The Arthritis NewsletterSummer 2012
Bring Hope To Others: Linda Wilhelm Part 3
Linda Wilhelm is a resident of New Brunswick and a person living with rheumatoid arthritis. She has worked tirelessly as an arthritis consumer advocate for many years, and in the spring of 2011, Linda made the daunting decision to run for a parliamentary seat. After receiving the Liberal Party’s nomination in the riding of Fundy Royal, Linda waded right into the political fray. She recorded this unique experience in a colourful and insightful “Election Diary”.
What follows is the third and concluding chapter of her diary (chapters 1 and 2 were provided in earlier editions of our newsletter). After the stress, the turmoil, and also the fun of the election campaign, which we covered in some detail in chapter 2, Linda now receives the negative verdict of the vote count. Was it all worth it? Let’s let Linda tell you in her own words how she felt about it all.
CHAPTER 3 “The Day of Reckoning Arrives”
Election day –begins with driving voters to the polls. Kendra and I begin in St. Martins and pick up a very senior lady. We help her into the car and the Elections Canada officer greets us, I think he may be a Liberal Supporter but he is impartial in his bearing and comments. I say “Hi” to those working there and we head out to pick up a second person about a half hour away, getting lost en route. We finally arrive about 45 minutes later to discover that she had made other arrangements to get to the poll. We wonder why she didn’t call and tell someone but–oh well—it’s a nice day for a drive. We decide to stop at that poll anyway and say hi. It’s now lunch, so we go to a nice restaurant to eat. After lunch we head to the Kingston Peninsula so Kendra can vote, then back to the campaign office.
May 3, 2011 Day after Election Day
So I lost and I didn’t get more votes than the NDP Candidate. He ran in the provincial election last fall so he was better known than me, but I believe I would have made a better Member of Parliament than any of my opponents. Darryl Pitre seemed like a good person but he sometimes seemed to lack control and he lost his temper on numerous occasions during the campaign. He used inappropriate language during one debate and walked out of another. At the time, I asked myself, “If he couldn’t handle that, how would he handle the House of Commons?” In my opinion, the incumbent has not worked hard for the people in this riding. He will not speak up for them and follows the will of the leader. I feel that he does not understand the issues facing the people here and some said to me: “the Conservatives could run a dog as a candidate in this riding and it would get elected”, an observation not very flattering to the incumbent. Stephanie Coburn is a very nice lady but her primary position was that NB should shut down Lepreau, our nuclear facility, and we should all grow our own vegetables, neither of which is realistic. She also asserted during a debate that the Green party was the only party which had anything in their platform about preventative healthcare. I rebutted that statement and said that the Liberal platform has prevention in our platform, along with a commitment to take regional, innovative models of care National, so all Canadians could benefit. In 1999 I was unable to walk and I was a shadow of whom I used to be and what I wanted to be. In 2011, I was the Liberal Candidate for the Federal election in the Riding of Fundy Royal. That is the primary reason why I decided to do this. The second reason, just in case they didn’t already know it, was for my children. I wanted them to see that they could do and be anything they wanted in life and that their mom was okay —-after everything I have been through.
To say that I’m disappointed in the outcome would be a stretch. It all happened so fast, from my initial indifference to another federal election to being placed smack dab in the middle of it in a way I could never have imagined. This was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world, but I am saddened at the state of the Liberal party. I have been a closet Liberal for many years and I truly believe that they represent the values that I hold dear as a Canadian. I also believe they had the best platform but somehow couldn’t articulate it to Canadians and we likely won’t see one like it again. I’m concerned about the healthcare system and our young people being able to access affordable post-secondary education.
I’m tempted, moving forward, to ask individuals when they contact me for help in navigating the care systems how they voted and to act accordingly, but I know I won’t. I’m back to my life, planning for summer at the lake, lunching with my daughter, holding my adorable grandson and going for walks with my two four legged friends, even getting another letter to the editor in the paper last week holding the Alward government’s feet to the fire on CDC (Catastrophic Drug Coverage) and attending question period at the Legislature where they debated the issue. Many people have come up to me and said that they hope I will try again, including my family doctor. They believe that part of the problem with the Liberals in this riding is that no one has ever run twice. Once is just not enough to get known.
Life is good—and how many Canadians are given the opportunity to run for MP? Not many — and I have no regrets. Stay tuned, one never knows what the future will hold, my experience has been that one thing always leads to another along the journey we call life.