Learning on the Campaign Trail: Gail McQuarrie

By Richard Bell

In political campaigns, no one’s in a better position to learn more from the experience than the candidate. A week after the election, we talked with Gail McQuarrie to get her reflections on her second campaign for office, and to talk about her future plans.

What was your over-all impression of your second campaign?

I didn’t find it a whole lot different than the first time around. But I couldn’t get to speak to as many people this time because there weren’t as many debates. There were six or seven in 2012, so that allowed us to get into the community more. There were only two this year, and neither one was well attended.

I had more money in 2012 than this year. When David Hendsbee said his opponents didn’t capitalize on the mail and advertising, that may be a point, but it’s just very expensive. I did look into the cost of sending mailings out through Canada Post, but it was way, way too expensive.

Certainly the public forums, missing those was the biggest different.

What did you like the most?

I like meeting people. I’ve always enjoyed meeting people, talking with people, especially about mutual concerns.

Were there any places or events that you especially enjoyed?

I always enjoy the debates and the forums. They are great opportunities for people to get a gut feeling for who you are, and what you could do.

Looking back, if you were advising someone who was thinking about running for the first time, what did you learn that you’d pass on?

First, you want to have a large team behind you.

Second, money. Without a fairly significant budget, you’re just pounding your head against the wall.

Third, you need time. From nomination day to the election, that only gives you six weeks to get out there and get around. It’s really just not enough time.

Was there anything that you encountered on the campaign trail that you were really surprised by?

No, if there were any major surprises, I saw them back in 2012. I was surprised when I called Mr. Hendsbee to congratulate him and he said he thought I had run a “negative” campaign. If you’re running against someone for office, you have to let people know what the concerns are that made you decide to run. That’s not negative.

Would you ever consider running for office again?

I’ve been asked to run again. Personally speaking, right now I don’t believe there’s enough interest in the constituents to have a change. 

So what’s next on your agenda!

Well, I’m still trying to get my last signs down! And I’ll get on with my life as it was prior to the election. When there are concerns that affect me or my community, I’ll certainly be out there as much as I can around, work permitting.

One thing I would like to see change is the rule that if you’re a city employee, you have to take an unpaid leave of absence from the day you put in your nomination. I had to take an unpaid leave in 2012. But Councillors don’t have to give up their paychecks to run their campaigns. 

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