Canvassing: Fall Results and Spring Prospects

Now that spring is (almost) here, isn’t it the perfect time for canvassing?

In the fall of 2015, ten Wellington X volunteers went out in pairs to knock on doors in the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial Area to talk to people about what they thought about the Wellington Street Extension (WSE).  We knocked on 406 doors in total, and spoke to 141 people over all. It was an insight-producing and even heart-warming experience. Then winter came. We’re going to start up canvassing again soon, so we thought this would be a good moment to share our interim results.

First, the numbers: of the 141 people we spoke to, 105 said that they were against the WSE; 8 said they were for it; 25 said they were undecided; and 3 were indifferent.

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We were very encouraged by these results.

But the exercise produced far more than polling numbers. We were struck by how willing and even eager people were to talk with us. Through conversations ranging from a few moments to over half an hour long, we heard all kinds of things, including:

  • a desire to maintain and protect green space
  • a concern that the WSE would reduce safety in the park for kids who play there, especially those who live in the Rideau Street townhouses, whose back yard is essentially the park
  • a concern that the WSE would cost a lot of money and that its need hasn’t been proven
  • a desire for the city to create separated bike lanes to ensure cyclists’ safety
  • a concern for turtles and other wildlife
  • a concern that Fluhrer Park will no longer exist with a road, because of how narrow the park is.

We also heard about other issues going on in people’s lives. In the Old Industrial area, one woman was keen to share her thoughts on the federal election, because no candidate had canvassed her neighbourhood (we listened to her ideas once we had finished with WSE issues). Another told stories of difficult city rules that made it hard to start a small business. We also heard broader concerns about climate change and the need to reduce our dependency on cars. People who grew up in the Swamp Ward told stories about how it has changed over the years. One woman lived in a house that has been in her family since the 1940s. One young man talked about playing in what is now Fluhrer Park, back when it was what he described as a sewer. All in all people really seemed to want to engage in discussion about where we live.

So this is an invitation. If you have 2-3 hours to spare on a week night or weekend afternoon, please contact us at wellington.x.kingston@gmail.com to find out more about how our canvassing efforts work, and to get paired with another volunteer.

It might seem scary at first to knock on strangers’ doors; however, it is a lot easier than it may seem before you start. Besides, it’s important: a community that takes time to connect and interact can build trust and a stronger mutual understanding. Yes, we are opposed to the WSE. We are also committed to understanding what we individually and collectively want rather than letting outsiders decide for us. And that understanding happens best one conversation at a time.

— Sayyida Jaffer

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2 thoughts on “Canvassing: Fall Results and Spring Prospects

  1. A fascinating picture of local residents. Hoping that somehow when you do your spring visits, you encourage residents to become part of the Secondary Plan outreach. Also it might be a good idea to forward this to Sonya Bolton at the city and ask her to pass it on to Antonio at DIALOGdesign.ca. I think they would be interested there.

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