Organize like one of Canada’s top digital strategists

admin – February 26, 2022

I know we’re the seven-second attention span generation so I’m going to challenge you to stick around to the end. Ripped straight from Laurie Antonin’s LinkedIn profile, she’s a digital campaigner, strategist, organizer and disruptor.

She’s been building the roadmaps to empower activists and now she’s switching to GPS-mode to help all of us navigate safely to our destination. Laurie has a knack for breaking through barriers with her storytelling abilities.

But in order to talk about breaking through in organizing — first, we need to break it down.

“My mission is to show we don’t have to be typecast.”

Laurie, who is a Black Caribbean Canadian, says it again to make sure we hear the message loud and clear: “Why can’t someone like me take up this space?  I did it.”

Laurie is leading national digital campaigns for the largest labour organization in Canada. 

Every superhero has a great origin story

“From a really early age I knew [my siblings and I] were different, we stood out. I remember my mom would just always praise our Blackness. She’d say it didn’t matter what people thought about us and that we are meant to be loud and stand out. I think that’s something that stuck with us.”

Laurie says her mom grew up on a farm in Haiti — where she’d hear planes fly over the house — and imagine one day she’d be on those planes. And surely enough that day came.

“I thought it was so interesting because she couldn’t imagine where those planes were heading, she just knew she had to be there. She strived to seek out the unknown, and fight for better, maybe that’s why I operate in a similar way.”

Things got ugly, then they got better

“My life changed when I got involved with the union and became a steward at the job I was holding down at a boutique hotel.” 

She said things got really ugly at one point at her job, they wanted to cut out an entire department. 

“I simply refused to have those people lose their jobs, so we refused until they locked us out,” she said. “We had the weight of all the workers and their families on our backs. I remember making sure everyone was on the same page about how to strategize and vote in a direction that would show the employer that we were ready to stay out there as long as was needed.”

While they weren’t able to get everything they wanted, they secured compensation that wasn’t previously on the table. 

“Looking back, I love the work we did because if we hadn’t organized — it would’ve been a different outcome.” 

Like they usually do, Laurie’s employers caught on to her organizing and mobilizing skills — and started cutting her hours. 

Fortunately, her union had her back and sent her straight to their national office. 

Leading Nation-wide change

It didn’t take long for Laurie to find a campaign to get behind. Mental health would be the first big campaign she ran in 2012, talking to workers across the country, at a time when digital organizing was just starting to be a thing.

“We were doing fun things like getting people to send tweets and text other people — not knowing that was going to be something that became more automated now,” Laurie said.

In 2014, Laurie also ran a campaign to get more young people involved in their union. She put a committee of young workers together and had held an event around it. She said more than 3,000 young people participated across the country.

Finally, Laurie landed at the Canadian Labour Congress. She was the national representative for the anti-racism and human rights department. 

“They were expecting me to just do policy,” she laughs at the memory. “But I was like hold on a second, let’s get CLC on the map! Let’s do something different.”

So she got work making sure every single email was in the database of people who were doing human rights work in unions around the country. 

“At a time when we weren’t as sophisticated as where things are right now, we said let’s throw the largest human rights conference you’ve ever seen. Let’s do things differently.”

Laurie says in order to help people understand why they should care about human rights they created a virtual experience. In 2016, Laurie’s team brought people into the world of a refugee that moved people to tears.

“We used visuals and video to really tell a story that connected — people cried — but then we would say this is why we do this work. Sign up to get more information from us,” Laurie said.

“I want to challenge what doesn’t exist to bring something more to people.” 

She said if you want people to take action you have to take them to a place where they can connect with the problem and see themselves in the solution. You also need to surprise — or ‘wow’ — people and give them something they wouldn’t expect.

Digital movement and meeting people where they’re at

“It’s the only way you can get people’s attention,” Laurie said. “The more I started to do this work — bringing people on a journey —  the more digital tools made more sense.” 

“If you’re trying to build a movement or bring people from one place to another — whether that’s physically or emotionally — you have to be able to tap into where they are at any point of their day.”

Even before the pandemic, more people are becoming more insular, they’re focused on the day-to-day, just trying to balance all their responsibilities. What they end up missing is that it’s actually their own civic action that can change the world they live in.

“Create an experience that meets them where they are and gets them out of their day-to-day lives.”

“The pandemic forced us to slow down for a second and tune into the moments that were presenting itself at-hand. We saw racial injustice come to light, frontline workers working in uncertainty, racial tensions — it was a moment for us to slow down and see what kind of world we’re living in and the effects it had on individuals.

She said technology and digital engagement found its home in bringing those issues to the surface, forcing people to educate themselves and think of ways to get involved. Many people understand the power of coming together — there’s an energy there — during the pandemic people were offered tools to have an impact. 

Celebrating the successes

“I’m always in the hustle — the moments where we’re pushing, testing, trying something new, going back, making it better, fighting for people to see our vision — it’s a constant hustle.”

Success happens all the time but we need to stop and see what kind of changes we won.

“Always change up the way you do your strategy, your outreach, never keep it the same. If people know what to expect, don’t expect them to do something different if you do it differently.”

For those of you who scrolled through to the end a pro-tip from Laurie: Always get phone numbers and never stop talking to them.

Whether you’re a labour union, political party, or non-profit, here are four crucial ingredients to run a successful digital campaign: be remarkable, targeted, memorable, and engaging.

The shift to online marketing and digital organizing has been happening for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the digital transformation. With more and more organizations, companies, and brands upping their digital game, it’s getting harder and harder – particularly for smaller organizations – to get noticed.

Leah is Metric’s new Director of Campaigns and she’s pulled together some sure-fire ways to make sure your campaign will break through in an increasingly competitive digital world.

1. Be remarkable. 

Our number one goal – regardless of the topic, issue, or organization – is to drive action that creates change. To do that, we need a message and creative approach that is provocative, fresh, and compelling. Think about some of the most memorable television or online ads you’ve seen (including classics like “I Am Canadian” or “Don’t You Put It In Your Mouth”). What makes them stick in your mind? Many of the most famous campaigns stand out because they made good use of messaging and creative content that stands out in some way whether by surprising the audience, evoking an emotional response, or tapping into the audience’s value system. 

Recently, Metric partnered with the BC Building Trades on a campaign advocating for flush toilets on construction sites. The campaign tagline ‘Get Flushed’ is catchy and provocative while still communicating the ultimate goal of providing construction workers with flush toilets – yes you read that correctly, BC construction workers are currently being denied this basic workplace right. 

Being remarkable requires you to know who you’re speaking to, or who you’re looking to engage so that your message and creative content can provoke the necessary action to achieve the change you’re seeking. In this podcast, Seth Godin talks about how being remarkable can attract the attention of folks who are the most likely to take up a new idea or a new approach. In turn, they influence the larger majority.

2. Target your message.

Traditionally, marketers have set up campaigns meant to reach the maximum number of people with a broad message that appeals to the widest audience. While this is a valid strategy, talking to “everyone” is often not the best approach. In fact, we regularly advise our clients to target a narrow audience with a clear, concise message that is tailored to their specific experiences.

Organizations like unions and non-profits should consider targeting their message to a smaller, more influential group of people in order to stand out in a noisy digital landscape. 

By targeting a smaller group of people with a more direct, provocative message, you can give your campaign the edge it needs to stand out in an increasingly competitive digital world.

3. Be memorable.

Every campaign needs a message and content that resonates with your audience on both an emotional and practical level. A good campaign compels people to take action. So, if you want your audience to do something, or do something differently, you need a message that is memorable enough to stick in peoples’ minds long enough to affect their decision-making. There’s interesting literature on the topic but the principles are fairly simple: connect to where people are at, and give them a roadmap of where to go from there. 

This video from the YWCA USA is a great example of a strong, compelling message designed to encourage women and BIPOC folks in the US to vote in the recent election. This video captures strong feelings, and compels viewers to act. I don’t know about you but after watching this I’m itching to head to the polls.

4. Engage your audience and empower them to act.

Digital campaigns in 2021 need to be much more than social media ads and microsites. Progressive organizations have enormous opportunities to build on traditional organizing techniques and apply them to the digital world. New tools are being launched everyday and a good agency can help you navigate which ones are worth adopting. Ultimately what we want is to empower our audience, our supporters, and our new contacts with meaningful actions they can take to help us achieve the change we’re seeking.  

I can’t tell you how many times in my life as an advocate, activist, and campaigner I’ve been asked by volunteers, members of the public, and other supportive organizations the question “what can I do?” A good digital campaign answers that question before it is even asked. 

Once you have folks taking an action, look for ways to engage them in further actions. For example, if they’ve signed a petition ask them to share the petition to their own social media. Once they’ve done that, ask if they have friends or family members that would also like to sign the petition. Once they’ve done that, ask if they’re willing to post a short video describing why the issue matters to them. Once they’ve done that ,ask them…well, you get what I’m doing here. There are infinite possibilities for ways to engage and empower supporters and even if we’re adopting new digital tools and online tactics, it all goes back to the basic principles of organizing.


The most successful campaigns go beyond the basics to maximize effect and reach people on a deeper level.

At Metric, we take a methodical approach to every campaign that includes clear goal setting, defined outcomes, a call to action, a tightly managed budget, a timeframe, and ways to measure success. We build on these foundations to help unions and progressive organizations run truly remarkable, targeted, memorable, and engaging digital campaigns. 


Leah Ward is Metric’s new Director of Campaigns. Prior to joining Metric, Leah served as Communications Director for Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley. She previously served as a senior advisor to Premier Rachel Notley as part of the issues management team for Alberta’s NDP Government. In that role, she worked on Alberta’s continent-leading Climate Leadership Plan, helped improve financial support for disabled Albertans, and helped negotiate a historic agreement with the Metis Nation of Alberta and the Metis Settlements General Council.

Pride month can be a complicated time for queer communities – particularly for trans, Two-Spirit, non-binary, Black and queer People of Colour. 

In Canada, we must continually confront our collective history of genocide commited against Indigenous people and the ongoing colonial erasure of Indigenous lives, cultures, language and experience. Recent events are a reminder that racism, transphobia, homophobia, and queerphobia exist in Canada and that racism and hate have deadly consequences. 

These reminders come in many forms including but not limited to the recent uncovering of mass graves containing the remains of Indigenous children in various locations across Canada, the ongoing genocide of Indigenous women and girls, the recent murder of a Muslim family, and the ongoing violence comitted against queer People of Colour, particularly Black, trans, and Two-Spirit folks. 

Even as restrictions ease in parts of Canada, many Pride events for 2021 have been cancelled or moved online because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many organizations, labour unions, and political parties are looking for ways to show their support for Two-Spirit, Queer and trans communities online and through digital means.

At Metric, our advice is twofold: 

  1. Work at being an ally
    • Identify local organizations, leaders, and groups that are working to undo systems of oppression in Canada and in your own community and amplify their message.
    • Hire experts who can help you make sure your organization is welcoming and safe for Two-Spirit and QTBIPoC* people. 
  2. Learn, apologize, and learn
    • Take it upon yourself to learn about the histories, cultures, battles, and victories of Two-Spirit and QTBIPoC people.
    • Hire experts to teach you if you run out of resources online or in libraries. 
    • If you make a misstep (and you might), apologize and learn from the experience. 

*Queer-Transgender spectrum Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (QTBIPoC)


The Metric team took some time to collect and share some resources available throughout Canada that contribute to the cause of advancing rights for Two-Spirit and QTBIPoC people and undoing systems of oppression that continue to harm, and in some cases kill Two-Spirit and QTBIPoC people who live in Canada.

Maureen (she/her) is Metric’s Content Manager.

Maureen wants to highlight Dr. James A Makokis, a Cree Two-Spirit physician who helps trans and Two-Spirit people in rural Alberta using traditional Indigenous teachings. Dr. Makokis provides medical services and guidance to trans and Two-Spirit people who often face persecution within their own communities as a result of the historical and ongoing colonization of Indigenous people in Canada. 

This 12 minute video features the story of Alec, a Two-Spirit teen who is learning to accept himself with the help of Dr. Makokis.

Savanna (she/her) is Metric’s Digital Manager. 

Savanna wants to share an Ologies podcast that features an interview with Riley Kucheran, Assistant Professor at Ryerson University who describes himself as an Indigenous Fashionologist. Riley talks about properly paying Indigenous artists for their work, and your responsibilities when it comes to wearing cultural pieces. He also does a deep dive on why Indigenous fashion is the most sustainable way to create clothing and how not to commit cultural appropriation.

***Note: this episode was recorded in 2020 so the brief mention of Residential Schools predates the discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of 215 children located on the traditional territory of the Secwepemc at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. It similarly does not address the subsequent discovery of additional mass graves in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. 

Leah (she/her) is Metric’s Director of Campaigns.

Leah wants to share resources available through the Queer Events website that features event listings in Southern Ontario as well as educational resources, workshops, Queer literature, films, blogs, and history. Among the many events and resources available, the site lists a series of Two-Spirit Writers Clubs hosted by spoken word artist Jennifer Alicia Murrin throughout June. 

The site also features a blog post WE’VE BEEN HERE: NOTABLE QBIPOC that articulates the ways in which Queer BIPoC folks often experience a form of double erasure. That is to say erasure from mainstream Queer communities – often dominated by homonormativity and Whiteness – and erasure from their own cultural communities. The blog highlights a number of notable, fascinating, and powerful QTBIPoC folks and showcases people whose contributions are rarely recognized.

D’Anita (she/her) is Metric’s Associate Account and Project Manager.

D’Anita read Butter Honey Pig Bread and was captivated by the author’s seamless writing style and dynamic topics weaved throughout the book relating to culture, food, queer love, identity, family, mysticism, truth and authenticity.

You can hear more about the author, Francesca Ekwuyasi, a Black queer writer and artist who was featured on Weird Era – a podcast run from a local indie bookstore in Montreal, Quebec (Librairie Saint-Henri Books).

Caitlin (she/her) is Metric’s Account and Project Manager.

Caitlin wants to share TWO SPIRITS, a powerful documentary about a person named Fred Martinez who was nádleehí. The film tells the heartbreaking story of a woman dealing with the violent loss of her child while teaching us about Navajo traditions that embraced Two-Spirit people and honoured them in a time before colonial power.  

***Note: this documentary contains graphic depictions of racism, hate and violence.

Lucy (she/her) is Metric’s Senior Account and Project Manager.

Lucy wanted to share some additional Two-Spirit resources available through Out Saskatoon. The site offers a number of resources including information on historical roles of Two Spirit people, the effect of colonization on Two Spirit people through the introduction of gender roles and heteronormative behaviour, and the resurgence of Two Spirit people in the public.


Queer Black people, Two-Spirit people, and trans and non-binary People of Colour continue to experience violence and oppression in Canada. Pride is an opportunity to continue the fight to undo systems of oppression and to ensure better health services, legal and workplace protections, and safer, more inclusive spaces for all gender and sexually diverse people who live in Canada.

As members of these communities, and as allies to these communities, we strive to practice anti-racism, anti-transphobia, anti-queerphobia and anti-homophobia. Part of that work is learning how we contribute to systemic oppression and taking it upon ourselves to learn to do better. 

At Metric, we are anti-racist but we are not experts in anti-racism. If you’re looking to learn more about anti-racism work and how to embed that into your organization, we recommend hiring an anti-racist organization that specializes in that kind of work.  We are also anti-transphobia, anti-queerphobia, and anti-homophobia but again, we are not experts in those fights and recommend you hire experts to help you with additional support on those fronts.

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, Metric would like to recognize the unsung heroes and lifeblood of progressive campaigns: volunteers. 

Whether you’re a rookie volunteer, or you’ve been delivering lawn signs for every candidate you’ve ever supported, you know that campaigns are tough. They are a relentless rollercoaster ride of highs – like: door after door of supporters, seamless sign order and delivery followed by an excellent volunteer-made dinner. They also come with crushing lows like those moments where defeat feels imminent, classic frustration of ‘hurry up and wait’, and plain old exhaustion. 

With both springtime and possible federal election season in the air, Metric’s seasoned campaigners have put together some of their top tips on surviving – nay, thriving! – during campaigns.  Whether you’re about to volunteer for a municipal, provincial or federal campaign, we hope you find this advice useful. 

Leah Ward, Campaign Director 

  • Experience: Field Organizer, Activist, Director of Communications, War Room. Campaigns are fun, energetic, fast, and very demanding. I’ve been in both the central campaign and in local campaigns and learned a lot from both experiences. 
  • Clear your slate. Don’t expect to have time or energy for anything other than the work. Elections are short so treat it like a sprint and know that however hard you push, it’ll be over soon and you’ll be proud knowing you gave it your all. 
  • Find a campaign soul-mate. Some of my dearest friends are people I’ve campaigned with. Find someone who will have your back, build you up when you’re exhausted, and remind you how great you are. 
  • Pre-cook meals and pack your freezer. No matter how lovely it can be to eat campaign food, recovering from a long stint of junk can be a bummer when it’s all over. In the months leading up to the last election I worked, I routinely made a little extra food for every meal and froze the extra so that I had a stockpile of homemade ready-to-go meals for the whole campaign. I’m not being dramatic when I say this was a lifesaver. That said, don’t be too hard on yourself. If all you can do is order fast food or gobble down that delicious volunteer-baked lasagna, do it and don’t beat yourself up.
  • Try not to drink too much. I know I know it’s hard and having end-of-day drinks with the team can seem like a lifeline but doing it too often will make your days longer and your mornings harder. Save the celebration for the victory party and maybe one other time like post-debate.

Michael Roy, Managing Director

  • Experience: GOTV Organizer, Digital Director, Director of Communications, Director of Paid Media, Digital Staffer on local, provincial, national, and international campaigns. I’ve learned at least one big lesson on every campaign I’ve worked.
  • Get everything you need before the campaign starts. From freezing pre-cooked meals to stocking up on coffee and vitamin C, you’ll have precious little time to run errands (and honestly, would you rather sleep 20 extra minutes or go to the drug store?).
  • Simplify your life. Set your bills to pay automatically, add a note to your voicemail for people to text you, and if you have a partner, thank them in advance for all they’ll be taking on for you.
  • Finally, try to  get into your campaign routine (including getting up early for meetings and getting to bed as early as you can) before the campaign starts. 

Maureen Mariampillai, Content Lead 

  • Experience: VCO, Communications, Rapid response: As a former journalist and political staffer, I’ve been able to grow and strengthen my story-telling abilities to support progressive change in two provincial elections. Now, as Metric’s content lead, I’m using those experiences to help labour unions and non-profits mobilize, grow and fundraise through digital advertising. 
  • Drink water. There are going to be some really long and chaotic days during the campaign and the best advice I received was to stay hydrated and look out for each other. (This still applies if you’re volunteering from home!) Photo: Alberta NDP provincial election, 2019
  • Share your story. Everyone has a different reason for volunteering on political campaigns and it’s those stories that help move people– whether you’re on the phone, texting or on the doors. It’s a great way to connect with other volunteers. ✊🏾
  • Make a plan or create a written agreement that all volunteers will be treated with respect. Words are nice but actions speak louder. Promoting a safe space–especially for women, LGBTQ2S+ folx, and racialized volunteers — in a campaign must be a priority. Your volunteers will feel seen. And they will know you’ve got their back. 

Savanna Pelech, Digital Lead

  • Experience: GOTV/E-Day Queen
  • Google Sheets will always be your best friend, there will never be a better E-Day slotting tool than a good spreadsheet. Colour code it, block out schedules, make it visual, use a vlookup to bring phone numbers with names between pages = *chefs kiss*
  • Never run a zone house out of your HQ if you can avoid it! It will only cause unneeded chaos and stress.
  • Budget and plan to have a really good lunch plan for your volunteers on Eday. Make sure you provide snacks and accommodate dietary restrictions.

Brenna Ward, Project Manager

  • Experience: I worked on the digital team for the 2020 Saskatchewan provincial election and the 2019 Alberta provincial election creating organic content for social channels and email writing for fundraising. I have also door knocked in a few provincial campaigns!
  • Give yourself fully to the excitement of the campaign — it’s harder during COVID-19 but leaning into the wins and the positive news helps maintain the stamina you need to get through a rigorous few weeks of hard work. 
  • Recognizing happiness triggers is as important as knowing your stress triggers. For me, I know that a quick cuddle with my cat, a fresh coffee, a bouquet of flowers on my kitchen counter, and a walk in the sun are instant mood boosters. By peppering these throughout my day of remote campaign work, I had little things to look forward to and enjoy. 
  • Have a few key messages memorized for door knocking. It’s helpful to be able to engage in a productive way with voters. Remember empathetic listening and succinct, concise messaging that frames issues in a personal way.

COVID-19 has radically shifted systems of labour. Now is the time to move the dial and make big gains in labour for the betterment of working Canadians. 

Just over a year ago, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. People were told to stay home, leading to radical shifts in employment and conditions for working people. A virus that is transmitted through proximity to others created new risks and hazards for working people and disrupted Canada’s system of labour within late stage capitalism. 

While millions of Canadians were able to make the shift to working from home, millions of others did not have the relative luxury of staying home to stay safe. 

In the first few months of the pandemic and country-wide shutdown, health care workers, grocery store workers, food production workers, service workers, postal workers, delivery workers, and many others had to keep going to work in increasingly unsafe work environments and constantly changing public health directions. 

Never has the essential nature of this work been more clear. The pandemic has provided a moment of reckoning for governments, employers, and managers. It shone a light on the work that is essential for both our collective survival and the workers that sustain  Canada’s capitalist economy. This new light gave rise to renewed questions that drove the birth of the labour movement in Canada a century ago: Why are workers, who are deemed essential, perpetually underpaid? Why are these workers not afforded safer working conditions and benefits? Do we, collectively, accept the farce of “meritocracy” that undervalues  certain work because of who performs that labour, where they come from, and their race or place of origin? Do we accept the paradox of governments and employers that preach personal responsibility while abdicating their responsibility to ensure the safety of millions of Canadian workers?  Or, is this the moment we finally recognize the deep inequalities that exist within a system predicated on white supremacy, colonialism, and exploitation.  

Millions…did not have the relative luxury of staying home to stay safe.

The pandemic helped breathe new life into a conversation about labour and working people that builds on decades of work by the labour movement and progressive political parties. It put working people back into mainstream discourse and media. Perhaps most excitingly, social media is being used to spread messages about working conditions, inequality, and the concept of labour in late-stage capitalism in new ways. Billionaires are doubling their wealth while Amazon workers are being barred from unionizing. “Wage theft” starts popping up in friends’ Instagram stories. A 19-year old Syrian refugee who worked at a long-term care facility passed away after contracting COVID-19. I start to see “eat the rich” all over TikTok. Stories emerge of wealthy queue-jumpers paying to get vaccinated first. I start to see references to guillotines on Twitter. 

Women, and especially women of colour, have shouldered the bulk of the pandemic labour burden. From increasing the double shift of working from home and taking care of kids to being disproportionately impacted by job loss and layoffs, the pandemic has revealed our capitalist work order is indeed rooted in a white supremicist patriarchy. 

Unions have recognized this moment and have made some incredible accomplishments. They have advocated for and been successful in making progress on paid sick leave, financial compensation for front-line workers, and better working conditions for union and non-union workers alike. 


Last year, Metric developed a poster campaign to recognize essential workers

A year later, this campaign is as relevant as ever. 

There is still so much work to be done when it comes to challenging a system where the deck is stacked against workers. 

At Metric, we are committed to this fight. We work each day to move the dial. We help unions and political parties fight for progressive change. This fight has only become more crucial in this time of pandemic. 

We see workers’ struggles and we work in solidarity. 

Want a poster? Get a free digital or print copy at metric.ca/posters/


Brenna Ward is an Account and Project Manager at Metric. She previously worked as a digital marketer for Parks Canada and served as a press secretary in the Notley NDP government. In a previous life, Brenna worked as a wildland firefighter in Ontario.

Shamair Turner is a candidate running to represent Ward – Karihiio on Edmonton’s city council.

In celebration of Black History Month, Metric connected with Shamair Turner to learn more about her campaign & strategy to engage voters in a pandemic.

Shamair is a first generation Canadian who was born and raised in the Ward she is running to represent. She is a business professional with experience in risk management and has deep connections to Edmonton’s rich arts and culture community. If elected in Edmonton’s October municipal election, Shamair could be the city’s first Black councilwoman.

What inspired you to run for city council?

The way that I’ve been seeing the world and my existence in it has been shifting and expanding over the last few years. 

I’ve been thinking about political influences and how it connects to everything: what our neighbourhoods look like, who has access to power and what is prioritized.

I felt like things were building in me and this was the right time and the right way [running for council] to take some action. I don’t know if it’s a female thing but I wanted to ask myself that question first. Because there may have been a different space or a different way that I could get involved. But this seemed like the right way to do it.

There aren’t enough people at the table who are capable of seeing the complexities of the world that many of us actually live in. Boldness is needed, and this is a bold move for me. I think that council is ready for some bold action — some brave action — and so I decided to jump in.

What is Edmonton city council is missing?

There is too much silence. There is  a lack of voices saying the right things and just a void, like ‘how can nobody have any questions about these huge issues?’

It was less about me needing to jump in and say ‘here’s what’s going on.’ It was ‘how come they’re not asking what’s going on?’

I’m a thinker who  requires information. If there’s an absence of seeking information, to me that  looks like a lot of reliance on the way that somebody assumes the world is. That’s a problem. If you’re just facing everything from the seat you’re sitting in, and you’re not asking more questions to learn other perspectives,  I don’t think you’re going to make good decisions or inclusive decisions. 

What are some key issues in your ward?

The campaign is being built when it comes to actual platform policy pieces, but when I think about the sorts of things people are thinking about and worried about — it’s a lot of uncertainty and that uncomfortableness with that uncertainty. That will inform the direction that I want to build my platform.

There are things I care about and I feel like everyone should be caring about  — or at least people on council should be caring about — like safety and security in its various forms.

That’s children walking to school safely, that’s people being able to use transit safely, that’s property that you’ve worked really hard to secure.

I was reading something about women wanting to run and how difficult it can be in the fall and winter because there’s not enough street lights. There’s also the racialized component of being able to just move in your space and in your city safely.* That’s a big thing that I care about and I think there’s a lot of angles when someone talks about safety. (*Editor’s note at the end)

Community members need to know what’s going on and how they can have a say in the direction of their city.

How are you planning to reach voters? 

The short answer is as many ways as possible. I’m a really social person and I’m energized by connecting with people so I want to try and replicate that connection as much as possible. 

That is going to be connecting with community leagues, sports organizations, religious groups, and the business community. There’s going to be a huge amount of online Zoom meetings and as things evolve and as it gets warmer, hopefully there’ll be opportunities to see some real faces in a safe way. 

From there it becomes what is the strategy behind how we make those things happen. I want to make sure that when I build that plan it’s not just looking at a strategy that draws in people who already exist in that space — it’s got to be able to draw people in who don’t normally engage that way. My team is ready to try and build that plan. 

I also think  that my website, which is still being built, will be  a gateway for voters to get to know me.

How does your branding reflect you & the campaign?

I have been very lucky in this city to be connected with a lot of amazing artists and and people with really great critical eyes for things like that so I’m tapping into those resources. 

I’m an ‘appreciator’ not necessarily a creator when it comes to that.  For example, my name is not a common name so my team and I definitely didn’t want any font that’s unclear or anything like that. We had conversations around colours, which was interesting. 

We were able to kind of capture a bit of brightness in that coral colour that we landed on. I remember saying specifically: “I’m not afraid of pink. I’m not gendering pink.” I’m not thinking that colour is going to be less assertive or strong or weak. It was a fun process even though it was just my name.

Part of the idea of somebody like me running and what our council has historically looked like is that we don’t have to follow every single mold. We’re coming at things from a slightly different angle and I think there’s a lot of value in that.

What’s it like to organize a campaign in a pandemic?

My campaign committee right now is grassroots and predominantly female. It’s amazing to see us all rally, get excited and engaged but it’s also a bit stressful because that gets stifled. . There’s so much energy and so much excitement just to get out and meet people but we can’t do it in the ways that we used to.  

I’ve got members who have event planning experience, who’ve run big festivals, who have run fundraising events all of which obviously were in-person. So, it’s really just about trying to be creative and trying to replicate that feeling that I get and that people get when you actually are with someone. 

I think that people are debating what the best direction is to make our city prosperous again. I think we should be thinking about it in  positive, optimistic, innovative and exciting ways to create the elements of the city that we want instead of a scared, regressive way. 

There’s language like ‘back to basics’ or ‘getting things back’ but I believe we need to be moving forward. We need ‘big picture’ and ‘forward planning’ and that’s what people want to see.What’s it going to take to win?

I want this campaign to be built from a grassroots perspective and what that means is that support in the form of donations is the only way that I can be successful to a certain extent. There are established political machines and centres of influence that I will be up against, not just as a first-time candidate but also as a Black woman. People don’t bet on us as much and I’m asking people to show that support and really get involved because that is the only way that change is going to happen. 

*Editor’s Note: Following this conversation with Shamair Turner, an anti-mask protest with connections to hate groups was held in Edmonton on Feb. 20. Watch her response here.