Election Post Mortem: Green Party Canada 2008

Having come through another Federal election with mixed results, the Green Party of Canada needs to do a formal Post Mortem of their national Campaign. Elizabeth May took a stab at it, with a blog on the GPC site, but I sincerely hope that this is the beginning, not the end of the analysis. As she noted herself, several times, the organization, and ‘readiness’ was pretty bad. Honestly, there’s nothing surprising there. If you take 250 campaign rubes, and tell them, go run a campaign, then don’t expect much of them without very damn good direction. I’ll start with a critique of what I consider to be the strong point of the Campaign, communications.

Vote Green and Vote Often!

Vote Green and Vote Often!

Part 1 – Communications Critique

Elizabeth May is no slouch when it comes to communications, and gaining earned media coverage. The GPC generally responded to events fairly quickly, given the human resources at their disposal. I believe that the communications team should establish a War Room for the next election, with good searchable databases, and prepared response templates for various contingencies. You need to come back within 45 minutes with a newsworthy response as events unfold. Your quick response also needs to steer the conversation back to where you want it to be. If you’ve made a bad choice about what you want the message to be, then it doesn’t matter so much, does it?

On messaging, it was clear that the GPC’s central message was; ‘Down with the dastardly Conservatives.’ I’m sorry, but that is not a good enough reason for a voter to split with habit, and vote GPC. If you have an impact, then on balance you’ve won more votes for the Liberals, or NDP than for the Green Party. It is important to differentiate ourselves from ‘the competition’ in the ideas marketplace. According to the Strategic Counsel Poll from the end of August, 2008, The three most important issues to the electorate leading into the election were 1) The Economy 2) The Environment 3) Health Care. In my opinion, the GPC’s health message is strong, and really differentiated from the crowd. Yes, we need to cover all the bases in our platform. Being the only Party talking strongly about health care would have really set us apart, and would definitely have helped us on election day. I don’t claim to be omnipotent, but I do know that there needs to be a strong focus on a single theme to make an impact with the electorate. I am equally sure that we need to be differentiated, and that our main theme should emphasize that Canadians need to vote for us for a positive reason, that resonates with them, and sets us apart.

UPDATE: Dec.12,2008 Just came across this Ipsos Poll on Health Care.

Printed material: We really moved backwards in time. There should have been a selection of campaign flier, and conversion piece templates. Most EDA’s were without experienced Campaigners, so they should have been hold how, and where to use printed materials. How do the campaigns know what the theme is, or what their talking points should be? Communications from the War Room, and National Campaign headquarters, that’s how.

Bullseye Communications

Bullseye Communications

Narrowcasting: I know I said we have to have a single theme above, BUT there is a case to be made to tailor the message to narrower segments of the electorate, where and when you have a chance to speak to a defined group apart from the mainstream. For example, in ethnic language presentations, you may focus on a different part of our platform, in a manner that flatters our party in the eyes of the targeted electors, whether by faith, language, ethnicity, age, or virtually any identifiable group, with identifiable tastes and preferences, that are distinct from the ‘normal, (In the statistical sense), population. I did not receive any communications targetted to me, other than a few appeals for dough by email. This should be an ongoing element of building our Party, but perhaps we should crawl before we walk, or run.

I’ll have plenty more to say about poor organization in tomorrows post.

If you, the reader would like to put YOUR skills to work building this wonderful Party for the next election, then please Join the Green Party Today!

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4 Responses

  1. I’m in Grey Bruce OS. Past Green success is to having peeled off Liberal and NDP vote and some old conservative types who defected when conservatives aligned with. Credit goes to local campaign winning 27% of vote. (33% last Provincial). That’s still 21% behind the Conservative candidate. The Greens would have to pick-up all the remaining Lib & NPD votes to unseat the conservative. My assessment is that the Greens in this riding have hit the wall created by the rabid CON bashing. Some label this as a Con riding. This is not a Con riding. This a progressive riding that has sent many Liberal MPs to house and an Afro-South American MP to the house. The candidate matters above all.

    So go analyze the results all you want. Excellent campaigns have been run here. Extra resources were parachuted in.
    Now what effect do you think polarizing the electorate by rabid con bashing has had on the prospects of the GPC (aside from alignment in left field with communists and patronage of senate seats).

    It was amusing to read the comments on Red Tory…how the electorate are stupid…don’t get it…will forget this sordid mess after three days. WRONG!

    The line was drawn once over this OSSN business.
    The line is drawn again for those don’t yet get it.

  2. Absolutely. I analyze to learn the truth. The old saw that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it is soooo true. Jim Harris was dead on track when he said that we have to graze from every other Party’s plate, and build an extra constituency from past non-voters. I was struck reading Elizabeths ‘post mortem’ that she is only now learning what seasoned GPC campaigners knew since 2005.
    BTW, congratulations for your’ good results in the past two, (Fed. and Prov.) elections. The only hope now is to drive a wedge in the local Conservatives organization. Any hope for a strong local PC to bail to you as candidate? Any thoughts on how to drive up voter turnout on eday? Did you use the advance polls to good effect? It’s a tough row to hoe, but absent a change in the campaign theme at ‘head office’ these are the local things in your control. My next post will talk a bit more about these things. Your EDA is an exceptional exception. The ‘head office’ can do lots to help the ground war elsewhere. I’m afraid that I see a better chance in a few other ridings, Notably Guelph, due to the 4-way split in the vote. It’s not hopeless though, so don’t lose hope!

  3. Agree on assessment on Guelph. Nagy & team did great and yes prospects are better on account of demographics with average age higher and lower income here vs. Guelph. That’s the overall trend. Older voters tend to be fiscally conservative esp. after they lose 30% savings in market meltdown with costs increasing.

    There is a great divide between these voters(senior, small private workers and business) vs. the lifer clients of the state.

    The coalition represents one side of the divide ~35% of the workforce. How many strikes now in Ontario or looming?
    The GPC brand is now planted on that side beside Lib and NDP.

    How have the fortunes of the NDP fared with Buzz handing Martin a CAW jacket on TV? Has strategic voting helped the NDP?

    Harper is filling senate seats. May is given as an excuse. Harper spins. The others spin. Spin and counter spin. As if the voters don’t see thru this. So 45% stay home on eday.

    Where do voters put “integrity” on the list? There are candidates regardless of stripes who rise above the fray. Credit to them. Some get elected.

    The party should not be an encumbrance (as in supporting the OSSN etc.) to any good candidate. I’m not the one with the degree in political science…but we don’t build a brand by alienating prospects e.g. double standard PC bashing. “Tar them all” as due.

    Also people still have fear that Greens want radical change. Fears need to be dispelled.

    Above all we raise the bar on ALL the other parties to set ourselves apart.

    By end Jan. the coalition business will be over. We move on.

    Libs can’t afford an election. There will be a lot of chest beating and howling. There is a good chance the GG will say go back to the polls if the coalition takes the government down. I expect the legal departments have been working overtime. All this rallying of he troops won’t influence the GG one way or the other. Jack may not care that Harper’s hand will be strengthened in an election. The Libs did not think this one thru.

  4. fJwGop Thanks for good post

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