When I was seven, my parents sent me off in a van with other kids to drop flyers at people's doors. Since then I've been a political junkie, joining the thousands of volunteers hitting Canada's streets each election. I've done every job from pounding signposts into frozen turf to campaign manager.
Why do we do it? Politics isn't just signs, speeches and kissing babies. If you think all parties are the same, you're just not paying attention.
I've only got one vote, but campaigning offers the chance to rack up a lot more. In this campaign I'm working with teams of people, some of them under 18 and others who are not citizens and can't vote.
We march door to door with a list of names, asking who you're supporting. We're not just being nosy.
We jot a number next to your name: 1 for supporter, 2 for likely supporter, 3 for unknown, 4 for other team. Come October 14, E-Day, we'll remind supporters to vote, because good intentions alone don't win elections.
Canvassing isn't problem-free. I'm no salesman and probably spend too much time discussing issues with people.
Trickery is all too common, including trashing election signs, replacing someone's campaign literature with your own, and those anonymous flyers with negative attacks that materialize just before election day.
Things were different during my 19 years living in apartments in Detroit, DC, Cleveland, Philly and New York City, where no politician or campaign worker ever once came to my door.
As in Canada, political door-knocking is protected in the U.S., but fear and entrenched property and gun rights discourage campaigning.
Police constantly warn folks not to open their doors to strangers. Many react by fleeing to gated communities or high-security condos explicitly designed to bar outsiders.
In Toronto, households open their doors to talk politics with me, a stranger. One lady in a wheelchair even apologizes that she isn't capable of fully opening the door.
In apartments and condos, people sometimes ask, "Who is it?" or even ignore us, but the many "No sales agents" signs taped on doors suggest fear isn't the only culprit. Building supervisors often illegally block access, saying election materials must be left in the mailroom next to advertising circulars (where they sit for a day or two before getting tossed).
In Toronto Centre, where condo entrances are often guarded, reps from NDP candidate El-Farouk Khaki's campaign tell me some buildings are demanding that canvassers make appointments with security guards to escort them door-to-door.
Security has even denied Khaki and other volunteers entry into the tower where his campaign office is located, arguing it's a private condo - although in law it's illegal for condominium buildings, other multiple-residence buildings or gated communities to refuse access to election workers. The head of security tells me it was an unfortunate error, but in a short campaign errors add up.
One hostile caretaker for two large buildings on Tyndall Avenue followed us around yelling and crumpling our literature, telling us her tenants don't care about elections. "They'll throw your [flyers] out, and I have to clean up your mess."
Okay, you may be thinking it'd be nice not to have politicians banging on your door, but consider this: when candidates can't communicate with voters directly, advertising fills the void... and it costs. The public is bombarded with simplistic 30-second sound bites and puffin shit.
By contrast door-to-door campaigning allows candidates to hear constituent concerns and answer impromptu questions.
My pet peeve is non-voters (NVs), or as Michael Moore's latest doc dubs them, slackers. His film, Slacker Uprising, which is currently free over the Internet in the U.S. and Canada, details his attempts to use concerts, free ramen noodles and clean underwear to bribe young slackers to vote.
Sometimes slackers open up to me. Many sound like jilted lovers afraid to commit because the last politician they liked let them down.
They like to believe they're sending an important message by not voting - and they are: "Ignore me!"
Campaign organizers know who voted and who didn't, and I've been at the table when tough decisions had to be made about where to spend most of our limited campaign time: apartment buildings in polls where only 35 per cent of residents voted or homes where 60 per cent turned out? Guess whose issues get heard?