First-hand politics support pedagogy 

By Jane Shulman

Peter Graham canvasses door-to-door bringing his party’s platform and convictions to voters. Magnifying glass

Peter Graham canvasses door-to-door bringing his party’s platform and convictions to voters.

Peter Graham is bringing first-hand federal election experience to the classroom. The part-time faculty member at the School of Community and Public Affairs is running for the Green party in his third federal election in the West Island riding of Lac-St-Louis.

While he doesn’t discuss his political views in the classroom, Graham is putting into practice many of the ideas that are studied at the SCPA. Graham’s campaign is a living example of theories of community economic development, sustainability and public policy.

Graham is running for a party that is not expected to win the election, but he thinks there’s a good chance he will take at least 10% of the vote in his riding. The Greens had 3 233 votes in 2006, representing 5% of ballots cast.

His reason for running is simple. “I’m 50 years old, and I think about how much change there’s been since I was a kid, and how much change there’s likely to be by the time my kids are my age,” Graham said, noting that he wants to do something to try to stop some of the negative changes.

Graham is balancing the round-the-clock job of being a federal candidate with his teaching duties, and work on a master’s degree. As a candidate for a smaller party, he said his campaign strategy differs from his counterparts. Graham doesn’t rely on media coverage or name recognition to get votes. He is spending several hours every day canvassing his riding, knocking on doors and talking with people one by one.

“Our policies are not conducive to sound bites,” said Graham. “We need to talk with people, do meet-and-greets, and really get into the issues.” Graham described the urgent need to look at the sustainability of Canadian resources and the way we regard the environment. Climate change is just the beginning of the Green party’s concerns, Graham notes. The party wants Canadians to reconsider their assumptions about the way we view our economy, transportation and political systems.

“We assume we’ll have cheap energy for the foreseeable future, evidenced by how many buildings and roads we build,” Graham offered as an example. “If energy prices quadrupled, these things wouldn’t make sense anymore. A big challenge for Greens is to make people aware of this package of assumptions.”

As for the Green party’s rise in the polls during this campaign, Graham said the mainstream media is more attentive to issues of climate change and the environment, and that generally, there’s a more widespread awareness that something’s not quite right. He plans to keep running and building support until the Greens have a real shot at winning the Lac-St-Louis riding, at which point he hopes a big-name candidate would run for the party.

“The world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and I want to be able to tell my grandkids when they ask that I didn’t just watch it happen, that I did something,” said Graham.


Concordia University