John MacIsaac was announced as the Liberal candidate for Northcote only 16 days before the election. The 57-year-old resident from Westgarth has been a member of the Liberal Party since 2015.
“There’s something special about running in your own area because as you walk around you do have this sense of care,” he said.
The eleventh hour decision to run a Liberal nominee in a key inner-metropolitan electorate was mirrored by seats Brunswick and Melbourne.
On Monday, sporting royal blue shorts, a T-shirt and matching cap, Mr MacIsaac warmly greeted members of the public at an early voting centre on High Street.
“I’m enjoying it, it’s fun. I get to speak to a lot of people,” he said.
The option to vote for a Liberal candidate is in stark contrast to Northcote’s 2017 by-election, which was contested by the Greens’ Lidia Thorpe and Labor’s Clare Burns.
Despite the brief tenure of Mr MacIsaac’s campaign, he plans to promote progressive policy. “It’s a small campaign,” he said. “But I think I have the opportunity to make a difference.”
The issue of congestion and population growth were top of mind.
“When you’re looking at infrastructure, you’re not just looking at the numbers, you’ve also got to look at the social and the economic implications.
“I think everybody needs access to be able to get to work as quickly as possible, so that’s going to be a balance of public transport as well as in roads.”
But, the policy Mr MacIsaac is most impassioned about is mental health.
“I’ve been involved in that area for over 10 years,” he said.
Since 2006, he has participated in Grow, a peer support group that provides specialised programs across Australia. He is now the Deputy Chair of the organisation.
“We have about 150 groups that meet each week,” he said. “In my experience Grow saves people’s lives.”
Grow has an extensive range of peer support groups including respite for carers and school programs.
Along with his role at Grow, Mr MacIsaac is a project manager for ALACC Health College, an honorary justice in the State of Victoria and a Member of the Psychology Health & Applied Sciences Human Ethics Sub-Committee at the University of Melbourne.
Born into a large Catholic family in the Eastern suburbs, Mr MacIsaac first entered politics at university. While studying a Bachelor of Engineering, he was elected president of the Melbourne University Liberal Club.
“Then I went off to work and life goes on,” he said.
After 30 years in the mining industry in Western Australia, he decided to return to Victoria. “I came back in 2015 and looked all over Melbourne for a nice place to live and I picked Northcote.”
In the same year, he became a member of the Liberal Party. “I joined on the day that Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister,” he said. “Because I felt he needed support.”
A self-described “socially conscious person”, Mr MacIsaac said he has not taken any direct donations in this campaign.
Saturday will be Mr MacIsaac’s third attempt to hold a position in government. In 2006, he ran for local council in Subiaco, Western Australia.
In 2016, he put himself forward for the City for Darebin, which covers the same area as Northcote.
“The Liberal Party doesn’t endorse candidates for local government, so I ran as an independent. But I did let people know that I was a member of the Liberal Party.”
He was unsuccessful both times, but remains sanguine for the state election.
“The biggest thing that motivates me is I like solving problems for people. And people get the benefits for that,” he said.