Not just another number

If you join a political party, don’t think you’ll be able to keep your membership under the radar

I hastily joined the provincial NDP party last spring without realizing the level of committment they were expecting from me. I thought I was signing up to be just another number in their records; another name to add to their sizable roster.

There is minimal responsibility in being a cog in the wheel of provincial party politics. At least, that’s what I was hoping for. As it turned out, my particular constituency didn’t have many university students on the books, making my membership both rare and noticeable.

I signed up because my MLA, whom I met outside of a political setting, asked me to become a member of his party. I agreed because he impressed me. Truthfully, I thought I could learn much from him.

At first being a member of the party was fun: I was exposed to a new group of intriguing people within my community and it felt good to become involved in something locally relevant. My expectations of minimal committment were being realized. Everything was flowing nice and easy for me as a new member until Gary Doer resigned as the premier of Manitoba.

When the election race for a new premier began, I soon found out that I had been automatically enrolled in the Manitoba Young New Democrats (MYND) when I had signed up in the spring since I’m within the age range.

Suddenly, the bombardment of phone calls began, asking for donations and seeing if I wanted to be a delegate for the convention. Whether I was in the midst of writing an essay for a class or heading out the door to the movies, it didn’t seem to matter. To the NDP, I was more than just a number. Instead, I was someone to be hounded for things that deserved much more time and attention than I thought I would be able to give.

I received three phone calls in one day regarding an event happening at the University of Winnipeg, in order to vote with the MYND. At the time of the incessant phone calls I wasn’t planning on going, but as it turned out, I was studying late one evening in the Bulman Centre right before the event was happening so I decided to stay and watch the festivities. Little did I know that my dreams of being a political party slacker were mistaken.

At the MYND meeting I was able to meet some like-minded people. I even met Greg Selinger before he spoke to a Bulman Centre filled with young New Democrats. It was an unexpected delight to see a crowd of students cheering for a politician like he was a rock star.

Now that the new premier has been determined and provincial politics are returning to business-as-usual, the daily phone calls have turned into bi-weekly updates. I don’t regret joining a political party because the involvement, however big or small, increases my interest and awareness of political issues which I would otherwise not pay any attention to or at least not understand as well.

However, the frustrating thing about signing up with a political party is their assumption that members will be able to become deeply involved at a moment’s notice, even when something as unexpected as the resignation of a party leader occurs.

Matt Rygiel is an English student at the University of Winnipeg.

Published in Volume 64, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 19, 2009)

Related Reads