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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6 Responses

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. Your blog has some merit, but when you write blatant falsehoods like the Liberals’ “hundreds of thousands of members”, it’s hard to take you seriously.

    Considering the Libs only have 39,000 donors, they’ve surely got only tens of thousands of members.

    • It is not a blatant falsehood. It is an estimate based upon paper lists that I saw during Stephen Dion’s leadership bid. Perhaps you are relying on public data for donors to the Federal Liberal Party. This data is woefully incomplete, and is in fact illustrative of the greatest organizational weakness of the Liberal Party. (Soon to be rectified I believe). The local EDA’s sell memberships, and record donors locally. If you mine the EC records of 308 EDA’s, I think you will find a much higher total. Also bear in mind that small cash donations, like membership fees go unreported to Elections Canada. This is particularly relevant as leadership contests are not fussy about payment methods. If the membership was only say 30,800 as you propose, then that would work out to 100 members per riding. That is a preposterously low number. I am not privy to Liberal membership lists, but I will stand by my estimate of hundreds of thousands unless evidence to the contrary is presented to me.

  3. And you think that Liberal Party membership hasn’t significantly declined under the leadership of Professor Dion?

    I mean GPC Party membership has slightly declined since E. May became leader. And the GPC has been growing in support during that time, rather than hemmoraging it as the Liberals have.

    Even if there were “hundreds of thousands” of Liberal members in late 2006 (which I would doubt, if that means much more than 200-300K), I think it would be reasonable to think that number has been more than halved in the meantime.

    And I have trouble taking the political analysis of someone who can’t see that very seriously.

    • 250k is about what I’d expect. The leadership contest has only just (probably) been resolved, so I don’t really think that Dion’s stewardship has much to do with membership levels. It has everything to do with the Martin, and Chretien, (Sorry, Rae, and Ignatieff), teams, and their recruiting efforts. Dion’s team didn’t recruit very many members in the first place. Therefore I doubt that membership halved. It’s true that there have been fewer hats in the ring, so the membership levels are probably dropping as Kennedy et al’s rent-a-members expire. The leadership race dynamics make any comparison between GPC membership levels and Liberals a real stretch over this timeframe.
      I would actually advise you to take any analysis I make on it’s own merits. Either it’s well supported, or not. It’s for you to decide whether you accept it, take it under advisement, or reject it out of hand. This is a blog, not a masters thesis, so I don’t stretch myself presenting incontrivertibvle evidence for every conclusion. Be my guest as to how you recieve my ‘humble offerings’.

  4. […] you follow my Blog, you’ll know that I am not surprised at all by the Ignatieff Liberals big comeback. I think he’ll build on it in fact. What really worries me is that the Liberals have not done […]

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