Door-knocking in her condo-heavy riding of Vancouver Centre, Liberal candidate Hedy Fry encounters at least three naked people every campaign season. Her NDP rival, Constance Barnes, goes by a different metric, estimating one in 30 tenants answers the door in the buff.
The key, both advise, is to maintain strict eye contact.
"There was one guy who had an oxygen mask on, he had a joint in his hand and his penis was very exposed," Ms. Barnes recalled. "I said, 'I'll come back another time,' and he said, 'No, it's all good. Let's talk now.'
"I just try and go with it. I focus on the eyes, focus on the eyes."
The arduous act of canvassing – knocking on constituents' doors and shaking hands in efforts to secure their vote – can be either an opportunity for invaluable face time with the electorate or an annoying campaign necessity, depending on whom you ask.
But in condo-heavy ridings such as Vancouver Centre – which includes the city's downtown core, where the majority of residents live behind secured doors and high up in apartments, condos and other multiresidence buildings – door-knocking presents a host of additional challenges and oddities.
Including the occasional naked tenant. Green candidate Lisa Barrett says she has greeted nary a naked person to date, but that such an encounter would not faze her.
"Who can blame them?" she said. "There we are, goodness' sakes, intruding on their private space." (Conservative candidate Elaine Allan could not be reached for an interview.)
Ms. Barnes attributes the mysterious phenomenon to condo dwellers not being accustomed to unexpected visitors.
"Sometimes you'll get people who will do this," she said, miming a person peeking out from behind a door. "But there will be a mirror behind them and they don't realize it. It's like, 'I can see you.'"
Many tenants ask candidates how they got into the building. Under the Canada Elections Act, building managers must allow candidates into multiple-residence buildings to canvass between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. during the writ period or risk a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to six months or both. Rare exceptions are allowed if residents' physical or emotional well-being may be harmed as a result of this access.
However, few candidates have filed complaints over lack of access. Michelle Laliberté, a spokeswoman for the Commissioner of Canada Elections, said the office received less than 20 such complaints nationally for the 2011 campaign.
In a best-case scenario for the candidates, a building manager provides a key fob that grants access to the entire building. But despite access being mandated by federal law, some managers refuse to let candidates inside. As a work-around, the candidates say they buzz a supporter's door to gain entry, canvassing neighbouring suites upon entry. But there are obstacles there as well.
"Some of the new condos are fobbed on each floor," Dr. Fry said. "In the old days, once you were let in, you could run up and down the stairs and hit each floor. We still have a lot of those in the riding, but a lot of the new condos are a challenge because of this [single-floor] fob thing."
There is a consensus that most residents are warm, with many inviting the candidates in for food or a drink. (They decline.) But a few are less so, and it's not uncommon for candidates to have doors slammed in their faces.
"Some people look at you and say, 'Oh my God,' and blam," Dr. Fry said. "It's like the ghost of their ex-wife appeared."
A bustling downtown riding also means heavy foot traffic, which candidates take advantage of by hitting city streets. Ms. Barrett estimates she can speak to about 100 people an hour handing out flyers in commercial areas, compared with 20 an hour knocking on doors.
During the morning rush-hour commute, Dr. Fry and her team sometimes position themselves on one of the riding's three bridges and jump up and down with campaign signs.
"Either they smile, or they wave, or they honk," she said. "In Vancouver Centre, there's also a tradition called the middle-finger salute. I always think what they're telling me is, 'You're No. 1!'"