By Melita Kuburas
When Ryerson graduate Chris Tindal’s friends first found out he was running in this federal election, they were skeptical about his new role as a politician.
“It’s hard for them to wrap their head around it because they’ve gotten so used to thinking of politicians as if they’re another species,” says Tindal, 24, who graduated from Radio and Television Arts two years ago. “A lot of my friends were…confused,” says Tindal, a part-time musician and vice-president of communications for the Ontario Recreational Canoeing Association. “They were surprised when they knew that I actually had a campaign manager, and an office…running an organized, serious campaign.”
His friends’ distrust of politicians, typical among youth, is one of the reasons Tindal decided to take on the challenge of running in the Toronto Centre riding. “I watched the last election campaign and it was very frustrating to feel like I was on the sidelines. Even with my vote, it didn’t feel like I was involved enough,” he says.
Currently working as a media producer in downtown Toronto, Tindal says he is self-taught about current political and environmental issues. He reads online material and books on societal collapse. Although he is much younger and less experienced than the other candidates, including Minister of Defence Bill Graham, Tindal delivers his speeches with flair. The Green Party focuses on the environment, but Tindal also turns to his party’s lesser-known policies to address issues of crime, taxes, immigration and health, as brought up repeatedly among voters in this election. While keeping busy with all-candidates debates in the economically and socially diverse riding, which includes Regent Park, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood and Ryerson, Tindal says the campaign has been the most challenging thing he’s ever done in his life.
The time-consuming campaigning has Tindal handing out flyers outside of subway stations at 7:30 in the morning, receiving more than 100 e-mails before noon each day and attending debates and political intelligentsia parties. Other parts of his life, such as his music, are on hold. Tindal hasn’t had time to continue his weekly gig in Barrie as half of the acoustic duo Steve and Chris. He also postponed regular stints performing improv piano for a comedy show, Catch 23, at Clinton’s Tavern on Bloor Street West. “I go to the back of the stage with my keyboard and make up a score. I’m like Laura Hall…in Whose Line is it Anyway?” he says.
Despite trading in his sweater and jeans for a brown suit, Tindal appeared comfortable at an all-candidates meeting at a gymnasium in St. Jamestown’s Wellesley Community Centre earlier this month. In a neighbourhood sensitive to crime after the recent Boxing Day shootings, Tindal was the only candidate to receive applause from the crowd of about 300 people while addressing a question about Toronto’s crime problem. “We need to look at what it takes to make a killer,” he said, emphasizing that developing strong communities is the most effective way of rooting out gun violence in the riding.
After another all-candidates debate, Tindal says someone came up to him and asked if he would perform at a comedy club after the election. “I was almost being too funny, I was making more jokes than I was policy statements,” he says, laughing. “I guess I had entertained him and he was just asking me to continue that. It’s probably not something I’ll do.” But Tindal doesn’t just entertain the audience; he even impresses other candidates with his party’s policies, on several occasions receiving kudos from Liberal MP Graham. At a meeting at the King Edward Hotel, the usually belligerent Graham piped that he agreed with Tindal’s views on the local arts and culture scene, that he was right about his position on proportional representation, and that he offered a “thoughtful look” at the ethics of voting.
On the issue of health care, Tindal emphasizes prevention as the main weapon against overcrowded hospitals and rising health-care costs. He refrains from attacking other candidates or their parties, and instead uses his warm smile and easygoing speech to speak passionately about the environment. Tindal learned his eco-values from his parents, who, he says, instilled values of respect and not being wasteful, and from his involvement in camping and canoeing.
“When you go on a canoe trip, you practice no-trace camping, which means that everything you bring in, you bring out and each campsite needs to look the same or better…less polluted than it did when you arrived,” he says. “The way we go through our lives day to day is the exact opposite. We don’t have any concern about how much we waste,” he says, adding that the Green Party’s plan to tackle this carefree attitude is to shift income tax funds toward fighting waste and pollution. The Green Party is a family affair for Tindal. His brother Alex, 21, is also a member of his campaign. “I’m incredibly proud,” Alex Tindal says of his brother.
“He’s not just the best speaker, he’s the best person for the green party. He’s not prone to rhetoric, but he is an advocate of good ideas.” After leaving Pitman Hall and finishing first year at Ryerson, Tindal moved into a bachelor’s condo at Bloor and Yonge streets and has been there since. He says the smaller space, his “box in the sky,” takes up less energy and is entirely lit by energy-efficient bulbs. Tindal uses minimal heating and air conditioning, bikes or takes public transit to work and doesn’t eat meat, which he says leaves a higher ecological footprint because of all the energy and land it requires to raise it.
“But I want to emphasize, of course…not that everyone should be a vegetarian…. I travel a lot and you burn a lot of jet fuel traveling,” says Tindal who has recently been to New Zealand while visiting his girlfriend. “We all make different decisions…maybe some people do eat meat but don’t fly as often.” Indicative of his transformation into a more serious politician, Tindal says the health of Canada’s democracy is more important to him than partisan ideology.
“Women aren’t as represented in parliament as they should be, minorities aren’t as represented in parliament as they should be, and those are all symptoms of our system that rewards the first person past the post, instead of actually looking at what the electorate says.” Near the end of his campaigning, Tindal spoke of proportional representation to a packed room at an all-candidates debate at Ryerson. As his party continues to rack in the popular vote, it struggles to have concentrated support and representation in the legislature. But Tindal says he would be in favour of proportional representation whether or not it helped his party.
“I’m cautiously optimistic against odds that we’re going to figure this thing out and that’s more important than anything else. “I will continue…this is my first election, it will not be my last.”