a peek inside the fishbowl

14 Nov, 2006

Exercising a right

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro

Dagne picked me up last night at 5:30. We were heading to our neighborhood polling station to ask people to sign our petition re: the Maison Jeanne D’Arc.

I was dressed and ready to go when she arrived. I was nervous. I had already stuffed my clipboard into my bag. I can’t believe I managed to find it. I last used it in high school. In fact, on it I had once written the following:

Now I take me down to class
I pray the Lord my soul to pass
If I should die of mental break
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

(That’s quite something for an agnostic to write, isn’t it?)

I also grabbed my voter ID card, blank petitions, a photo of the Maison Jeanne D’Arc and a handful of Halloween candy. You know, for sustenance.

Dagne and I started upstairs, in a corridor near the polling. It was amazing to watch people react to my clipboard. I’m the same way. I see someone with a clipboard and immediately think they’re about to hit me up for something. They’re either going to ask me for money or for my soul – neither of which I am willing to part with very easily.

In light of this clipboard-related awkwardness I nailed down my pickup line right away.


Almost everybody, maybe 99% of the people I asked, stopped to listen to what I had to say. Super polite. I had a photo with me, which helped too. Almost everybody signed. The response was overwhelmingly positive. It really charged me up. A handful (less than 10?) of people refused to sign. But no one was rude. There was a lively and interesting discussion with almost everyone – both the pro and the con. The ones who were pro-development raised some interesting points. A couple people didn’t think the building was worth saving. One guy thought the new homes would increase property values. One lady didn’t sign because she was “in construction.” I gather that meant she thought there was work to gain here. Another didn’t sign because she knew someone who wanted to move into the proposed development.

I was glad to discuss all points of view on the matter, and directed people to places they could submit their comments, not matter what they were.

At one point we were politely asked to move aside because we were blocking pedestrian traffic en route to the polls, but that was okay by me. Dagne moved downstairs to another entrance. I realized I could do fine on my own.

A few people asked me for copies of the petition so they could help get some signatures. (Please leave a comment and I’ll send you one by email.)

So many people voiced their support, and also their surprise. Some people had NO IDEA this was happening in their neighborhood. Some thought it was a done deal. A number of people asked me what “association” I was from. “None,” I said. “It’s just me and one other person here tonight.” They couldn’t believe two people were doing this on their own.

There were some skeptics (“I don’t think you’ll get anywhere, but good luck anyway!”), but I measure those against an equal number of hopefuls. There were lots of thank yous and hand shakes. “Thank you so much for doing this,” they said.

I had so many wonderful conversations. I was overwhelmed by the concern, and glad to hear that I am not alone. This is what kept me going. I talked for two hours straight.
Funny thing. I decided to vote during a lull in the crowd. I marked my card and submitted it to two ladies at the door. Suddenly they were laughing and cheering. I wondered if all voters got this kind of reaction. As it turned out I was the 1000th person to vote that day. Yay me!

But for some reason this really pumped me up. It was a real charge to watch it all happening around me.

Eventually I ran out of petitions. The polls were closing in 15 minutes anyway. I gathered my things and went downstairs to find Dagne. I found her cheerfully engaged with someone who wasn’t keen on signing. He had to think about it. That was fine. More than fine, in fact.

Tired, Dagne and I shared some of the Halloween chocolate I had stashed. And we walked home in the drizzling rain.

5 Responses to "Exercising a right"

1 | DaniGirl

November 14th, 2006 at 11:38 am


Oh, brava Andrea! I love the fact that you cared deeply enough about this to take action – and that you had such success.

Sadly, my vote didn’t count last night, but I’m glad it was a worthwhile night for you!

2 | Ryan

November 14th, 2006 at 12:31 pm


How many signatures did you end up with just yesterday, then? Sounds like you interested a lot of people in the issue. Great work!

3 | andrea

November 14th, 2006 at 12:37 pm


I just tallied my signatures from last night. I got 60…. and it could have been a lot higher if I had been able to catch everyone who passed by. I imagine Dagne got about the same.

4 | Miss Vicky

November 14th, 2006 at 9:19 pm


Good for you guys! I’ll put something on my blog about the petition. I’m only sorry I won’t be able to work on this as your councillor. But thanks for your vote!

5 | Sharon

November 15th, 2006 at 9:27 am


Right On Andrea! it takes people like you to actually do something. And at least you can say and you’ve showed your girls you tried and it was worth it no matter what the outcome.

Good on ya.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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