Green Party Canada by-election prospects multiplying.

The first definite candidate riding for a By-Election campaign for Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada will be coming into play sometime in the next 115 or so days. Last week, the recently elected Dawn Black, NDP MP resigned her seat to seek the same seat in the upcoming Provincial election. Kudo’s to Mark Taylor for pointing out that the second place Conservative candidate, Yonah Martin was just appointed to the Senate. This is a very interesting situation indeed, given that there was such a tight race between the NDP and the CPC, with the Liberals coming in third by a wide margin.

New Westminster—Coquitlam

Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
New Democrat Dawn Black 20,787 41.8% +3.49
Conservative Yonah Martin 19,299 38.8% +6.27
Liberal Michelle Hassen 5,615 11.3% -12.23
Green Marshall Smith 3,574 7.20% +4.25
Libertarian Lewis C. Dahlby 314 0.6 NA
Marxist-Leninist Roland Verrier 103 0.20% +0.10
Total valid votes 49,692 100.00%
Total rejected ballots 165 0.33

The total turnout in this race was 61.74%, which is about average. The Liberals have been floundering in the New Westminster riding, and have steadily been shedding votes since the 2000 election. With a new, and relatively centrist leader, the Liberals can probably expect a bit of a bounce back at the expense of both the NDP and Conservatives. It is no secret that the best opportunity for a Green Party victory is with a high profile candidate, (Like Elizabeth May), and a four way split amongst the electorate. IF, (and it’s a big if), the Liberals decide to field a centrist candidate to split the tory vote in this traditionally right of centre riding. If the Green Party hires a hot damned professional campaign manager, and IF Elizabeth May decides to throw her hat into the ring, then this could be the first properly elected seat for the GPC in Canada.

From what I know of Elizabeth though, she will tap the shoulder of her old friend and ally, Adrian Carr to run the campaign. Adrian has reputedly acquired an old NDP Campaign manual, and this will probably qualify her in her own, and Elizabeth’s eyes. Elizabeth would be well advised to gently deflect Adrian, and hire a real professional. (If she can find one). As she hopefully learned in the 2008 Central Nova debacle, it takes a tightly focused Poll by Poll canvas to take on and beat the Conservatives in their own natural surroundings.  She needs someone who will win the riding by contesting each and every poll. Dropping 75% of the Campaign budget on advertising simply does not cut it. Direct contact is what wins elections. I mean, for crying out loud, Central Nova could have hired professional call centres to canvas the whole riding for the kind of money they spent on print and radio advertising. It all smacked of a total rookie campaign manager, who simply doesn’t understand how retail politics is done but had an inkling that money wins elections.

What’s with this obsession with local advertising anyways? Elizabeth insisted on the same bloody thing in the London North Centre by-election, with full page ads in the local papers. A few hundred bucks for event notices and such, sure. A little advertsing dough to render the editorial staff receptive, well, that’s how politics is done. Popping your whole budget to reach a fraction of the electorate with a couple of print impressions? That’s not how you do it! Money in politics means paying professionals to help with GOTV. It means phone banks canvassing like crazy to feed the GOTV machine. It means vehicles rented to drive people to the advance polls. It means retailing your message, one on one!

Above all, Elizabeth needs to be very careful not to lose in her next trip to the polls. The Green Party can be publicly very forgiving of  the failures of their leadership, but there are already significant rumblings within the ranks. In the spring of 2010, the Green Party of Canada wil be gearing up for a Leadership race. Another electoral failure of the ‘Great Green Hope’ so close to the next Leadership race will be taken as a signal by many Greens. A signal that the gamble with a media savvy Leader was not as good as it seemed at the time.

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10 Responses

  1. The worst case scenario here is May costing the NDP this seat, resulting in another Tory backbencher. Not what Canada needs right now at all. I would not expect a 4-way race, I’d expect a 3-way split between the progressives and the Con will win out.

    • Sorry to disagree, the NDP already cost the NDP this seat. I think it’s the height (or depth) of callous disregard to resign the seat months after the election, and then expect to gift it to the next NDP candidate. Certainly if I were campaign manager, or even communications chair, I would hammer the living crap out of the NDP for this cynical, and selfish move. Did Dawn not promise to serve the voters of New Westminster-Coquitlam just 4 months ago? They rewarded her with the seat, which she just threw away. If the NDP had any grace whatsoever, they would back out, because they will not have the slightest hope of winning this seat now.

  2. I agree the seat belongs to no one.

    As to Dawn’s choice- people die [the seat she is running in]. By the same token as my first line: the people of NWC will decide if Dawn’s departure so soon matters to them… but I’ll bet anything it only will be an issue to voters who never liked her or the NDP.

    And your last line, that the NDP “will not have the slightest hope of winning this seat now” is laughable hubris.

    This seat is going to be hard for any Green to do well in, forget about win. Its a good place to raise the profile of a some Green candidate- but Carr needs another loss for her image even less than does May.

    The Liberal vote is at or within a couple points of its floor core- no growth there. The NDP and Cons will go all out on this for many months- and when [if] the by- vote comes, most voters will be closely attuned to seeing in a close race that there preferred choice among those wins.

    IF it does end up beinng a by- I can see that a MASSIVE Green GOTV effort would push that vote up to surprising levels.

    But thats a lot of money to put on another [maybe] little victory…. and difficult to pull off in a sngle election because you won’t have a history of voter identification records to feed into the GOTV.

  3. I had a similar post in mind until I saw a few comments on another of Ms. May’s media gaffs. She’s pretty much poisoned the NWC well if not all of Western Canada with her latest “slip of the tongue”.

  4. Ken: I wasn’t clear enough, I don’t see Adrian running there, I see her managing Elizabeth’s campaign. A mistake, but I know that Elizabeth May would believe in her.
    Don’t forget that By-Elections are a totally different dynamic from General elections. The electorate knows that their decision will not change anything in Ottawa. That is the opportunity for an astute Campaign Manager, and Comm. chair. Frame the choice to the electorate about making a real difference in Ottawa. Again, politics is retail, so how the electorate views Dawn, and the NDP is up for grabs as of this moment. It isn’t hubris to say they have little chance, it merely pre-supposes that the other Party’s have moderately competent campaigns.
    You’re absolutely right about the need to ID and GOTV being the most crucial element, ESPECIALLY in a By-Election where turnouts are dismal. How much you want to bet that Elizabeth has enough control over the GPC to rubber stamp the required dough? She does, and will if she runs.
    I still doubt she’ll win, because she doesn’t have the skilled people in her inner circle.

    Mark; I’ll go check google to find this latest gaffe, maybe I’ll comment later on it.

  5. Question about past practice following up on your point above:

    “What’s with this obsession with local advertising anyways? Elizabeth insisted on the same bloody thing in the London North Centre by-election, with full page ads in the local papers.”

    With the possible exception of Carr’s Vancouver Centre campaign, all the high spending GPC campaigns are very HEAVY on the advertising [and mostly print].

    But it was also true of the Northumberland Quinte West campaign that spent half as much, but raised all of it themselves [where as the several top spenders got most or the bulk of their funds from the GPC].

    So I’m wondering, did this heavy reliance on advertising preceed May’s leadership? There weren’t the big spending campaigns then, but did the highest spenders in 2006 also rely so much on advertising?

    • Yes Ken,
      I’ve seen it here and there. I remember my first campaign, sitting in a room with a few greens who ended up having some spare cash halfway through a campaign. What to do with the $$? How about spending on some ad’s? Was the first response. Fortunately, having spent 10 years in marketing, buying advertising amongst other tasks, I was able to head off that particular bad idea. My guess is that there isn’t somebody with experience in the room when this decision is usually made.
      Local ads are just fine for publicising an event. A specific, targetted idea can be publicised this way, but it doesn’t make the phone ring, and doesn’t harvest a supporters name and address. If there was a better understanding of just how easy it is to reach out using phone banks, or direct to voicemail messaging services, then I suspect that more campaigns would opt for targetted outreach like this than print ads.
      The campaign seemed to be very proud of the fact that they saturated the local London Papers during the London North Centre by-election. It was kind of sad to see that army of volunteers chasing all the wrong things. For example, I remember Sharon Labchuk argueing about wasting money for snacks on Eday. This was to feed a large number of people working full bore, and all the volunteers were disappearing from the campaign office in search of food. This was a few days after running full page ad’s that could have fed 100 people very nicely thank you.

  6. That’s interesting.

    I’m trying to wrap my head around this because its unfamiliar.

    So are you saying you think that if people don’t have training or experience to direct them otherwise, then if they have some money to spend, they’ll spend it on advertising rather than voter contact.

    On an intuitive level that makes easy sense: advertising you just buy, voter contact you need both money and organisation. [Or an in between that takes less money and less organisation- if you have a list of supporters you call them to put signs on their lawn. Raises profile a lot even if it does not directly get another vote.]

    But why is there money looking to be spent? I’ve been in a lot of ‘low level’ campaigns. And if there’s no organization there is also no money. Typical minimum organization dynamic: just enough money for leaflets, so you just hand them to whoever comes in the door to take door to door in some likely place.

    In such a scenario, a tiny ad in the local weekly is fretted over as an expense that can be afforded.

    Now, I haven’t been around a low level campaign since before the days of public subsidies monies. But I don’t get the impression that ‘new’ source of funding gets spread all over the place.

    So… back to trying to wrap my head around this… I’m going to make a suggestion, but don’t let me lead your answer.

    The GPC is different. You don’t have an organizational experience of voter contact. And just a smattering of individuals who have experience with it from othere parties. And even their limited possible effect is further undermined because they may not be ‘in favour’ and/or they did voter contact but didn’t ever really understand the basic organizational principles. [Its one thing to know what to do within a machine already working- even if not optimally- another thing to know how to do it from scratch.]

    So you don’t have voter contact experience, you nonetheless have your ridings with better potential, especially with the public funding money there is some available and it naturally finds its way to theses ridings with potential but no experience with voter contact and no help figuring out…

    …. so they look at this pot of money- modest but more than I ever saw in my days of minmal organization all volunteer campaigns- and they say…. “What are we going to do?”

    “Lets buy ads.”

    Something like that???

    [again, with the caveat, don’t let me lead your answer.]

    • You have more or less summed it up. I will offer a good excuse though. If you have no campaign experience, and a small group of volunteers have just met each other for the first time during the course of the campaign, there’s something that mitigates against voter contact. Have you ever tried canvassing when 5% of the electorate support your Party? You have to knock on doors for over an hour before you ID the first vote. If the veteran from another Party campaign has persuaded the other 5 people to do voter ID, they all go out for an evening, and show up with 2 or 3 ID’d voters each. It is obvious that this will have very little impact on eday, so you start looking around for ways to reach large numbers of people with your message. Newbies are too impatient to ID the vote while thinking about the next campaign. Most fresh organizations react either by printing a bunch of flyer’s, (Always controversial to Greens, but actually a much better route than advertising), or they pop $500 two or three times in the local paper.
      The high level campaigns don’t always have sound advice, or management. EMay seems to like to commission a poll, and buy advertising. The polls don’t do any real research, they are small samples of voting intention. (What a stupid waste of money! Your’ voter contact should be giving you much better info, and better sample sizes too!). It would horrify the typical Green to spend money on contracted voter contact. Despite the fact that telemarketers can be paid by results, and have a lasting impact on the future health of the EDA. It has a corporate feel to ‘outsource’ to ‘telemarketers’. Nonetheless, it would be really really nice if the central Party were to negotiate a deal whereby local Campaigns could opt into a commercial ID-GOTV service. Maybe sub out 5 or 10 polls. It would restrain some of them from quixotic and exotic spending decisions.

  7. When is anyone ever going to face reality. E May is not going to win in Central Nova or anywhere else for that matter. She doesn’t want to win. Haven’t you figured this out? The soapbox is greater and comes with less strings when you are on the outside.

    Identify the vote was the key in C.N.??? Until two weeks before the vote GPC voters were less than 7% in polling so identifying them was like finding organic cotton items at the GAP.

    Stop the kidding yourselves. She has no intention of winning (she was willing to throw the party under the bus just 6 days prior to the vote). Take on Peter McKay in CN. She doesn’t want to win!!!

    So blame the workers in CN or blame the Campaign Manager if you want but E May’s fate has and will continue to fall in her own lap. And tell me this…name one “winning” campaign manager in the history of the this federal party? There isn’t one. The GPC keeps pulling out the same play book and are so proud of it…works well if you like 3rd or 4th place. Hell the team in CN came closer than anyone else has with a candidate that didn’t want to win.

    Shake your head.

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