Pecha Kucha Speech Transcript: I made it out alive! My first attempt running for Edmonton Municipal Election during COVID

Giselle delivering a speech at the stage of Metro Cinema in Edmonton

After a long hiatus no thanks to the pandemic, it seemed fitting that my first in-person speech activity was with the same event where I did my last in-person speech from 2019. It’s with Edmonton Next Gen for their Pecha Kucha night! This is the transcript of my speech titled “I made it out alive! My first attempt running for Edmonton Municipal Election during COVID”

  1. That was nothing to sneeze at! It’s a phrase I never heard before, until after the election day. 5180 votes, Second place against an incumbent, with limited funds and during a pandemic, was apparently noteworthy.
  2. You should feel proud, I was told. How do I feel? Not that. I felt gratitude, inspiration, motivation and energy. Most of all, huge relief that I made it out alive, uninjured, not severely traumatized.
  3. There are many “typical” things you need to prepare for when running as a candidate, your platform, who to ask to volunteer or donate, the GOTV plan, short for Get Out The Vote, print and online communications and more.
  4. In 2016, I attended my first elections 101 program, hosted by the city for women who want to be involved in municipal politics. A current city councillor (born & raised Canadian white guy) did his energizing pitch that we, women, should run.
  5. In the Q and A I raised my and asked, ummmm sir, councillor may I ask, is it safe to run for politics in Edmonton, in Canada? Do I need to worry about getting killed and my dead body floating in the River Valley?
  6. He was shocked and reassured me it IS safe to run here. A fellow workshop participant told me, wow, I was worried about social media trolls, I didn’t even think about actual threats to my life. For me that was top of mind.  
  7. From then on, in the other workshops and campaign toolkits I accessed, I realized it gives some fundamentals, but won’t be sufficient to help me run a campaign that aligns with my values and will keep me safe, healthy and uninjures.
  8. Immigrants and visible minorities have a steep learning curve about the political culture here. It’s even worse when you came from a country where politicians, journalists and activists do get murdered on a regular basis.
  9. When a candidate knocks on your door, what comments do you make? I got “Do you have kids?” “What’s your background?” “Are you Native?” “I love the Filipino caregivers!”  Do male or white candidates get these also, I wondered.
  10. I know that all it takes is one violent incident to cause permanent injury and harm. I had to constantly think, I can protect and defend, administer first aid,  call 911 quickly when things go very wrong for me? 
  11. I have a very difficult time asking for help and this stems from a lot of personal trauma as an immigrant and an orphan. It’s a huge challenge to overcome and that was important, since the area for ward sipiwiyiniwak, where I was running, is massive!
  12. Campaigning during COVID added more concerns, on because of the increased prevalence of Anti-Asian racism. I can’t change how I look. I’m someone who looks visibly Asian, wears a mask, and also gets misidentified as Indigenous.
  13. The volunteers who were my fellow immigrants had additional fears that was tough to overcome. The big one, dropping off flyers in mailboxes. Despite my reassurances that it’s permitted. They skipped the ones that says “no flyers or no soliciting”
  14. They’re worried about getting yelled at as ignorant, rule breakers, they’re afraid of harassment. They’re worried about my reputation too. The tradeoff, better for people to not know me, than being angry at me after seeing an flyer they didn’t want.
  15. As someone who can’t drive and with a weak leg, I carried heavy supplies and went to neighbourhoods on foot, car and bus. Which shocked bus and uber drivers, seeing a candidate who’s literally living like an average person.
  16. With that said, many people donated and shared their time and talents. People doorknocked and flyer dropped with me in hot summer days and rainy afternoons, dealing with hazards on streets. Sidewalks and front lawns, across older and developing neighbourhoods.
  17. People I’ve never met until the campaign reached out through email and social media, who helped remotely and positively talked about my candidacy to others. Trolls were very few, but supportive people, thank goodness, it’s abundant.
  18. The next day, after the election I got a message on Twitter from a competitor I’m on good terms with. Like me, he didn’t win. His message said “well that was a waste of time”. And that’s one huge thing I disagree with.
  19. For me this is just part of community service and being an adult. Within  a week, I resumed my volunteer duties with my neighbourhood, ethnic community, and the city. I went back to my nonprofit job, booked a massage, and an appointment with my therapist.  
  20. I’m alive, uninjured and not severely traumatized. I plan to share my insights, and campaign templates to anyone who wants it. And if I’m fortunate enough, I might be healthy enough, wiser and equipped for a future candidacy. TY.

This post will be updated once the video of the presentation is available. Thank you to Edmonton’s Next Gen, the organizers of Pecha Kucha Night that takes place three times a year, for the opportunity to present, especially for something as significant as your first in-person event since COVID started. For more information such as previous presentations how to support or participate, visit https://edmontonnextgen.ca/pkn.

The Journey of a First-Time Elections Candidate – Repost from Alberta Filipino Journal

Woman in business suit standing in front of the entrance of Edmonton City Hall Council Chambers.

By: Giselle General

Introduction: This is a re-posting of the articles I have written about my journey as an candidate for the 2021 Edmonton Municipal Elections. Politics and political participation in Edmonton will be a topic I would like to discuss on an ongoing basis, now that I had this experience. But since at this point, it has only been a month Election Day where I only got second place, I am still processing my emotions, compiling documents, and reflecting on everything I have observed and learned.

This is the first article, submitted on April 2021. You can get a free copy of the paper, published monthly, from many Filipino-owned businesses in Edmonton. You can also everything digitally at: https://www.albertafilipinojournal.com/


This election candidacy is a journey five years in the making.  Here is a reflection on my experiences as of this date as someone running for the first time.

A main challenge is informing people on different topics. There are many issues that affect our daily lives, and it can be difficult to remember which level of government is responsible. On top of that, there are issues that are a shared responsibility between the municipal, provincial and federal government. So it is important for me, my campaign team, and other candidates to be informed and patient when discussing with others/   

The electoral district boundaries not only changed in composition, but also the names have changed. They are changed from numbers to Indigenous names. I think the names are beautiful and meaningful, but many are frustrated and unwilling to learn. I can personally attest that all it takes is practice, just like learning Asian geography back in high school. After a few rounds of practice, I can confidently say without missing a beat that “I am running for city councillor for West Edmonton, the ward of sipiwiyiniwak!” Those in ward Dene and O-day’min will have an easier time, while those in ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi would need to practice a few more times.  

I found out that apartments and condo buildings are usually ignored by campaign teams. I found this shocking and unacceptable! Because most apartment buildings are rentals, this means that many people who are not homeowners and from lower economic background are not given the same opportunity by election candidates to share their thoughts about political matters. No wonder the voter turnout in municipal elections is only 30%. Like a spark that ignited in me, I felt a fierce sense of determination to go against the tide and find ways to connect with people living in higher-density places. I hope that landlords and building managers would cooperate with my campaign team so we can engage with residents effectively and safely.  

A harsh and true advice I received was “you need a lot of money”. And I don’t have a lot. I feel motivated to find creative ways to compensate for the shortage of money, and fun ways to raise money and support. From virtual dance-a-thons as a fundraiser, using social media for marketing instead of spending money on billboards, and asking volunteers to drop off brochures instead of paying Canada post thousands of dollars, the ideas seem to be endless. Necessity is the mother of invention as they say, and I’m excited to find innovative ways to connect with potential voters and supporters. I hope that I get hundreds of volunteers from all walks of life, and that even those who cannot vote yet, the newcomers and under 18 years old, feel inclined to join the campaign team as well.  

The election day is in October, and given how time feels like it’s slipping through our fingers, it will be here before we even realize it. All the spare time I have, between breakfast and starting work, between dinner and bedtime, between laundry and cooking on the weekends, are occupied by the seemingly endless tasks to gain more resources, to recruiting volunteers, to ensuring we consult with people with different perspective. Door-knocking officially starts in May and I’m eagerly looking at the calendar counting down the time.  

I am excited to be transformed by this experience. I suppose, turning 30 years old this year also highlights the significance of this adventure. I’d love to win of course, but it’s more that that. My hope is that I am just one of the many people from under-represented backgrounds, of the women, the young adults, the migrants and the Filipinos who would take the leap and throw their name in an election race. I hope that my experience can serve as inspiration and a resource guide in navigating an election candidacy that appropriately considers the complications that arise from our lived experiences. If I don’t end up being that trailblazer, I hope that someone else does not too long after I run.