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09/18/2009

Election averted

Rick Madonik

Staff Photographer

Last week, after Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff signaled he would no longer support the sitting government and was willing to force an election, it appeared going to the polls was destined to happen. Now, the federal Conservative Party has averted an election by some swift stickhandling of a Bill which relates to Employment Insurance.

Its almost possible to hear the collective sigh of bosses. Covering elections is expensive - for the parties and for the media. The cost of covering a national election, for The Star, runs quite high. Faced with a 4th election in 5 years, and combined with the fact print journalism currently faces some of the toughest economic situations ever seen, I'm sure every boss who deals with a budget is breathing a little easier today.

For the reporters and photographers who staff the election, there is also a bit of relief. It sounds quite glamorous (I'm sure) to criss cross the country (sometimes in a day, which I  have done twice with two different leaders on the last day of two different campaigns) on a chartered plane where a bus delivers you to the steps of a jet, you scramble aboard and fly off to the next location. (The exception to this is when covering vote rich Southern Ontario and all the way to Montreal, which means days on a bus.)

The hours are long, with average work days about 14 hours, the food generally scoffed down while filing between one speech and the next, and for photographers, the crush of covering a leader as he makes his way in and out of a room. There's little room for a proper workout, or to decompress. You nap when you can, you eat when you're not hungry (never know what will happen) and you hope you packed enough underwear because we usually don't stay more than one night in any one hotel.

Often, when writing captions and trying to rack your brain to remember where you are, I'm asking others "where the hell we are." It all becomes a blur with the long hours, the lack of sleep, the air travel and the stress of trying to make the same person, infront of the same microphone and podium, look different today from yesterday, or from the morning to the afternoon.

So, although I do enjoy the front row seat (usually doubled over and weighed down with gear) and the theatre of politicking, I am a bit relieved the election is on hold. Then again, that could change next week.

IF Mr. Harper can stave off the dogs for the next few months, it will be interesting to see if the government falls early in the new year. Not only do journalists and politicians hate campaigning during Canada's cold winter months, it would be a massive staffing  issue (for the photo staff) should Canada go to the polls while Vancouver is playing host to the world with the Winter Olympics. With six photographers heading to Vancouver, it doesn't leave much room for freeing up others to hit the road.

We'll see where it goes from  here.

Rm_LIBS_thurs743 Liberal staffer (wagonmaster) Alphee Moreau, and two wire photographers, grabbing some sleep as we head west on the Liberal aircraft.

_69J6233 Trying to get out of the way as then Liberal Leader Stephane Dion heads to the bus in Montreal.

_Z4J5406 The travelling photographers posing (joking) with our travelling RCMP detail who are assigned to the campaign.

Backdrop2-1 Myself and CP photographer Adrian Wyld squeezing in behind Liberal leader Stephane Dion in Victoria (Photo by Andy Clark/Reuters)

Hill01a Phoning the office, from Parliament Hill, the day before the writ is dropped. (Tony Bock/Toronto Star)

Rm_jack_HI Trying to make frames of NDP Leader Jack Layton through the tinted glass of his vehicle.

 

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