The Green Party threat to the Liberal Party of Canada

Iggy

The Foe: Iggy

In my previous post, I discussed the probable direction of the Ignatieff Liberal Party’s play for Green Party voters in the next election. The Liberals will be busily organizing, and refurbishing their electoral machine over the coming months. They are now preparing for a Federal election at the time of their choosing. I am convinced that they will dustbin the Green tax shift, and put in place a pablum environmental policy, with a couple of popular giveaways to use as talking points. Therein lies the opportunity for the Green Party of Canada.

As the Liberals will fashion their assault on the Green Party, so should the GPC be sharpening an attack of our own. It is a given that the GPC itself, and their core vote and membership are supportive of a revenue neutral carbon tax. That is because it is good policy. There will be a great many Canadians who were engaged enough in the last election to actually look into Stephan Dion’s tax proposals, and many of them will not want to see the policy strangled, and buried behind the woodshed. Personally I am most comfortable with campaigning from a position of policy strength. Furthermore, the type of educated, and affluent voter that will be attracted by this type of campaign, once committed to the Green Party of Canada, will be motivated to get out and vote on E-Day.

Therefore, we need to refashion our Green Party Tax shift, and go at it in a big way. No more negative campaigning. Focus on our tax policy, and hammer at the theme. It’s obvious to all that Dion failed to sell the program, and in a big way. The Conservatives successfully labelled it a tax grab, and that really squeezed an inarticulate Dion into an awkward place. That leaves me of two minds about how we package our plan. Do we lead in with a big income tax break, with large rebates for farmers and truckers? In that event, we should leave the carbon taxes as a footnote on how we will pay for it. The other option is to simply re-possess the Green Tax Shift, and thank the Liberals for spending millions promoting our plan in the 2008 election? There are risks, and benefits of both approaches, and that is what professional opinion polling is for.

There seems to be some very strange ideas in the Green Party as to why political party’s commission polls. The simple answer to that question is NOT to find out what current voting

Not what we really need to know

Not what we really need to know

intentions are, other than to guage the efficacy of the campaign. The purpose of polling is to obtain unbiased data on what message, and what policy presentation resonates best with which segment of the population. If the Green Party of Canada wants to clobber the Conservatives, Liberals, Bloc, or NDP, then they should be commissioning large surveys of the electorate. The opinion survey presents different policy statements to the respondents, and measures their reactions. With this information in hand, the Campaign theme, and message, (which are distinct) are crafted to win over the targeted electorate.

I do not have the resources, ($50k?) to commission such a survey, but the Green party does, and should, prior to crafting their Campaign plan for the next election. We can cheap out a little, and assume that the Tax shift is one of our major planks. That will allow us to shorten the survey, and figure out the best presentation to clobber our foes. I think that splitting off a small portion of the Liberal, and Conservative vote in the next election is going to prove the tipping point, and propel a handful of Green candidates into Parliament.

Forsooth 'tis to the Death!

Forsooth 'tis to the Death!

Just remember folks. Electoral politics isn’t a game. It’s civil society’s substitute for warfare, and the stakes are the same as those our medieval forbears saddled up, and hacked their neighbours to bits over. If we do not get serious about it, we can expect to be the sweet/shrill Party, sitting on the sidelines, and getting nowhere with our brilliant policy prescriptions forever more. Conversely, we can focus sharply on organizing, and preparing for the next election, and by pushing our platform forward onto the National stage, start making real changes to improve the lives of all Canadians.

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The Liberal threat to the Green Party of Canada

Susan King

Now that's settled, let's seize power! Photo credit:Susan King

Now that the Liberal Party has settled their decade long civil war, we can expect that they will begin the process of introspection, and preparing to seize and hold power in Parliament. I just read an article in the Globe and Mail authored by Navdeep Bains, Martha Hall Findlay and Bob Rae. I swear, I might have easily been reading Green Party insiders from 2004-5, it so closely mirrored the GPC internal debates from the rapid growth era of the GPC. I think that the identities of the authors, in today’s context really means that the rifts are going to be repaired, and the Liberals are going to go for power NOW. There are three substantive things that jumped out at me.

The first is the acknowledgement that the membership is estranged from the Party by the leadership contests. It is obvious that ‘rent a member’ recruits, bought solely for the purpose of electing a partisan candidate, aren’t likely to hold a great deal of loyalty to the Liberal Party. Their loyalty was specifically engaged on behalf of a candidate, or faction. The membership needs to be re-engaged, and the Liberal Party brand needs to be re-connected to the grassroots.

The second is the admission that the Liberal leaderships growing tendency to override local nomination contests is divisive, and destroys morale at the EDA level. It is proposed that the EDA’s be supported more as the basic Campaigning unit of the Party. This will include financial, and logistical support, plus a more collaborative approach on the part of the ‘centre’.

The third is that the Provincial level Party structures are very inefficient, and stand in the way of a centrally managed donor, and membership database similar to what the Conservative machine has. It is expensive to maintain separate offices with overlapping responsibilities, and the middle layer needs to go.

In my opinion, if the Liberal Party manages to eliminate the province level organizations, and in any meaningful way engage their hundreds of thousands of members, then they will be returning to power very damn soon.I have no problems with the Liberal Party growing at the expense of the Bloc, Conservatives, and NDP. Believe me though, they are not slouches, and they will do a very good job of separating the soft Green voters from their quasi-allegiance to the Greens.

The most likely means of attack will be delivered through an environmental platform that is very short on specifics, with the exception of a couple of popular sound-bite program announcements. This will be delivered to a targeted audience at the doorstep, over the phones, and on the Internet during the campaign. The prospects for success at this tactic will be proportional to the revitalization of the local Campaign organizations, and co-ordination between local Campaigns, and the National Campaign’s messaging. As Ignatieff rolls out his Environment policy, the local Campaigns will be canvassing their lists of identified Green Party supporters hard, and converting soft Greens left and right. Expect this somewhere between the tenth and twentieth days of the campaign, while voters intentions are still pretty soft. They will then hit again hard on the last weekend before the vote, with the old strategic voting message. ‘A Green vote is a wasted vote’.

I don’t pretend to know the thoughts of Ignatieff’s inner circle, but I know they are smart. I know

Etobicoke turncoat green

Etobicoke turncoat green

that Ignatieff’s Etobicoke-Lakeshore campaign used exactly these tactics in the 2008 election, and they worked pretty well. I know that the Liberal Party knows more about the Green Party’s supporters than the Green Party does. If I had the data, and were in their shoes, this is roughly what I would do. Put it all together, and something very much like this is what will happen in the next election. Since forewarned is forearmed, a thorough and careful understanding of Liberal prospects will present us with some really nice opportunities to counter-thrust effectively, and end run them deep into their own supporter base.

My next post will deal with the Green Party threat to the Liberal Party of Canada, and I believe that we can really put it to them first, if we play our cards right.

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Green Party Tactics; And the ethnic vote.

Trnity-Spadina's China Town

Trinity-Spadina's China Town

Almost every Electoral District in Canada presents the opportunity for a highly targeted ethnic, religious, or language based campaign. For many people it is a joy, and a privilege to live in an Electoral District that has a number of distinct ethnicities within it’s boundaries. Many EDA’s recognize this by translating their election literature into one or two different languages, but that is just touching the surface of what will be required to win the vote of a distinct group.

If your’ EDA has reached a plateau, then you will have to pay serious attention to segmenting the population within your district, and winning the next election at a really micro level. The easiest specialty campaign, or canvas to organize is for a distinct language. You need to start by identifying the individual members of the ‘target’ language. I’ll use Polish as an example. You’ll have to extrapolate for your own District. Have a couple of Polish speaking volunteers go through the entire electors list, and tag all of the Polish last names. Compile this list, either by tagging language or ethnicity data-field in your’ electronic database, OR compile a seperate list if you haven’t yet managed to get a nice electronic database established. (be sure to retain Poll

Pick a phone - and start dialling

Pick a phone - and start dialling

numbers in this list!).

Now for some donkey work! If you haven’t already acquired all the phone numbers, you need to do the lookups, and ensure that you get them all. You will ultimately reach the group by telephone, because they will generally be scattered throughout the area, and a targeted foot canvas will be very much hit and miss. Start work NOW because you can, and there’ll be plenty of other stuff to do once the writ is dropped. Don’t forget to preserve this data in electronic format! (Spreadsheet will do if all else fails).

The next step is to find out who is prominent in the Polish community. Start approaching community leaders, and meeting one on one. This will include Priests, Business Associations,

Polish John Paul II Outside St. Casimir's Parkdale High Park District

Polish John Paul II Outside St. Casimir's Parkdale High Park District

Veterans Associations, Polish Language media, etc. and canvas them to determine what the important issues within their community are. Just by engaging community leaders in this manner, you are gaining a degree of acceptance that I guarantee you didn’t have before. Disect the GPC platform, and assemble the points that will have particular resonance within this community. Tell your new contacts the truth, their community is important to you, and that you want their endorsement. Once you have a respectable slate of endorsements, you are ready to create community specific campaign literature. Create simple conversion pieces, that name all the endorsers, and en-numerates the most attractive features of our platform.

The next step is fairly conventional retail politics. Run your phone canvas in the appropriate language. Lead off each conversation with the names of some of your’ endorsements, and ask for the vote, a sign placement, and for volunteer hours. Have your specialty campaign team research community picnics, meetings, and venues for your’ candidate to come out and meet the community. Make sure that a translator is with the candidate, and that you have the proper conversion piece (flyer) with you. I guarantee you that the Liberal Party is there before you, but if you do this really well, then you can pick off some chunks of support. Be opportunistic: If the other Party’s have somehow screwed up their position within an ethnic group, then move right on in there. Record all voting intentions, (not just Green Party), and have your Polish speaking volunteers make the phone calls, and house visits when you Get Out The Vote.

A quick post script: If you are in the Green Party of Ontario, don’t waste your time working on a predominantly Catholic community, like the Polish. Seperate school funding matters to Catholics, and all your efforts will be wasted when the Liberals roll through their lists and point out that the GPO wants to eliminate seperate school funding. ( What a boneheaded move!)

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Green Party Canada: Municipal Elections and the Opportunity to grow the EDA

Tip O'Neill   "All Politics are Local"

Tip O'Neill "All Politics are Local"

A great many people who join the GPC have a limited involvement in municipal politics, and don’t see the relevance of the municipal election to the Federal scene. If this attitude holds sway in your’ EDA, then I’m afraid that you are missing a great opportunity to organize at the grass roots level. Municipal politics is almost always the poor sister of the Federal and Provincial scene. Municipal campaigns are typically poorly funded, have very few volunteers, and are often characterized by poor organization. This represents a great opportunity for the EDA.

In my opinion, the EDA should be researching the candidates, getting involved in local organizations like the residents associations, and Business groups well prior to the local election. If the EDA is in a position to offer a valuable endorsement, and some volunteers to a good clean local campaign, it will fulfil a number of useful functions.

First off, the local candidate ought to be grateful for the help, win or lose. Most serious local candidates have roots in one or more local grassroots organizations. Whether it be a ratepayers association, or environmental group, there will be some kind of an organization which will be in a position to return the favour when the next Federal election comes around. That should translate to volunteers, endorsements, and donations come the time.

Second payoff is when the time comes to be recruiting a candidate for the Federal election. Many great candidates get their start in municipal politics. It pays to have a candidate with name recognition, and the network of local contacts that get things done in an election. Whether your candidate(s) wins locally, or fails to win their municipal race, it will be useful for them to establish themselves further as environmentalists, and real political activists by standing Federally for the GPC.

Third payoff is from sharing the political data that accrues to a municipal campaign. Provided the municipal campaign issues have been very GPC friendly, then the identified voter base from the

Get 'em out quick

Get 'em out quick

municipal campaign are likely to be very good prospects to vote GPC federally. When the federal canvas rolls out, the endorsement of the candidate will be very useful when canvassing his/her ID’d supporters to vote GPC. The sign takers from the municipal campaign are obviously the first, (well, second anyways), place to hit with your sign canvas when the Federal writ is dropped. Very quick placement of arterial signs is useful in establishing momentum for your campaign. The more potential sign takers you have for a lightning fast sign canvas, the quicker you can establish your federal campaign as a ‘contender’ in the eyes of the local electorate.

For those GPC campaigners who are a little foggy about the why’s and how’s of a canvas with endorsement in hand, it goes like this; ‘Hi I’m canvassing for the Green Party of Canada. Your local alderman/councillor candidate Judy X has endorsed our campaign, and she suggested I get in touch with you for permission to put up a sign. Can we drop by and put one up tonight?’. 30 seconds on the phone, get the sign placed, and move to the next phone number/front door.

A word of advice, be honest about your motives when offering an endorsement to a candidate. Offer your’ EDA’s help, but ask for the explicit quid pro quo that the candidate will endorse your candidate back again, and will provide the canvas results, volunteer lists etc. Your EDA cannot lose, and if the Candidate is a good one, then you could win with real home run, like a local politician with paid staffers and volunteers plugging hard to return the favour.

If you are interested in politics, whether local, provincial, or federal, why not join the most exciting Political Party in Canada Today?

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Green Party Election Strategy: Rising Tide, or Beachhead Ridings?

Lifts All Boats

Lifts All Boats

I recently read an article by an articulate, and thoughtful Green Party activist, Kevin Colton. There has long been debate in the Green Party of Canada choosing between two strategic and organizing imperatives. Because Kevin put the argument so very well for the so-called rising tide strategy, I thought I should refer to it when arguing the contrary.

The first of two schools of thought is that the Green Party should build infrastructure on the regional and national level. Any success in an individual riding is short lived, and illusory because these beachhead efforts always fall short of actually winning the seat. Kevin argues, very well, that a little effort goes a long way in an area that has no infrastructure, and no organizational depth. By nurturing humble beginnings, it is possible to achieve critical mass, and move on to bigger and better things.

beachhead

Establishing the Beachhead

The counter arguments are that the Green Party would enjoy an enormous boost as soon as the first candidates are elected. Once the GPC takes it’s place in Parliament, the added visibility will make it much more credible, and therefore more attractive to quality candidates, and the electorate.

I would argue that this is a false choice. There is a certain minimal level of support that will help inexperienced Riding executives to nurture their volunteer base, fundraising skills, and basic campaigning know-how. All EDA’s should get a basic helping hand. Throwing additional monetary resources at a basic EDA that has a minimal volunteer base, a mediocre candidate, little campaign experience, and no reasonable prospect of ever electing a Candidate is not a wise use of scarce resources though.

Since the GPC is constituted as a Political Party, with the stated objective of electing candidates to Parliament, GPC strategy should be focused on achieving this objective as quickly as possible. There are a number of ridings across the country which are likely to become a GPC beachhead riding. Those ridings where the electorate is fairly evenly split between 3 or more party’s have demonstrable potential to be swayed by alternate messages, or Party loyalties. Ultimate electoral success in any riding will depend upon the quality of candidates above all, followed by the numbers of volunteers, and an identified base of historical GPC voters. In these split ridings in particular, the GPC should be pouring the maximum resources available in every subsequent election. I only need point to Bruce Grey Owen Sound, or Guelph, or Saanich, etc. to bring forth examples of ridings that have grown in organizational depth, and all the skills and resources required to ‘put the puck in the net’. The fact that Bruce Grey Owen Sound is not readily winnable because of the pre-eminence of the Conservatives is beside the point. (No 3 way split present). If you were to graft their organization, and super candidate onto any of the 20 I have identified elsewhere, we would have elected our first sitting member in 2008.

Bruce Grey Owen Sound is a great case study for the beachhead strategy. In the 2003 – 2004 Provincial, and Federal elections, the riding was fairly typical, with a share of the vote of 1.7% provincially, and just over 4% Federally.

shane-jolleyIn the 2006 Federal Election, a strong local candidate, Shane Jolley stepped forward, and after significant organizational improvements Shane brought the results up by 8.74% Federally, to a total of 12.91%. (copy edit thanks to correction by Shane Jolley).In the 2007 Provincial Election, the riding was identified as a beachhead riding, and significant resources were put into the race. Shane finished with a strong second place with 33% of the popular vote. Despite a local mini-scandal whereby Shane was replaced as candidate by the dick-hibmapopular Dick Hibma, in the 2008 Federal election the Greens retained the lions share of their voters, while scoring 27.2% of the popular vote. I think this establishes pretty clearly that strong candidates, plus adequate resources can bring a low popular standing a very long way over a few short years. If this type of success can be transplanted to the 20 beachhead ridings I have identified elsewhere, then it is probable that several ridings will return an elected MP anytime from 2010 on.

In conclusion I will opine that the GPC should give basic assistance plus a little to every riding that proves capable of helping itself. For those where the future electoral prospects look solid, no effort should be spared in recruiting star candidates, focused membership drives, and providing logistical support.

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Green Party of Canada: Guaranteed 250,000 more votes if..

For my next trick, 250,00 votes and $5,000,000

For my next trick, 250,00 votes and $5,000,000

I know this is a provocative title, and no doubt many Green Party of Canada sceptics are chuckling up their sleeves as they read this bold claim. How is this magical number to be achieved they ask themselves? My response is simple. Data driven decision making, and resource allocation. The practice is not so simple. It requires skilled people that exist in the Party, but who will need to be coaxed to the backrooms with a budget, and some patience.

What I am referring to is detailed statistical/geographical analysis of Green Party of Canada voters, members, and donors. In theory it is simple. Start by acquiring the 2006 Census results for Canada. The census data is collected by location, includes all kinds of really detailed information, far beyond age, income, sex, education, and the stuff you kind of recall filling in on your census form in 2006. This data is ultimately keyed to postal codes. This is, indirectly how Elections Canada distributes voting data, in their poll by poll electronic database, which in turn is keyed to poll maps. When you have acquired appropriate mapping software, you have the basic tools to create and distribute a totally kick ass poll targeting tool for every EDA in the country. Competent Geographers, and Statisticians can use this data to analyse precisely what kind of people voted for the Green party of Canada in past elections, and can then output poll by poll maps of areas where people are very likely to vote green, but for some reason have not done so in past elections.

With a very detailed, and complete picture of what kinds of people voted for the Green Party, and exactly where they are located in Canada, you can now target your message poll by poll to the people who actually live there. You can do so with a degree of certainty that your message is what they will be interested in. Our Party has a broad platform, and we DO appeal to all kinds of people, so why shouldn’t we tell people the thing they are most likely to like about us? Why shouldn’t we find out what people on a certain block want to hear about, and tell them, truthfully, what we want to do for them?

Once this big, but important job is complete, there are a few simple things to do, that are totally awesome in their implications. First off, by feeding the Green Party of Canada’s donor, membership, and volunteer lists into the picture, it is possible to predict with incredible precision where potential new donors live, where potential new members live, and where potential new volunteers live. Combine this data with commercially available telephone number lists, and basic Canada Post goodies, and you can start a really awesome fundraising, membership, and volunteer drive.

I hope by now that intelligent Green Party readers of this blog are starting to get excited at the possibilities. The 250,00 votes I bragged about in my title above is the pure dumb simple worst case outcome from this endeavor. Those are the phantom votes that pollsters tell us are ours, but who then evaporate on election day. With a little smarts, work, and organizing, there is no reason why the Green Party of Canada wouldn’t beat the crap out of the Conservative fundraising machine. All this could be achieved on less than $50,000, so mull that over a little, and give me your comments!

As usual, I implore you, if you want to get involved in an exciting political Party, that is really going to change you, and your’ childrens lives for the better, then Join the Green Party Today!

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Green Party better scramble: 21 New Ridings for Ontario

Discrimination Relaxed?

Discrimination Relaxed?

So now it’s (semi) official. I read it in the Globe and Mail. Ontario is to gain 21 electoral districts in the re-distribution of seats due to population changes. There will undoubtedly be howls of protest across the country, but I will refer those interested in the facts about the issue to check out this link. It basically summarizes the supreme court rulings, and the nuts and bolts of re-districting. For Green Party of Canada activists, and organizers, the question immediately rises to the forefront. How will this impact our electoral chances? I cannot answer categorically, because the answer will lie in the gory details, but here’s a quick look at the details that will have the most impact.

In Toronto, the outlying districts have the most coherent concentrations of Conservative voters. These ED’s could possibly be crafted to return one Conservative plurality. The downtown ridings are a write-off for the Conservatives. The Conservatives have a definite interest in splitting districts around the perimeter of the city. My guess is that they will create one more Toronto ED, based upon population growth, and an average population of 105,000 per ED in Ontario. I am not as familiar with the other Ontario Cities, but I assume that a similar calculus will come into play.

905 All Aboard!

905 All Aboard!

Rural Ontario will not change very much, but suburbia will get a lot of new ridings. The implication for the GPC is that a positive message promoting stronger transit, and commuter links will have a very positive impact on our electoral outcomes in suburban Ontario.

For the Green Party, those ridings where they have concentrated pockets of support will benefit. This includes most ridings which have active EDA’s, that focus their resources during elections. In the case of Bruce Grey Owen Sound, and Guelph, the new boundaries should be very closely scrutinised. These ridings both have relatively high levels of support, and boundary changes could make either, or both quite winnable in the next election. Because most EDA’s have focused their efforts on a small part of their riding, you can expect that those new ridings that contain these target polls will gain on average 1%-2% on a per riding basis. This will tip the balance for many EDA’s over the 10% threshold to receive a rebate of 60% of their election expenses. That will have a nice impact on subsequent elections.

The most important factor will be how well the GPC meets the challenge of organizing 21 new EDA’s. We mustn’t forget that Alberta will see 5, and BC will see 7 new ridings added, and these will have a pretty big impact on the GPC’s electoral prospects also. BC could break out with one or two winnable ridings as well, so I can only hope that the GPC notes well it’s opportunities, and allocates resources accordingly.

As usual, the most important factor will be how many members, and volunteers the GPC can recruit before, and after these changes come into effect. Because many EDA’s are at, or below a critical mass of volunteers, further dilution will see many EDA’s shrink to something too small to do much of anything. The GPC simply must refocus efforts on recruiting, and organizing the membership.

If you want to have a lot of fun, working with people who love their country, and are prepared to sacrifice their time, effort, and money to make a real difference, I encourage you to Join the Green Party NOW!

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