I have a profound weakness for motor-sports. In fact, in completing my election profile for The Spec earlier this week, I listed my "vice" as "fast cars". I guess it beats crack and driving an Escalade under the influence of cheap vodka but I digress.

I blame my Dad.

It was a great Daddy-son day and I really did owe it to him as I've been out campaigning pretty much all week. Highlights include when I talked the program guy into comping us a pit pass and the entire chaotic scene at the Hot Wheels pavilion - never have I seen so many little boys mesmerized while ACTUAL race cars were whizzing by at break-neck speeds.

Eyes on the prize.
No, I'm not going to sit here and try to charm you with cute kid pics (although if it works, I ain't complaining). I did in fact accomplish something substantive today: I completed the survery from the Hamiton & District Labour Council. I have to hand it to them; it really did make me think.

I'm quite pleased with my answers. The great thing about all the surveys and questionnaires you're asked to complete as a candidate is that they really make you carefully consider your position on all sorts of issues, especially, it seems, ones that you hadn't previously considered.

At the risk of sounding boastful, I was on fire. Here's the answer of which I'm the proudest. It was concerning how I would improve the way Council functions:

"I am not a member of nor am I affiliated with any political party. I am a dedicated non-partisan and greet every situation with an open mind. I pledge to not be swayed by any voting blocks that may form in Council. I will place an emphasis on evidence-based decision making and urge the rest of Council to follow suit. I will strive to work collaboratively with my fellow Councillors and in consultation with my Ward, City staff and all municipal employees. "

Finally, today was Nelson Mandela Day. He was a great inspiration to me and I get irritatingly misty every time I try to explain who he was to the boy.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Odds & Sods

Now that some of the major chunks of starting out a campaign are behind me, I'm tying up some loose ends.

I made a dedicated campaign Facebook page so that I don't have to annoy my non-Hamilton friends with all my election noise. Please "like" it here: As of this writing, I'm already sitting pretty at 16 likes.

Oh, and I topped 50 Twitter followers today too. You can find me at @risdale4dundas. It's been fun; I even got Jian Ghomeshi to reply to one of my World Cup tweets!

I think I'm getting the hang of this social media business...

We (the Hamilton Cycling Club) also got the final go-ahead from the Hamilton Conservation Authority to install our pump track at Christie Lake Conservation Area. If you don't know what a pump track is, don't worry, you're not alone but trust me, it will be awesome!

This is something we've been working on with the HCA for almost three years now and it should use up the last bit of the Trillium capital grant money we had. This is a great partnership that just keeps getting stronger.

Kim and I also took some time out for a lunch date and headed on down to the just-opened Il Fiasco, Dundas' newest restaurant. We shared carpaccio and fritters to start and a potato pizza. It was great and the service was excellent.

We ran into a couple of neighbours there and had a good chat with the owner. You'd think it would be a relatively simple task to open a new restaurant in a spot that was previously a restaurant. In Hamilton, it seems, you'd be wrong.

I've heard this sort of complaint before from all sorts of small business owners around town. Food for thought, so to speak.

Finally last night, I attended an information session hosted by Environment Hamilton and Hamilton Association for Renewable Energy regarding local improvement charges. "LICs are long-term, low interest loans backed by the City. [...] LICs are currently used by Hamilton homeowners for limited property improvements. We want to extend LICs to improve your home comfort and reduce your energy bills."

Managed properly, this sounds like a really great idea. Learn more here:

Coming Up

Campaigning takes a back seat tonight as I don my Hamilton Cycling Club hat to run our bi-monthly Sydenham Hill Climb time trial. Hope the weather holds!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Power to the People!

It's been a busy 24 hours here at campaign HQ (aka, my living room). I came home from my inaugural "office hours" at the Dundas library to find a huge pile of cases on the dining room table. Christmas in July!

Things just got real!
Looks like I'll be putting my new campaign shoes to good use making sure every home in the ward gets one of these!

I also wrapped up my battle with WordPress and got my website up and running. It will continue to evolve as I develop more content. You can visit it here: There's a handy menu button and the top right that takes you back here to Blogger.

I also filled out a candidate profile for The Spec and started looking at a survey from the Hamilton & District Labour Council. That last one is a toughy and I'm going to take a few days to contemplate my answers to the long-form questions.

Anyhow, as I mentioned yesterday, I headed over to Democracy on Locke last night to participate in The People's Platform. I really wasn't sure what to expect but wow, what a turn-out! It was standing room only and people were spilling out onto the sidewalk.

I thought the process was extremely well moderated and every effort was made to make sure that everyone had a voice. Just look at all these ideas people put up!

I even managed to end up in one of Joey Coleman's tweets!

Oh hai!
It was a truly inspiring evening. It was amazing to see so many people engage with the political process. There will be more events in the series so watch this space for more details.

The icing on the cake was what I saw on my way back.

Most excellent!

Coming up

For tonight, I was invited by a Dundas citizen to attend an information session regarding local improvement charges (LICs), an affordable way to make significant energy saving improvements to your home.

Wednesday, July 16, at 7 pm, at Laidlaw Memorial United Church, 155 Ottawa Street North (corner of Ottawa and Cannon)

Should be interesting!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Grind

I love a challenge and although I consider myself relatively web-savvy, I've never tried building a website. Every campaign needs a website. What to do?

Thankfully, I have some good friends that set me up with a proper URL and a WordPress account. "It's really easy!" they said as they handed me the keys...

Never one to leave well enough alone, I had to go tinkering. Well, let me tell you, I had that thing pretty well screwed up for the better part of the day. My apologies to anyone unfortunate enough to visit while I was "fixing" things that weren't broken.

To give you an idea of the kind of day I was having, I learned what a widget was today and how not to make them work properly. Everything should be fully operational by next week. Trust me.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Hamilton Civic League last night as a candidate. I was very warmly received and was encouraged to participate.

There were some very thought-provoking presentations and a great summary of the results of their Values & Priorities survey. It was fascinating to see just how my personal opinions lined-up with those of the respondents.

I also ran into another candidate there who may be familiar to you from his involvement with Open Streets: Ira Rosen. He's running to take over Brian McHattie's seat in Ward 1. Seemed like a genuinely nice guy so I became his first (and only) twitter follower!

Coming Up

The Hamilton Civic League is having their kick-off for the People's Platform tonight at Democracy on Locke:

People's Platform , 7 pm tonight, Democracy Cafe, 202 Locke St S.

Based on the quality of last night's discussion, I'm looking forward to good things tonight.

Also, tomorrow will mark the start of something new for me. Throughout the summer, in addition to canvassing, I will be available for "office hours" from 10AM to noon every Wednesday at the Dundas branch of the Hamilton Public Library. Please drop-in and say hi! (I'll have a sign on my table to identify myself.)

Monday, 14 July 2014

My First Real Day On the Job

Now that the excitement of getting in the game is starting to abate, today, it was time to get down to brass tacks and get some real work done.

On today's To Do list:

  1. Design and order campaign post cards and stickers.
  2. Register for the Dundas Cactus Fest.
  3. Go to the bank and dump some money in my campaign account so I can pay for all this nice stuff.
Fairly modest, right?

Item #1

Done and done!

The post card.

The sticker.
Pretty slick, right? With any luck, I should have this stuff in my hot little hands by the end of the week.

Item #2

Done and done! 

Be there or be square.

As a candidate for municipal election, I qualify as a Not for Profit/Charity and the rate for a 10'x10' patch of King Street for the entire festival is $250 ($282.50 after HST). Possibly the bargain of the century. You can't really put a price on being able to interact with thousands of citizens in such a fun atmosphere. 

I hope I'm near one of the stages, I'd love to be entertained while I'm there!

Item #3

Done and done!

While I'm looking at different ways to do some fund raising (and I do have some really fun ideas...), if I'm going to get this thing off the ground, I need to put up some seed money. 

You'll recall that the spending limit is actually quite modest for this election, especially if you include in-kind work. I'll need to be creative.

This afternoon, I took a deep breath and put my money where my mouth is. I deposited $5,000 dollars into my campaign account. That should keep me going for a bit. Yikes!

Coming Up

Tonight, I'm off to my first community meeting as a municipal candidate, which is pretty neat. 

Hamilton Civic League Meeting
Volunteer Hamilton
267 King Street East (near Wellington)
Monday, July 14, 2014
7:00 –9pm

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Power of an Idea

Easy like Sunday morning.
Few things mean as much to me as the trails I (we) have built up at Christie Lake. Here was a simple thought put forth by a faceless avatar somewhere on an obscure forum deep in the outer reaches of the internet. And yet, enough of us latched on to the IDEA to make it a reality.

Impromptu meetings were held at the Coach and Lantern in Ancaster in the dead of winter. People from all corners of Hamilton were united: we need more trails. A few brave souls stepped forward to volunteer. Mailing lists were logged and committees were formed. It was on.

It just so happened that I put my hand up at at just the right (wrong) time and suddenly I was in charge of something bigger than me. I organised a rag-tag bunch of people into action groups and set about making contacts - any contacts.

I'll spare you the details but one thing led to another and now, almost five years later, we have a huge group of volunteers surrendering their Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings to build trails.

They build partly out  of self-interest (who doesn't want to ride something they made) and partly out of a sense of duty to the greater good. They've ridden for years on other people's trails and now, they have the opportunity to give something of themselves to other riders (and runners, hikers, dog-walkers, skiers, snow-shoers, kids, etc...). The work we do with Hamilton Conservation Authority has been extremely positive and it benefits us all.

Every Sunday morning, we load up the car with tools (and all the other paraphernalia a toddler demands) and head out to Christie Lake Conservation Area. Come what may, I always know my friends (old and new) will be there to help me add a few more meters to our hard-won network.

7km strong and growing every day.

This is why I'm running for office - the power of an IDEA.

Saturday, 12 July 2014


Let me tell you, if you haven't taken a proper summer vacation in a few years, you owe it to yourself to dig-in your heels and make it happen. I, personally, have been neglecting myself in this regard over the last few years.

I won't bore you with a travelogue (and frankly, if you want to see the highlights, you can witness my lameness on twitter) but suffice it to say that it was just the right mix of family and "not" family. We kept things relatively local, basically sticking to the Georgian Bay circle route.

It was epic - I got way too much sun and couldn't be happier!

So, again on twitter, I made a coffee date with my new rival Toby Yull, who, as it happens, had the same basic idea as I did and decided to enter this municipal election almost immediately after Russ Powers decided to retire.

We met a Café Domestique yesterday, just minutes after I unpacked the car. I treated us both to Americanos and we set about having a repartee.

Toby is a lovely woman and if I weren't voting for myself, she would be my first choice.

We don't see eye-to-eye on everything but we are lock-step in our belief that Dundas is in need of renewal.

Don't get me wrong, things are darn near perfect in Dundas but, as with most things, there is room for improvement.

What Dundas needs more than anything right now if we want to remain at the forefront of civic life in Hamilton is FAMILIES.

While it may not be obvious, Dundas is dangerously close to pricing itself right out of the family market. I know plenty of people who would love to move here and raise a family but just can't stomach the real estate prices.

Cliché as it may sound, kids are the future of this town. If we want to keep our "new" high school open and keep our children from being bussed to Ancaster once the the next ARC review decides Dundas is no longer "economical", we have to act now.

Stay tuned for more. I'm just getting started.

Buidling the future.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Taking A Breather

What a week! I've gone from being just some guy to being just some guy with a campaign blog!

If you like what you read here, please spread the word (or better yet add a comment). Judging by the response I've had in just a few days,  I think we're really on to something here!

This morning, I had a great interview with Craig Campbell from the Dundas Star News and I'm really looking forward to seeing the results in print.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm actually supposed to be on vacation right now so, this afternoon,  we packed up the car and headed north for some much needed R&R.

As I sit here, snugly nestled on the shore of beautiful Lake Nippissing, I'll leave you with a couple of parting thoughts.

Last night, I made myself a Twitter account. Please consider following me by either searching for me by name or by my snazzy handle @risdale4dundas. It's been quite interesting to see the followers pile up so far!

I'm also available for "friendship" on Facebook by searching for Marc Risdale. I never turn down a request. Having such an unusual name has never seemed like such an asset!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

The Publicity Shot

Ugh, I knew it was coming and there it was in my inbox, a request from the Dundas Star News for a publicity photo. "In the meantime, before Monday (our regular weekly deadline), can you please forward a photo (high-res jpeg)  of yourself to this email address."

Excluding license and passport photos, the last time I "sat for a portrait" was in high school. I'm just a regular guy who likes to get things done; I'm not big on photos. Never mind the fact that I was sporting a week-old beard and too-long-to-be-taken-seriously hair (I'm supposed to be on vacation); I have a big (to be kind) "busted" nose, a cheesy grin and my glasses never seem to sit straight on my face. I'm a mess.

This morning, I shaved, got a haircut and pulled myself together. Time for a picture!

Yes, that was the best one.

However, the one thing I do love about this photo is the location. For those of you that don't recognize it, it's one of the new benches at Dundas Central Elementary. To me, it symbolizes everything I adore about Dundas and it represents a lot of the ideas I've put forth in my platform.

When I talk about families and diversity, I think about the families I saw building the park and the kids I see enjoying it every day. 

When I talk about innovation and infrastructure, I think about risk takers like Michelle Chin, president of the Central Home and School Association, who had the nerve to suggest such a crazy project, and Adam Bienenstock, who runs a fantastic business right here in Dundas.

When I talk about prosperity, I think about how we're all better off for these myriad projects, big and small, that make Dundas a better place to live every day.

I still smile every time I walk past the park and see my son's paintings wired to the fence surrounding the JK/SK play area. 

Who I Am

So, just who do I think I am?

Watch this space!

My Roots

I grew up in Sudbury in the 70's and 80's, the son of Ken, a travelling salesman, and Jocelyne, a developmental worker. My grandparents on my Dad's side were British immigrants - Jim, a nickel miner and professional percussionist, and Kay, a dedicated Scout leader and foster Mom. My grandparents on my Mom's side were "pure laine" French-Canadians - Léo, a nickel miner and lumberjack, and Jeanne, a school teacher. My godparents were Rhéal (after whom I am named), head of the Nippissing school board and Armande, a school teacher.

My Education

I did JK though grade 8 at École Félix Ricard and went on to graduate near the top of my class at Collège Notre Dame.

I earned a Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Waterloo in 1995 and a Diploma in Industrial Design from Humber College in 1998.

I have also earned continuing education credits in Economics, Financial Analysis and Accounting from the University of Toronto.

My Career

I've spent the last 16 years as an Automotive Engineer for a Fortune 200 company. Early on, I was chosen to be part of a small team that grew a new branch of the company from a meagre $5 million dollar division into something that had nearly tripled in size by the time it was amalgamated with three other divisions to form a $200 million dollar arm of the company.

In my various roles in Management, Design, Sales and Quality, I've had the opportunity to work with nearly all the major auto makers and have travelled extensively, most notably doing extended residencies in Seoul, South Korea, and Nagoya, Japan.

I consider myself an inventor by nature. I have approximately a dozen patents to my name, either granted or pending.

My Background

Hard work and volunteerism were a way of life as I grew up. Both my parents were active members of our church and served several terms on the executives of a number of service clubs.

My decidedly middle-class upbringing meant that if I wanted something, I had to earn it. Through high school, I delivered newspapers, did my time at a fast food restaurant and ended up as an assistant baker in a grocery store all while maintaining excellent grades.

My program at university was co-op, which meant that every four months, I had to pick up stakes and move either for school or work. My jobs there brought me to all corners of Ontario, from London to Gananoque, Port Elgin and Toronto.

Despite, this hectic rhythm, I always found time to get involved. For instance, at Waterloo, I was editor of the engineering newspaper, the Iron Warrior, as well as holding various directorships in the Engineering Society.

My Home

My wife Kim and I moved to Dundas twelve years ago so she could pursue her research and teaching career at McMaster Unversity as a member of the Faculty of Engineering following her doctoral work at the University of Toronto.

We fell in love with Dundas at first sight and bought the first house we were shown. We are very proud Dundasians and are thrilled that our young son Theo will grow up in this community.

Never one to gather any moss, I almost immediately volunteered with Dundas Community Services and was just recently awarded a 10-year service pin by the Province for that work.

Our early years here were filled with work and travel. Racing both dragon boats and bicycles at a high level, our adventures brought us to places as diverse as Vancouver, Montreal, San Francisco and even Hong Kong.

About five years ago, I led a grass-roots effort to build a sustainable recreational trail system at Christie Lake Conservation Area. I promptly joined the executive of the Hamilton Cycling Club and with the help of over 3,000 hours of volunteer work (not all my own!) and a Trillium Fund capital grant, we have a thriving and growing network that draws users from all across the City and the region.

That's me on the left (photo credit: Krys Hines).
Now, as Vice-President of the Hamilton Cycling Club, I still oversee our advocacy work as well our main fundraising event, the Good Friday Road Race, one of the oldest and biggest Provincial bicycle races in Canada. When I first became director for the event, we were barely breaking even and our relationships with the community and our sanctioning body were weakening.

I decided it was time for a radical change. I moved the race from Flamborough to the Ancaster Fairgrounds, completely reworking the event and its finances. The Ontario Cycling Association now considers it one of its flagship events. Plus, we're now solidly in the black!

One of my many volunteer "jobs" is as a Provincial Commissaire for the Ontario Cycling Association. Simply put, in the world of bike races, I'm a referee. Earning this qualification involves a lot of in-class training as well as practical "internships", where we shadow senior referees.

Aside from learning all the rules involved, we also receive extra-curricular training in conflict resolution, mediation and effective communication. It's been a great learning experience and it has given me a whole new insight into the world of competitive cycling (as opposed to my experience on the other side of the fence as a busy racer).

My work with the Club also led me to join the Hamilton Cycling Committee, an advisory committee to the City of Hamilton Public Works Department, where I represent Ward 13. It was here that I learned about the inner workings of the City and all the fantastic work done by Council and Staff. Slowly, almost accidentally, I was compelled to run for office.

So, here we are, at the present.

Now that I've gone on at such great length about myself, I want to hear about YOU!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

So It Begins!

Thankfully, submitting your candidacy paperwork for a municipal election is a relatively painless affair and the City of Hamilton has done an admirable job of streamlining it.

The first thing you need to do is fill out the Nomination Paper - Form 1, which is actually a provincial document provided by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Having filled-out a PDF version of the form, I made my way to City Hall.

Here's where I parked:

The cage

Did you know we had bike cages downtown? (I did but that's only because I'm a representative of Ward 13 on the Hamilton Cycling Committee but more on that later...) It's a great facility. I imagine we could do with something like it in Dundas... but I digress.

Once inside, I was directed to the City Clerk's kiosk, where I was warmly greeted by genuinely kind and helpful gentleman, Christopher Newman. He guided me through the remainder of the process and made sure all my i's were dotted and t's crossed.

Among other ancillary forms, you also need to complete a Declaration of Qualifications that basically says you are you who you say you are and that you are indeed eligible to run for office. Interestingly, I learned that to run, you only need to be 18 years old on the day of the election so, conceivably, a 17 year old could run. Neat!

I was off to the cashier to fork over my $100 my filing fee. If I do well enough in the election, the fee is actually refunded so I'm going to think of it as a deposit.

My "deposit"

With that done, it was off to the bank to open a special campaign bank account. You need to set this up to ensure that all the funds you collect and use over the course your campaign are recorded properly. As of January 2nd, the spending limit for our ward is $20,694.40 per candidate.

They come up with that number using a base amount and adding an supplemental amount for each eligible voter in the Ward. The total amount will be revised closer to the election to reflect a more accurate voter count but it won't change dramatically.

"In kind" donations are meant to be included in this amount (for example, you can't just "give" a car to a candidate) but volunteer hours are not.

Anyhow, that's enough nuts and bolts for now. It's been roughly 8 hours since I've become a candidate and the reaction from my friends has been sort of humbling. I think people feel a real sense of gratitude when someone they know and trust runs for office. To them, I offer my sincere thanks - as we progress through this campaign, their kind words will bolster my resolve!

Here's a parting shot of my new "campaign shoes" on the steps of City Hall. I laughed to myself when Councillor McHattie mentioned his new shoes today too. "Hey, that's my idea!" Ha!

So it begins!