Green Party Canada 2010 leadership race?

Frank De Jong's Hat in the Ring?

Frank De Jong's Hat in the Ring?

It’s getting pretty obvious now that Frank De Jong, the long time leader of the Green Party of Ontario is thinking about the Leadership slot in the Green Party of Canada. According to Chris Tindal, Frank announced his intention not to run for the GPO leadership again, so there will be a leadership vote at the GPO convention in London in November of 2009. That’s interesting enough in and of  itself, but to cap it all, Frank went on to say, in French, that he would like to be the Leader of the GPC. Sure he backpedalled a little, mouthing that the doesn’t want to take on Elizabeth May, and only if the job is open, blah blah blah. It all adds up to: Frank wants the top job, and he’s got the French that is a pre-requisite.

This is an interesting development, for a whole bunch of reasons. In the

Incumbent Elizabeth May

Incumbent Elizabeth May

couple of months after Elizabeth May won the leadership race against David Chernushenko, she systematically replaced staffers and functionaries with her own loyalists from the Sierra club. She didn’t reach out to her defeated opponent, and as a result of these actions, there was a large out-flux of relatively skilled and experienced Green Party of Canada volunteers. The main beneficiaries of this were the Green Party of Ontario, and the Liberal Party where they were more than welcome. Since then we’ve been in the peculiar position of having the Provincial Party being run more effectively than the federal party, despite

Jim Fannon David chernushenko, and Elizabeth May in televised debate

Jim Fannon David chernushenko, and Elizabeth May in televised debate

the fact that the GPO budget is less than 10% of the federal Party.

The Green Party of Ontario has a much smaller membership base in Ontario than the GPC, but it can safely be assumed that Frank De Jong will retain the loyalty of the majority of the Provincial Party membership. This will be especially true with a Provincial leadership run going all out, as no-one will want to cross Frank under that scenario. In addition, the GPO Leadership bid will take all of those skilled, and hard working GPO types, and train them intensively in contested leadership battles. That is very important, because Frank will need to be recruiting a lot of new members to launch a successful challenge, and will need people around him who know how to recruit and organise.

The timing is very relevant indeed. Frank needed to make his intentions clear right now because he is certain that there are a lot of activists and organizers in Ontario that will be looking for a leadership candidate  to replace Elizabeth May. It’s not only Ontario, Alberta is lock stock and barrel opposed to Elizabeth, and that Province is potentially extremely rich hunting grounds for a bluegreen candidate. British Columbia is pretty ripe as well, and although Adrian Carr is one of the most competent Elizabeth May supporters in Canada, her own influence in BC has declined over the past two years. Frank is probably counting on his early ‘declaration’ to scare off any local contenders from these arenas.

So what are Franks’ odds? I’d have to say that at this moment, they look pretty good. Elizabeth May has enormous name recognition, and the fact is that a large chunk of the existing membership was attracted to HER green party. It is still potential, not on-the-ground facts, but Frank can draw on Alberta and Ontario to win over a strong minority of existing members. British Columbia will be more of an even battle, but there will be a good response to Frank out there. The Maritime, for what it’s worth has been pretty thoroughly coddled by Elizabeth, but there are so few members that I question the value of this. Provided Frank starts organizing immediately, his team can start recruiting new members, and setting up the national infrastructure that will be needed to win in this battle.

There is of course the ten ton elephant in the room, that being the next Federal election. Much will depend upon how well Elizabeth performs in her next outing to the polls. If Elizabeth wins a By-Election, or wins a seat in  the intervening general election, then all bets are off. No-one will be too keen on dumping the leader if she makes history by being the first federally elected Green in Canada. Conversely, if she fails to win a seat, then the knives will come out for sure. In that scenario, Greens will likely decide that they need to renew the Party infrastructure, and that Team Elizabeth is not up to the job. It will be very hard for Elizabeth May to spin anything less than a seat in Parliament into a victory, and she will lose most of the Party establishment that she hasn’t yet alienated.

Then there’s the question of the actual Leadership campaign team. Who is there available to Elizabeth to manage her re-election? Sharon Labchuk again? No offense to Sharon, but she cannot run a campaign. She doesn’t have  the basic skills required. Her team has proved itself unable to recruit large numbers of members during their tenure in charge of the GPC, so why should we think they could do any better during a leadership run? Adrian Carr? Genest in Quebec? Adrian is the obvious choice, but Quebec is a complete write-off for Elizabeth so long as Genest wears the deputy leaders crown.

Whatever way it shakes out, I am really looking forward to a good race. Since the only way to unseat Elizabeth is to out recruit her, I expect that there will be a lot of new members recruited. In all probability, Alberta and Ontario memberships will be revitalised, and drawn back into the Party. This has to be a good thing, and provided Elizabeth doesn’t crap all over her opponents, and actually makes an effort to engage and reconcile in the event of a victory, then these Provinces can contribute loads of talent and skilled partisans for the GPC ongoing. Whichever way it goes, I encourage every one of my readers to renew their memberships, and get involved in the upcoming race. Just please, please, keep your’ cool, and don’t get caught up in mud-slinging like the contestants in the last race. Never forget that today’s opponent is tomorrows ally. Elizabeth’s current predicament is a direct result of castigating her opponent, and if you don’t learn from past mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them.

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Green Party of Canada: Election draws nigh.

Coming soon

Coming soon

I just trotted off to Threehundredeight.com, as I do pretty regularly, and lo and behold. We have a new Strategic Counsel poll that sustains an ongoing trend. I listened to Jean Chretien two weeks ago pushing the Liberal Party towards the earliest election date possible. Fine thinks I, but the Bloc and Dippers have to agree. Now we see a seat projection model showing seat gains for the Dippers, the Liberals, the Bloc, and even a seat for the lowly Greens. The Greens you say? Hold onto your’ horses. This projection is based upon Central Nova results from the last election, with an added bounce for recent poll results for the Green Party. Take it with a grain of salt, because we know that things will be different for the Central Nova Campaign this time around. I doubt that a Liberal Candidate will split MacKays vote sufficiently for the GPC to drive up the  middle.

There are some things that I haven’t thought through thoroughly, like the implications of Provincial elections on the various Party’s thought processes, but I think that the probable time to pull the trigger is right now. The economy is bouncing back, and memories of the CPC missteps last fall are beginning to recede. There is also a strong possibility that the Mounties, or Elections Canada will pay back Stephen Harper by skewering him but good once the writ is dropped. ( The promised RCMP pay raises evaporated, remember? Elections Canada was impaled on a Conservative lawsuit, remember?)

If what I say is true, and the opposition Party’s combine to bring down the CPC, then we Greens are, once again, totally unprepared to fight an imminent election. Every EDA needs to think for itself, because no-one else will prepare for you. Time to kick your’ nominations off, and comb the lists of local notables for prospective Candidates. Renew all your’ lapsed members, and tap them for a chunky donation. Plan your target polls, and work out the resources you will need to acheive your’ objective. Make concrete targets, like ‘ We will acheive 10.5% of the vote, and we will get it by winning the following polls.’ I have written countless posts about local organizing, so if you’re not sure what to do, browse through my past posts, and pick a few tasty things that work for you. Please, please, make plans for continuity, and work out exactly how you will collect, and RETAIN electoral data on voting intentions, sign takers, donors, volunteers, etc.

Lastly, and very importantly, it’s time for the Green Party to be conducting issues research. I will proffer a suggestion, above and beyond what I have stated previously about War Room preparation and the like. We can predict that every Party will have plenty to say about the economy. They will vie with each other to take credit for massive consumption stimulus spending. We should remember that consumption stimulus is pretty well demonstrated to be a waste of money. Half of the electorate would support this contention. After all, what got us into the current economic mess was a decade of heavily stimulated consumption. Make sure that our economic platform is genuinely differentiated from the rest of the nit-wits. We are about INVESTING in cleaner air, energy conservation, more efficient transportation. The Industrial age is over in Canada, so stop throwing out life-lines.

If you have a look at public opinion polls during the past two years or so, you will notice something very peculiar. While the economy has risen to the top of the agenda, there are still HUGE numbers of Canadians who think that either the Environment ( A gimme for the GPC), or Health Care are the top issues. Health Care? Howcome many millions of Canadians think this is the most important issue, and no-one is speaking to them? I think that this should be THE major plank of the GPC in the upcoming election. Why? because what we have to say is very damned important public policy, it is totally different from what the business as usual Party’s will be saying, and a huge slice of the electorate is very concerned about it. Remember that for the GPC a big win would be to get to 10% of the vote, and a couple of seats. We can get there without singing with the chorus, so focus on where we can make solid gains.

Don’t take my opinions as gospel. Craft a policy set that attacks the root causes of ill health. Clean air, clean water, toxins in our food, health care designed to fix sick people, rather than keeping

Toxic Message to be avoided

Toxic Message to be avoided

people healthy. Once you’ve got a set of policy prescriptions ready, test them using public polling companies. Focus groups are of some small value, but make damn sure that you TEST the verdict of your focus groups on some nice big samples of the electorate. In week 2, of the campaign,  roll out the health message with plank after plank, and grab the media by the balls with it. In the meantime, be consistent about lumping all the other Party’s together as tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum, and tweedle-who? Don’t go down that silly path of trashing everything Conservative. The Liberals and NDP will be doing that in spades. DIFFERENTIATE us by being dismissive of them all, and focus on our positive policy strength. Learn the lessons of the last election, or else we’ll be doomed to repeat it.

I’ve said my piece. Maybe I’ve been wrong for the past 50 or so posts, and we won’t have an election now after all. If so, I’ll apologise to you if you were galvanised into some advanced preperations that weren’t needed. (NOT) Just remember all, elections are FUN! Get together with your fellows. Make plans, and then work/play like crazy to fulfil them. You will be able to take great satisfaction when you count up your’ assets at the end of the election, and rub fond memories together over a pint at the first post-election Pub Night.

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Building the Green Party of Canada: Issues based communities.

Within the pages of this Blog, I have deliberately kept away from discussing policy, or specific issues. There are some sound reasons for this which I’ll enumerate here:

There are numerous venues extant for discussing, and disseminating green, and Green Party policies and issues. While I may flatter myself that I can add something to that particular discussion, the fact is that there is not much more to be said. I don’t really long to be one of the walls in an echo chamber.
There are almost NO sites dedicated to the dark science of electoral politics. (No, it’s not an art).

Political Science, or Art?

Political Science, or Art?

Especially rare is any serious discussion amongst and between GPC organizers, and campaigners. In my opinion, the lack of such skills has been the single biggest reason that no Greens have been elected to Parliament to date.
If I were to advocate various policy proscriptions, then it will lead many people to pigeonhole me, and not take my advice as seriously as it may merit. ‘Oh yeah, of course bluegreenblogger would say that, after all, he’s a …….(Insert Policy Here), advocate.’
For these reasons, and more, I have focused on the mechanics of electoral politics.

In one or two important respects, this issue free approach is misdirecting my intended audience. The underlying motivation that drives people to vote for, join, donate, or go the whole way and become an activist is probably a sincere, and probably deeply held belief, or ideal.

‘What the blazes’, you are probably thinking. ‘Has bluegreenblogger come over all metaphysical on me?’ I’ll get to the point then. I recently posted a comment on the new Green Spaces forum about a very effective means of building contact lists for the Green Party. That is to collect a petition on a green friendly issue. It is a good idea, and I have seen thousands of names collected by a relatively small group of GPO volunteers in a single weekend. Over the past week or so, I have seen repeated examples of the rather attractive BC STV button, where this single issue is bringing together thousands of activists, volunteers, and donors. Today, I gave some (unsolicited) advice about winning support in a key group of polls within a riding. My advice was all about finding the local issue that really matters and motivates people living in that spot. Then it all kind of came together. Nothing revolutionary, just a very simple means of dramatically growing the ranks of our party membership, activists, donors, and voters.

What motivates YOU?

What motivates YOU?

That is to run a different kind of campaign when the election isn’t there to galvanize the public. That is to focus on issues that can really motivate some people. Electoral reform is one of those issues, as has been demonstrated by the outpouring of support for STV activists in BC. Why is it that we cannot galvanise these people within our Party, instead of in an independant organization? What if we were to empower people to work on the issues that really really matter to them, WITHIN the ranks of the Green Party? I’m talking about the basic tools of modern communications. Forums, email, blogs, and the traditional media. Trippi showed how these tools can be mutually re-inforcing. Trippi also showed how to harness an online community, and mobilise it in the field.  What Trippi didn’t have was a long term commitment from the Dean for America community. When the campaign was over, the whole thing crumbled away.

As a political Party, the Green Party can offer continuity. We can grow, and build on that growth over as long a time as it takes to win power. I will use the STV campaign as an example. It could be almost anything, from stamp collecting, to bird watching, but STV is a great topical, and current example. The Green Party could have created a website focused on Proportional Representation reform in Canada, and presented a compelling policy stance on the issue. There would need to be a Forum associated with the topic, so that those people with a passionate interest in electoral reform could communicate with each other. In addition to that, there should be a blog roll, with the tools in place to allow people to create their own affiliated blogs. Additional social networking capabilities would need to be created, in part to foster the sense of community, and also to enable the community to mobilise for action. Naturally, signup forms, petitions, mailing lists, and calls to action would be needed to ensure that the communities future growth is fostered. Nice pretty links could be created to help fellow travellers to drive interested people to the petitions, and issue websites.

Had we spent some effort in creating such an organization to campaign for the STV in BC, then we might have found a great many supporters joining us of their own accord. By arming them with lots of Green Party STV literature, and mobilising them to ID the vote for STV as well as for the Greens, a significant ground campaign could have been organised. When the campaign was over, win or lose, we would have been left with a motivated group of people prepared to campaign for PR on a national level as well. Not to mention the large lists of petition signers, and people who joined maillists, and the discussion forums during the campaign. This kind of community would simply not stop growing. With a network of blogs, and motivated donors and activists, it would eventually grow into an important issues based site on the web, and should have new adherents on a daily basis.

If you doubt the efficacy of what I am writing about, you need look for proof no further than the Conservative Party of Canada. When Stockwell Day ran for leader, he systematically recruited supporters, and raised money by recruiting Pro-Lifers, creationists, and other communities of highly motivated people. Believe me that the money, and volunteer hours flowed freely from people who believed that their political activism was furthering ‘gods work’. To this day, the most effective tool that the Conservatives employ is issues based fundraising. They know what motivates each and every one of their followers, because they carefully track who responds to which issues when they pitch their donors lists based upon specific issues. When they ask for money, it’s not to pay the salaries of Party functionaries. It’s to stop the dastardly Liberals from doing whatever it is that will motivate that particular mailing list the most.

I had ambitions to make a much more detailed post here. I was going to move on to suggest specific actions, and see if we couldn’t just make it happen without reference to the often sclerotic Green Party of Canada officialdom. The post is already long enough though, so I’ll have to leave my readers in suspense as to how we might be able to do this quickly and cheaply. If you really want to know, then you can go and pick up a copy of ‘The Revolution will not be televised’, by Joe Trippi, and then read it with a view to how this could work to build permanent online communities that were empowered to take their issues offline, and change the world.

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Green Party Canada unofficial aggregator, and Forum goes live

Hi folks,

Green Forum Logo

Green Forum Logo

So it’s officially unofficial now. Dave Bagler graciously put up a public forum for Green Party types to play in. The beauty is that it is outside the official Party’s control, so you don’t need to bite your tongue, or worry about being critical. Go right ahead, and let it all hang out. It’s brand spanking new, so don’t be alarmed at the lack of content. Just join and add your own. Go ahead and check it out here:

Green Spaces Forum

The aggregator is already up and running. Again, it is completely unofficial, so i guess it is an alternate to the members only blogs at the Green Party site. I guess I can comment in passing that the GPC has gotten mighty controlling haven’t they? The forums are not public, which is pretty dense, seeing as there is nothing likely to be said that really needs to be kept secret.  I don’t know if anything interesting happens there or not, because as a lapsed member, I don’t have permission to go. It’s not much of an advertisement about the vibrant discourse within the Party to keep the great unwashed out.

And how about those GPC blogs, eh? They are damned ugly. Mostly unrelieved by photo’s, or any graphics elements. Basically just a method of capturing free content, and generating captive traffic to help sell Elizabeth May books. Not a bad thing all told, but I’m happy enough blogging for the whole country to see, not just Green Party membership.

Anyhow, check them out, and let me know what you think.

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It’s Time for an Unofficial Green Party public Forum

It's easier online

It's easier online

Does anybody out there have the capability of setting up and hosting a public forum? There is a growing audience for a small, but growing number of independent Green Party bloggers. The comments sections are getting more and more regular readers, and there’s a lot of interesting content starting to flow out there. With a basic blog feed with Ogilvie’s, Report on Greens, Chris Tindal, Dave Bagler, Kersten’s Kolum, and others that we can all think of, we are all generating more or less regular content. I think that the combined traffic will support a Forum, and it would be great to draw in more of the membership, and EDA executives into some of the very important discussions that are happening right now.
I would love to be able to comment on, and debate Green Party Strategy articles for example, and an easy venue to beat each other up would be great. Don’t forget that there is an election coming very soon, and a shared forum could serve as a hub. This will have to happen sooner or later when the time is right, the viral Trippi type campaigning that we all want to make happen will be very well served if the forum sections for greens to share their thoughts already exists. I guess the only caveat would be that I would want to, and probably all the other bloggers who supported such a forum would also want to have admin. rights. That’ll share the workload as well, and provide continuity for the inevitable attrition.
Is anybody out there in the blogosphere willing to set up, host, and share control over a Forum like this? If so, then I will be happy to put a honking big animated link in my headline banner, or top right menu. Please do comment below.

Green Party of Canada: Get Ready for the Coming Federal Election.

Storming Harpers Bastille

Storming Harpers Bastille

The past 6 months have been, to put it mildly, an interesting time in Canadian Federal politics. The landscape has changed so very dramatically with the rise in fortunes of the Liberals mirrored by the

So That's where Jack Layton went.

So That's where Jack Layton went.

decline in Conservative grassroots power, and the virtual collapse of NDP prospects. I won’t get into a blow by blow. I will confine further comments on the root causes of all these to the two following statements: The Conservatives have blown both their feet off with bad behaviour, and what could be characterised as a betrayal of their fiscal

Liberal Leadership 'process'

Liberal Leadership 'process'

identity. The Liberals have seized the moment with the elevation of Ignatieff, and a halting revitalisation of their own grassroots machine. As for the NDP, I frankly cannot say why they have faded into the background so quickly.

This week, my previous predictions of a strong Liberal revival have been confirmed with some expected, but nonetheless significant poll outcomes. Most recently, the Liberal resurgence in Quebec has been validated by a recent large sample poll. The National positive trend has been re-asserted over the past two weeks, and barring a few hiccups, the Liberals are on the move in a big way. This weekend, the Liberal Party will pick up tons of press coverage, and spin doctors like Warren Kinsella will work their dark arts to convert this into as many as 3-4% point increase in Liberal support levels across the country. That will be strong Liberal minority territory.

If you do the electoral math, the Liberals cannot force an election without the support of the Bloc. The Bloc will be torn between the threat to their fortunes posed by the Liberals, and the opportunity to lock in their current levels of support engendered by the total collapse of Conservative support in Quebec. If The Bloc fails to support a Liberal no-confidence motion, it will almost certainly be construed by Quebecker’s, (with a little help from Kinsella), as a treacherous and selfish measure to preserve the rule of the detested Conservatives. The Bloc has no real upside potential from a delayed election, and the downside risks are real. The rational move for the Bloc will be to support a no-confidence motion, and help trigger a summer, or early fall election. Please note that the Bloc has already anticipated this scenario, and is by far the best prepared of all federal Party’s with nominations in full swing.

What does all this mean for the Green Party? It means get into election mode. It needn’t be too onerous, unless you have serious plans for your EDA. If you don’t yet have a candidate, then it is time to start locating past and future municipal candidates, and recruiting them to the Green Party. If you do have a candidate in mind, then it is still time to put our feelers to local non-aligned community figures. Get in touch with ethnic, and religious leaders, and ask them for support, and endorsements, or at least start a dialogue asking them what they want to see happen. Prepare your lists and data from the last elections. Call a cocktail Party for your local friends, supporters, and members. If the weather is good this weekend where you are, host an impromptu Barbeque, and start getting the war chest topped up with membership renewals. Keep it fun, but remember that tomorrows Liberal love fest will have everybody thinking politics again. A great opportunity to have fun, but still get some election preparations under way.

As far as advice for the GPC Leadership, I’m sure you’re all a-twitter about the Nova Scotia by-election prospects, but you really have to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sure, get the By-election team and planning started, but bloody well delegate it, and start getting ready for the real thing. Undoubtedly Elizabeth is pretty focused on selling her new book, but at least try to function independently, and prepare for the upcoming election. Review this post, and start figuring out your message. For God’s sake, eliminate the foaming at the mouth hyperbole. If you think that the Conservatives devour babies, and are in league with Lucifer, then plan to actually clobber them by emulating their succesful ideas, as I explained in this previous post. Read ‘Harper’s Team’, or at least read my synopsis of lessons for the GPC.  Start sourcing subcontractors for direct voter contact. Even better, hire a Call Centre Professional to set up in-house capabilities. Polish up the GRIMES voter contact database, as suggested in my previous post. Prepare your’ list of target ridings. You may want to start with my list posted on here, or make your’ own by all means. Just make sure you have a purpose, and something to focus your planning on. Don’t over-complexify things. Define your objectives. Map the path to get there. Detail your plan, and secure the resources to acheive it all. Let the Party know what the plan is, so that everybody can plan their own campaigns with a basic idea of the resources that they can count on. Communicate clearly, and don’t fly off on ad hoc tangents.

Good luck to all, and don’t forget, plan to retain your data, and make sure you are stronger when it’s over than you were when it started. You might be three years away from the next election, so don’t waste this opportunity.

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