Should Edmonton city council candidates stop doorknocking with latest COVID-19 restrictions?

A candidate running for Edmonton city council in Ward Anirniq is pressing pause on her doorknocking campaign in light of the newest COVID-19 restrictions announced by the province.

“We heard loud and clear, if you can stay home, you should,” said Erin Rutherford.

“So we made the decision to put public health over politics and ensure that we stop the door-to-door campaigning for this short period of enhanced measures.”

READ MORE: Schools go online as Alberta adds more COVID-19 restrictions for 3 weeks 

Rutherford is challenging an incumbent and says face-to-face conversations at the door are an integral part of her campaign.

“We had a plan to hit about 12 neighbourhoods in this month of May, so it is a sacrifice,” she said. “But it’s one, again, that we’re willing to make.”

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Now, she’s calling on other candidates to do the same to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Politicians are leaders in the community, so it’s our chance right now to lead by example,” Rutherford said.

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Knocking off incumbents is traditionally an uphill battle, but it’s something Coun. Jon Dziadyk did successfully four years ago.

“I won’t forget how I got elected, by having a lot of conversations with folks at their doors,” the ward 3 councillor said.

Despite attributing his win to doorknocking last time, he agrees with Rutherford and plans to stay home for the next three weeks.

“The candidate has to be responsible in how they adapt and the measures that they take to ensure people’s safety,” he explained.

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Political scientist Chaldeans Mensah said he believes if candidates continue to go door to door right now, given the current number of active COVID-19 cases and stress about the pandemic, it could do more harm than good.

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“The last thing I want to see is a candidate coming to my door to solicit my vote. It’s going to leave a very negative impression on me,” he said.

Mensah said candidates need to shift their campaigns online given the pandemic.

“(They should) make sure they have a very effective social media campaign — kind of an interactive campaign online — and be able to reach voters that way,” he said.

Mensah said he thinks there is one traditional means of campaigning that won’t go away anytime soon, and that’s the use of election signs for name recognition.

“You have to have the budget to make an impression with your signage,” he said.

READ MORE: Face of Edmonton’s city council to change with new mayor, councillors come fall election

The municipal election is coming up on Oct. 18.

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