Green Party of Canada: And Elizabeth May’s chosen Riding will be…

...Where she stops, nobody knows.

...Where she stops, nobody knows.

Thanks to Mark Taylor for picking up on this tidbit in the news: Riding on May’s radar, by the Owen Sound Sun. So it appears that the search for a Riding for Elizabeth May to run in is under way, and that search might not be limited to the riding of Central Nova. Let’s make a bold assumption that Elizabeth May wants to be elected to Parliament at the next opportunity. What is the best riding for her to run in? I am a very strong proponent of data driven decision making, whether in business, life, or politics. The most important data is simply not available to myself, or the Green Party for that matter, until either I, or They spend a chunky six figures on some very well defined polls. I’ve written elsewhere about how you conduct opinion research as a political Party, but basically it revolves around defining target issues, target populations, and the impact that a well delivered policy can have on peoples voting intentions. I’m sorry that I don’t have this data, because if I did, I would share it with the GPC, and we’d have several elected members right now. I guess the beauty of Blogging is that we can let our opinions have free rein, but please bear in mind that the data I use here is incomplete at best.

I guess we can start with Bruce Grey Owen Sound. The riding has an interesting history for the GPC. It was pretty much a run of the mill riding in terms of electoral results for the Greens, until 3 years ago. Shane Jolley, a popular local business man made it his business to build the Green prganization in the riding, and really took fire. They have now had three elections, two Federal, and one Provincial where their results have grown dramatically into a fairly strong second place to the overwhelmingly strong Conservatives. The Liberals, and the Dippers are a vanishingly small presence, and therin lies the problem. Because the Liberals are vanishingly weak, and the GPC is so strong, this is a faint hope riding for the Liberals. That’s something that isn’t calculated to attract a strong Liberal candidate to come along and split the Conservative vote. Any increase in Liberal strength, at the margin, will impact more strongly on the Greens than on the CPC. What this all points to is the need for the GPC to take on the Conservatives toe to toe, and beat them in their own chosen demographic. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see the GPC taking 1 in 4 Conservative votes from the incumbent. Failing that, the Campaign strategy will have to be to effectively go negative, and suppress the Conservative turnout. That will entail a Campaign that highlights Conservative failings. An example would be to focus on the Conservative voters, and don’t stop telling them that the Conservatives failed to manage the budget, and have brought in the worst defecit ever. The intent here would not be to win their votes, it would be to deny them to the Conservatives by persuading them to stay at home. This kind of strategy doesn’t serve the Party leader very well, because the Green Party will want to be running a positive, well differentiated communications strategy nationally. All in all, BGOS is a great riding for an agressive local candidate who can implement this strategy effectively, but the Leader cannot spend the next election convincing Conservatives to stay at home.

The second riding to look at is Central Nova. I have made no secret of my opinion that Central Nova was a big big mistake in 2008. Peter MacKay isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. He will not be unseated by Elizabeth, unless his hands are caught in the cookie jar. Anything can happen in Politics, and MacKay has displayed bad judgement in the way he has been manipulated and sidelined by the Reform Party/Conservative Party. That doesn’t mean that he will allow himself be photographed swiping the crown jewels or anything. It’s a very long shot, but Elizabeth would be well advised to only consider another run there if MacKay slipped on a giant banana skin.

The third riding exists by a fortuitous coincidence. That is Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, which I’ll refer to as CCMV. This riding is extremely interesting because it fits in so well with Elizabeth May’s stated intentions. First of all, the incumbent, Bill Casey sat as an Independant PC, which is to say he is a Progressive Conservative, not the neo-con variety. He is retiring from the house, and so a By-election will be called before the year end, assuming a general election doesn’t happen first. Elizabeth has promised to run in the next available by-election, so this is at this moment one of three possibilities. CCMV is right next door to Central Nova, where Elizabeth May has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building a local office, and election team. What could be simpler than shifting your efforts a few miles down the road? If Elizabeth commits to running in CCMV for the by-election, then she has met her criteria of a riding close to home. In the event that the By-election gets displaced by a General election, then Elizabeth doesn’t need to destroy her credibility by re-locating her campaign yet again. She simply needs to keep on campaigning hard, and seek the seat in the general election. There is actually a reasonably good chance in CCMV. There is no incumbency factor at play, and since both the Liberals, and Conservatives are running Progressive Conservative candidates, there is the opportunity to differentiate the GPC. Elizabeth will have her presumably experienced Central Nova campaign team to call on, which is reputedly a good cadre of activists and volunteers. I must also confess that I am completely ignorant as to why Elizabeth May didn’t run a Green Candidate against Casey in the last general election. Who knows what was being concocted, perhaps with this exact eventuality in mind?  That could be grounds for some wonderful, if somewhat idle speculation.

There are several other ridings which bear investigation, mostly in Ontario, but I simply do not have the time to write an enormous essay here, so I’ve thrown three obvious ridings into the mix.


35 Responses

  1. You need to give your head a shake. Too many Greens are obsessed about electing a single Green. And Elizabeth is obsessed with electing Elizabeth.

    After the “strategic voting” debacle last fall, I recommend that Elizabeth rebuild some bridges. She should do what Frank de Jong, GPO leader, has been doing for years.

    He put token effort into his own riding, and spent the entire campaign supporting his candidates in THEIR ridings. (He visited my riding twice.)

    This lead to a higher level of success AS A PARTY in 2007. More votes, more money (federally), more members – a stronger grassroots party.

    Elizabeth could no more put herself second than a pig could fly, of course.

  2. I think that most Greens are Green because they want to see the GPC having direct influence in Parliament. It is obvious that sooner or later the first Green will need to be elected. We need more than a single Green, but it has to start somewhere. The argument is probably true that by electing a Green, a lot of publicity, and credibility will accrue to the GPC.
    The path to this end result will likely be, as you say, through greater strength at the grassroots. There are lots of ways that this can be made to happen, let’s hope that some progress is being made in that direction

  3. “Central Nova, where Elizabeth May has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building a local office, and election team”

    It is my understanding that the sum thrown out here is far more than was actually spent, and this is supported by audited party filings. The only way to reach this number would be to add May’s entire personal salary to all of the other party spending (before and during the 2008 election), and that isn’t really good math. There HAS been more spent in this riding than any other (by Greens), but “hundreds of thousands” goes too high. (“Around a hundred thousand” would probably be more accurate).

    • Very fair comment. My ‘sources’ for this rather large number are not what I would categorise as unbiased ;-). It is probably more than $100,000 but not by an order of magnitude. Still, it’s a lot of money, that hopefully has done some good. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  4. This kind of riding-specific analysis can lead to some really flawed conclusions if it does not put equal emphasis on regional context.

    Both LNC and CN have shown that the party, by parachuting in the leader, some staff, and some volunteers and spending near the limit can get us a strong 2nd-place showing in just about any riding. But we are close to the limit of what can be done with money and staff without breaking election law. (The exception, of course, is pre-writ spending; but with the odd election/by-election situation it’s hard to know where to pre-spend and we can’t afford to target half a dozen ridings).

    Which is to say, the only way we can truly ramp up our top-riding electoral efforts is through the addition of vastly more volunteer power. And the only way to do that is by bringing the riding to the volunteers – not vice versa. Central Nova showed that a relatively remote riding can NOT count on a whole lot of outside riding volunteer support. Some, but not enough. To win a riding we need literally hundreds (if not thousands) of out-of-riding members and volunteers coming by for the day or the evening, EVERY DAY, to get the win.

    Jack Layton used this to get his wife elected. He brought 1000 volunteers, from across the GTA and Ontario, into her downtown Toronto riding. Do you think he could have sent 1000 volunteers to Central Nova, if that were Olivia’s choice? I doubt it. And neither could we.

    LNC was able to draw on the strength of at least a half dozen surrounding ridings, but we need more. A “winnable” riding would need to be in an area of multi-riding GPC strength. Ottawa and Vancouver come to mind, as each has a number of strong ridings who could send dozens of volunteers to Elizabeth’s. The GTA, of course, has 30-odd ridings that could contribute, with each volunteer taking transit to help and back home again to sleep.

    There are some non-urban areas of multi-riding strength – but BGOS certainly isn’t central to one. It is at the tip of a triangle, surrounded by water, and a couple of hours from the nearest significant mass of GPC strength.

    The key is that the chosen riding cannot win on its strengths alone, no matter the polling – it will depend heavily on the strength that can be lent from a lot of nearby ridings. If it doesn’t have that, it is probably a lost cause.

    • There’s absolutely no doubt that being able to import legions of foot soldiers for your’ canvas is very important. Ignatieff did the same thing in his first kick at the can in Etobicoke-Lakeshore in 2005. Toronto Centre, and a number of other Toronto ridings sent about 500 young liberals to plaster the ridng red on the last week of the Campaign. remember that Iggy was effectively a poison pill for Martin, and so a lot of Chretien’s people really wanted to ensure he won against Capobianco in EL. Nonetheless, with a very well run telephone canvas, those hundreds of volunteers can actually have the riding brought to their own home, via VOIP phone and centralised canvas database. It has been done succesfully before. Not the same as a foot canvas, I know, BUT potentially it could break the back of the ID – GOTV job, without tying up the local campaign volunteers.
      W.R.T. campaign spending, I don’t know how effective the Central Nova campaign was, but I do know that the bulk of the spending was in local print ads. In my humble opinion, that’s a waste of money compared to direct voter contact programs. Same thing for L.N.C. Their spending was not planned well, and their canvas was poorly managed. Ben West worked wonders on the university Campus, he should write a manual or something on how to shake the walls in a University town. That should be a huge factor in future campaigns in University towns.
      I don’t know that there has ever been a fully funded and well run campaign in the GPC, with the possible (probable), exception of Guelph.
      I guess that the biggest factor is actually the campaign management. If there is just a little pre-writ spending, but it consists of really good fieldwork pro’s, then the Campaign will be far more likely to pick up real volunteer strength locally. Lot’s of variables to consider, so lets all hope that the correct variables are analysed, and a viable team is put together.

  5. Virtual phonebanking is a good start, but I sure wouldn’t bet the farm on this for a couple of reasons:

    1) Works best if you can do it for free. Only a minority of potential volunteers are using VOIP or have Canada-wide free long distance. I, for one, don’t, so I didn’t spend LD$ calling Central Nova. (Well, I was a candidate myself, so there were other reasons…) and I know that there was little (if any) uptake on calls for virtual phonebank volunteering in CN from my riding. Most folks aren’t eager to run up their LD bills. The success of the virtual phonebank will ride on the number of volunteers who can dial in for free WITHOUT needing VOIP or flat-rate plans – that is, people in the local calling area. For the 416/905 area this is huge – over 1/6 of Canada and about 1/3 of GPC membership. No other area is comparable, but maybe 613 or 604 can draw as many supporters.

    (A smaller, but not insignificant factor, is the perception of “local” vs. “away”. I imagine that if I call CN with a non-Maritime accent, I am not as well received. Diverse and growth areas like Ottawa, GTA, or Vancouver are more tolerant of a variety of voices than traditional areas largely composed of folks born & bred down the road and suspicious of “outsiders”.)

    2) Double-blind type studies have shown that door canvassing is much more effective than phone canvassing. I’ve sensed this in my own riding, but Adriane Carr’s studies in Vancouver have proven it. If we are serious about winning the riding, we need to situate it for best possible number of door canvassers. Local phone canvassing is the second consideration, with Canada-wide phoning a distant third. Experience shows that we just don’t get enough people from very far away willing to put the time into a distant riding, so we can’t count on them as a primary factor.

    (Main reasons phoning is poor second to foot on voter ID: can access just about all doors, but only have phone numbers for half of voters at best; door canvassers can leave literature, phone canvassers can’t; it’s easier to hang up or not answer phone than to slam door or not answer knock)

    I agree, both LNC and CN had serious campaign management issues. Yet even fixing these runs into the campaign spending limit, which is very finite. Volunteer aid is unlimited, so while we will soon max out on campaign spending (and effectiveness, as soon as we drop personal ties and hire based on competence), we have a LONG way to go before maxing out on volunteer effort. If it takes 1000 – or 2000 – volunteers to win, we have to ask: what is the riding most able to draw 1000 volunteers from the immediate region? There is NO substitute for feet on the street.

    With a great campaign team we can be competitive, but we can’t count on a win until we start doing Iggy/Jack-style mass volunteer efforts. Even the best campaign team can’t rustle that up in a single riding – even our best riding.

  6. Hundreds of thousands spent on May’s campaign in Central Nova is not at all an exaggeration.

    There has been the expense of a permanent and staffed campaign headquarters for 2 years now. You can see the non-staffing costs of this in the 2007 EDA filing and the due but not in yet 2008 filing.

    All the staffing costs for the election campaign itself, before then, and since then are being paid by the GPC. You have to make some judgement calls which are rightly being spent on winning May the seat and which are national leader expenses that would have been occured anyway.

    Right now ZERO of those expenses are being attributed to May’s permanent campaign, or even to the actual campaign itself. Not even the GPC staffer who is listed as “Office/Research Assistant, Central Nova”.

    You are right that it wouldn’t beaccurate to chalk May’s salary up to the cost of the Central Nova campaigning, but let alone the said person who runs the office, there is also an Aide to Elizabeth May, Central Nova. Since there is another person doing the same job in Ottawa, on those grounds alone she could be chalked up as a local campaigning expense. But also, her name always comes up in local media announcements of what the Greens are doing in the riding.

    Then there is the “Atlantic Region Organizer” who does zero organizing anywhere else.

    Conservatively speaking, the staffing and the monthly headquarters costs come to $15,000/month. So over 2 years, plus $80,000 that IS several hundred dollars.

    The EDA gets what it pays for through substantial tansfers and substantial fundraising that is primarily to the national membership.

    The figure I use is half a million and counting. That could at best be quibbled down to a ‘mere’ $300,000, and counting.

  7. By what official numbers do you come up with your $15,000 per month running expenses? The reported office expenses seem to run closer to $1,000 per month. Your numbers therefore indicate that you think the CN staffer and the regional organizer are each paid more than $80,000 per year. Maybe in NDP land this is standard, but I know it far exceeds a GPC regional organizer salary (by about double) and I’m sure it far exceeds that of the office staffer, too. Both of them are on something more like minimum wage and one (or either) may be part time, so an annual salary figure for both combined could be well under $80,000. There may even be significant volunteerism involved – just because we have someone listed as “staff” on our website does not mean they’re drawing a standard public sector salary, by any means!

    I can’t confirm or deny your assertion that the Atlantic organizer “does zero” outside CN, but you could easily have the wrong impression. It would not surprise me if she works out of the CN office, as that means the savings of not needing a second. Regional organizers do most of their work by phone & email – the party doesn’t have a travel budget for them. Most of our other ones work out of their own homes. Their work (so far) seems mainly confined to a support role for local EDA organizations; not the most effective model, by far, but perhaps part of your “zero” perception. Right now organizers are working on getting all ridings to have a candidate nominated by mid-June – not visible until it happens, but can be a lot of work behind the scenes. Since this region comprises only 32 ridings, it may be a half-time position, indicating a salary closer to 1/4 what you speculate.

    I believe your low-end estimate is still high by a factor of at least two.

  8. Erich,
    there’s one important fact to bear in mind about canvas throughput.. A foot canvas has advantages, like actually seeing the location, and pushing fpr a sign at a nice corner lot, etc. It is also harder for people to say No face to face, (which isn’t always a good thing when you are mis-identifying supporters). Foot canvas is SLOW. If you are faced with scarce resources, then you will ID more supporters per volunteer hour with an efficient phone canvas than with a foot canvas. I’ve proven that over a number of campaigns now.
    The mechanical details of runnuning a national telephone canvas are not such a big deal. VOIP programs are a dime a dozen, and there are simple enough fixes for dealing with phone bill issues, so long as a phone bank pro sets it up. The fact is that 100 phone canvassers, making an hour or two of calls per night will canvas the entire riding during a campaign. Sure, they’ll only reach 1/2 of the homes, but even the largest campaign for the strongest Liberal, or CPC candidate doesn’t expect to reach much more than that. If you can break the back of the ID-GOTV through such a ‘virtual phone bank’, then the local volunteers can concentrate on converting undecideds, suppressing the Oppo vote, or whatever the campaign deems to be the critical tasks. I am not nitpicking, I am just pointing out that while many Greens seem unaccountably allergic to picking up the phone and calling people, it is the most efficient use of scarce resources when volunteer hours are your main constraint.

  9. Central Nova and May campaign numbers, from Elections Canada filings.

    60,000 May Campaign
    19,500 EDA 2007 expenses
    . ? EDA 2008 expenses [filing date due]
    80,000 GPC transfer to campaign to EDA

    The $80K tranfered was not needed by the campaign [which was known], and then went on to the EDA… presumably to pay for expenses before and after the campaign period.

    The bare MIMIMUM possible for the 2008 EDA is $50,000. Virtually all paid by transfers in and national fundraising [done by GPC paid staff].

    And that is just non-staff expenditures, since NONE are reported, even for the election campaign. I’ll do a seperate post for their consideration.

  10. BGB, you’re right about Greens being allergic to picking up the phone – to pounding the pavement, too. Too many seem to prefer endless policy debate, website design, or the slactivism of Facebook, blogging, petitions, etc. The Conservatives are the opposite – very strong at direct person-to-person using their FRAN system.

    I would say that both aspects need maximum push – a phone canvass AND door canvass. Get as many outside volunteers phoning as possible, but get as many into the riding and on the streets as we can. Both will simply work better (or be easier to organize) if the chosen riding has a lot of volunteer-rich ridings in easy transit or free calling range.

    One of the most effective ways to convert undecided voters is through simple contact – being at their door and on their phone, proving we are organized and ubiquitous. This is the best overall use of most volunteers.

    Truly strong campaigns – ones that seek to capture a hostile seat – do so by canvassing the entire riding several times over. That’s the scale we must aspire to – phoning EVERY number once or even twice, AND knocking on every door several times. Neither can substitute for the other, and there is no shortcut to winning. No virtual campaign can be as strong as a combined virtual and ground campaign, so we must find the best place for the latter.

    • Yes Erich, you’re right about scale of canvas. That’s why I claimed that a well run phone canvas can reach half the people in a riding, because I assumed that they would make three passes through the lists. Anything beyond three attempts is running into seriously diminished returns. I wouldn’t use a basic phone canvas for converting votes. I would use them pretty strictly for an ID the vote, and use the results of this canvas to feed undecideds to the Candidate, or stronger volunteers to convert. Of course, all this pre-supposes that you have over a hundred volunteers to work with. I think that 100 is the magic number. It is possible to run a tight ship, and win a riding in a general election with that many solid volunteers. (Assuming all the stars align)

  11. Ken – you are double-counting some money.

    A transfer in of $80,000 is just that – a transfer. It sits in an account until spent. It may be transferred back to the party, held for future expenses, or banked for a future election – it is not automatically spent by the EDA right away. The transfer is thus meaningless; what matters is reported spending. Since the spending limit for that election was $80K, it makes sense for the party to pre-load the campaign with that much, then settle up afterwards.

    Our own EDA has over-transferred to campaigns to ensure that bills are paid on time (many election expenses are due on delivery), with the surplus from contributions transferred back afterwards.

    All we have are the reported EDA spending amounts (which are rather low, as they include no staffing) and speculation as to staff cost. My understanding of the staffing expenditure differs greatly from yours. How do you derive your figures for how much “must” have been spent on staff? Do you have job offer listings? What I’ve been told is that it has been a lot of volunteer and underpaid work. Do you have evidence otherwise? The simple fact that there is someone working on something in the riding doesn’t indicate a large amount of money was spent.

    I’m interested to see where your bare minimum figures come from. Combining that with similar for 2007 plus the election would give $150K – the number I suggested.

  12. Estimating staffing costs of the Central Nova Campaign.

    When you look at the headquarters and what it does locally, it is the work of no less than 2 full time people. Thats the ongoing work- leaving aside organizing actual direct campaign work. In my estimates, I have not been using high slary figure. But pick your own: what is 2 people times 24 months time $X,XXX per month?

    Then there is the management of the actual campaign, and whatever was done in the pre-campaign period. That is NOT an all-volunteer effort, nor is it mostly done by the 2 acknowedged more or less permanent staffers [who have other work, even during a campaign].

    Somebody was managing that campaign work, just as they did in the few other full spending campaigns.

    As to the paid organizers. There is the regional organizer and Sharon Labchuck herself is out here. And there really is no evidence the regional organizer does much of anything outside of Central Nova. By any measure at all the Green presence is FAR thinner tha comparable areas such as Eastern Ontario. There aren’t many EDAs period, let alone they do nothing. And thats with May’s glow nearby [and she is more than just ‘popular’ among Greens here].

    My low-end figure of $300,000 for what has been invested here so far, would attribute only $100,000 to salary costs over the last 2 years. I don’t think its very likely the staff costs were [ongoing: still are] that low.

    And the $150,000 figure you use does not even account for all the NON-STAFF public record costs as of end of 2008.

    BTW, I neglected to mention that the headquarters [non-staff] cost in 2007- before it was fully up to speed was already over $2,000/month. We’ll no better when the tardy 2008 filing comes in [but still have to guess the staff costs since those are GPC paid]. A very, VERY low end estimate of the ongoing cost of that essentially permanent campaign headquaters would be $7,500/month. And even that times 24 months and counting…. plus the all-in [real] election campaign cost….

  13. “A transfer in of $80,000 is just that – a transfer. It sits in an account until spent. It may be transferred back to the party, held for future expenses…”

    Here’s what we know about that 80,000.

    In the first place- it not only was not needed, but that it wasn’t was predictable with information they had. But that was a previous discussion, and this is already dragging out. Some of it might have been needed as a short term laon, and I understand it is commeon practice to call loans transfers. But there are a number of reasons that there is no reason that much was needed [let alone none of it in practice]- not least of which was they already had a very solid track recorfd in CN raising money nationaly. I beleive it was 30K they raised, and they had a track reord of over 18 months at that.

    At any rate. When May was asked by a reporter about the 80K, she gave a convoluted explanation that half of it was a repayement from her LNC by-election. [?] The veracity of that claim is moot: she did not dispute that it came from the GPC to her campaign and was passed on to the EDA.

    She said the other 40K was a loan. A ‘loan’ that several months after the campaign, which produced a surplus, had not been repaid? As of March 31, nothing had been returned to the GPC from Mays campaign or the EDA.

    It may be possible that all of that money has not been spent YET on the CN headquarters non-staff costs, but at least more than half of it.

  14. Ken, you’re still putting far too much emphasis on that transfer. It’s irrelevant, whether it’s 8 thousand or 8 million dollars, and whether it’s a loan or a payback or whatever. Money in the bank is not money spent. All that counts is what is actually spent in the riding on riding activity.

    I won’t contradict that the paid organizers are or aren’t accomplishing much in the region, I have no firsthand knowledge. But it does not follow that they are instead hard at work on CN activity. Perhaps they are twiddling their thumbs, or are incompetent? Who knows. (And so far as I know, Labchuk is in PEI, not CN).

    Even if you think the work in CN (is that much really going on?) is the work of 2 full-time people does not mean that two full-time salaries are being paid. Low pay and volunteer work are hallmarks of Green Party organization. And campaign manager is only a 5-week job, so the actual expense there is minimal – perhaps a few thousand.

    BTW, the 2008 filing is not “tardy”. The due date for the EDA’s filing was May 31 and a 30-day extension is common, so it may be a while yet.

  15. May’s ‘explanation’ about half that $80K transfer was a tacit statement that at least half of it was gone. The other half that she called a loan to the campaign [that has not come back despite its surplus position even without the transfer]… you are right, we don’t know if it has been spent yet. Bets?

    We seem to agree that $150,000 is a reasonable estimate thus far for all the reported [non-staff] costs. Thats based on an estimate that the 2008 EDA will be like the few months of 2007 reported. It won’t be lower, significantly or substantily higher more likely.

    And we agree that the real staff costs are not zero as reported. We differ a lot on how much that might be.

    There is low pay and there is low pay. The kind of stability and work that comes out of that headquarters is not the hallmark of rock bottom pay. For one thing, they run a national scope fudraising effort out of there that has raised nearly $50,000 in the election campaign and just a few months of 2007 after the HQ opened. Plus how many more tens of thousands we will see in the 2008 EDA filing. NO ONE can do SUSTAINED fundraising like that with only volunteers and super low paid coordinators.

  16. No, that’s not agreed at all.

    May’s explanation is irrelevant. What matters is what actually get spent, and she’s not the one in charge of paying bills. The point is that no useful information on SPENDING is provided by the amount TRANSFERRED. (I still think you’re double-counting it.)

    $150,000 is my reasonable estimate for 2007-2008 INCLUDING staff costs, until shown actual reported (or well-proven) costs otherwise.

    If the fundraising campaign is handled by outside pros like Keys, then it isn’t a CN staff cost. A lot of that fundraising is Elizabeth herself calling in markers, as the donor list shows.

    Likewise, on the campaign front, that there was a lot of organizing done on the CN campaign does not prove someone was actually paid well to do it – or even paid. You are conflating full-time work with full-time salary, an unwarranted assumption (sadly). I’ll admit that you or I would want a decent salary for this, but there are apparently those who don’t.

  17. That “half million and counting” figure I used earlier did not sound right as soon as I read it back.

    I didn’t go back to read comments when this first came up early in the year, but I beleive I was the saying “quarter million and counting.”

    That also would be consistent, for then, with a $6,000/month staffing cost figure that I would pick as being on the conservative side. [And would mean a $300,000 total spent to date.]

    That estimate being consistent with a localy high profile and long ongoing headquarters and the work that comes out of it- which is impossible on a sustained basis with only volunteers and super low paid staff.

    That means phones and questions answered, volunteers organized, events organized, a local media that referrs to it as May’s “constituency office” [ie, the professional appearance you don’t get when you have turnover of people who may or may not show up…. The fact the staff persons are frequently referred to in media [“____ who works in May’s constituency office”], and as noted the serious and successful ongoing national fundraising shop run out of there.

    Let alone organizing ground and contact campaigns, etc… which are left out.

  18. For what its worth- the importance of foot campaigns is sliding in all parties, even when there are a lot more resources than the Greens have.

    Another example- the NSNDP has now had years of heavy campaigning experience [lost track of how many elections we had here in 10 years], and even some urban ridings where the presence is dominant, but post-1998, there has never been much/any foot canvassing.

    But I’m not convinced that decentralized phone banking is more than ‘better than nothing’.

    I’ve only seen it used with the kind of rigour a winning campaign needs in a limited fashion, as an adjunct to the main phone canvassing that has the same degree of _actual_ supervision as does foot canvassing.

    All the technical and administrative pieces of the decentralized phone bank work, and in theory there is no reason they would not all work together…. but under the heavy pressure of a full-out campaign….

    • Good points Ken,
      the biggest problem with a decentralised phone bank is that most people don’t stick with the work. 4 supervised people in an office will do the work of 40 people at home. that’s not an exageration, that’s actual productivity numbers. BUT, with the passage of time, the virtual phone bank can grow indefinitely by throwing more volunteers into the mix. The slugs stop working, and the serious volunteers keep on dialling. It’s a function of your back end capacity. So long as you can have many hundreds of users online, you can have some decent output. I’ve been running phone banks, Direct to consumer, business to business, and political since the late 1980’s, so i happen to know a fair bit about the job. I would never expect it to replace the foot canvas in an Urban riding though. A very strong complement, but not a replacement. A campaign is ALWAYS a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. You build the best campaign with the resources you have, or can buy. If the dippers in Nova Scotia have abandoned the foot canvas, they are not covering all the bases well.

  19. Didn’t say abandoned foot canvass. De-emephasised- especially where ther was no real organizational history before 1997.

    But we have a lot of totally rural [provincial] ridings here. Virtualy no foot in them, even in bigger villages.

  20. Well, Ken, I share your skepticism about the relative power of a virtual phone bank – just to show I’m not knee-jerk argumentative.

    Still don’t agree on the staffing costs – I’ve seen a lot done at minimal cost – but we’ll have to wait and see what’s declared. I expect EC may ask that the election filing be revised to include at least some central staff pay, since none of it seems to have been included yet. That would give some better indication. I’ve had next to no luck finding staff costs (of any sort) in the central party filings, must be looking in the wrong place or something.

    The “100 volunteers” on phones that BGB imagines would, in practise, have to come from a pool of more like 1000 actual volunteers winnowed down to the actual dedicated few. And to find that pool of 1000 will require choosing a riding that is in a relative centre of support, not in a hinterland. And it will have to work with a similar (if not larger) pool of actual bodies in the riding – even more critical to be in a regionally-strong riding. I’m not convinced, for example, that 100 virtual callers focussed on CN would have made the win. Maybe, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

    Even if bigger parties are de-emphazing the door canvass, they’ve still got an operation larger than ours, and they’re winning seats while we don’t. We’ll need to match them in each puzzle piece to be truly competitive.

  21. Erich, I just have to respond. I don’t think that ANY number of people ID’ing the vote can win. CN would not have been helped, unless they did the right things with the data generated by the phone bankers. All they can do is record the identities of decided supporters that have been won over by the national, and local campaigns. Even with a perfect record of ID’ing 100% of your supporters won’t win you the election unless you have something very close to a first place campaign. The payoff from an ID-GOTV campaign is that you can increase your’ turnout by maybe 10%. In other words, all of your hard effort on E-Day can boost your vote from a 30% share to a 33% share.
    It’s what you do with the data generated by your canvas that counts. If you have good solid lists of undecided, or leaning green, lib, cpc, ndp etc. than you can target subsequent direct contact at these people. The voter ID program is a huge endeavour, and therefore needs many hands. Your best volunteers should be focussed strictly on the soft vote, which is maybe 20% of the electorate. If you don’t have the donkey work done, and quickly too, then your best volunteers are gathering basic data, instead of converting winnable votes. It’s a numbers game, and is all about optimising returns. Despite your skepticism, it can and does work. It’s not easy, but who said winning power is easy?

  22. Erich,

    I wouldn’t count on EC making them correct the filing for the May campaign. They might, to make a point. But even then it will still be what they May crew decideds they want to report.

    As to GPC staff costs- you won’t find them itemized anywhere. A candidate [riding] campaign names each individual and what they were paid. There is no such detail required of the national parties’ annual or general election reports. Just a total figure, and not much reliability at all in those.

    So estimating is all that can ever be done for staff costs.

  23. Just in case it isn’t obvious: the reason all the parties who have been at it longer use phone canvassing more all the time is because of the long term tendency for less volunteers.

    Thinner resources bring the GPC to try to do more things almost entirely with volunteers. But having as well fewer volunteers to draw on, I’d think you would be under the same pressures for tending to phone canvassing over foot.

  24. BGB, I believe you underestimate the power of IDing supporters. We lose a LOT of our support on voting day from people who were willing to vote for us but were never contacted, so they ended up voting strategically or not at all. It’s reasonable to expect that a percent of the total non-voters supports us roughly equal to those of voters – if we actually got in touch with those folks and worked on GOTV we’d be getting a lot more of them out, too. Plus I bet a lot of “leaners” as you call them would also be ours if we actually asked them face-to-face for a vote and called again just before voting day.

    Besides, you aren’t addressing my main point – which is that we will need a huge number of people on the ground IDing the vote (including undecideds and leaners) in order to win, and we won’t be able to replace this with virtual phone banks, no matter how well put together. I’m quite happy with having more local volunteers work on targetted activities you list, but it’s of limited use until after the basic data is collected. Phone banks can help by pre-identifying and saving the door canvassers time but will never replace them (if we plan to win).

    And since both my way and your way (which are less different than you might think) require lots of actual bodies in the riding working on the campaign, my original assertion stands – we can NOT win a riding unless it is located in a place where it is easy for a large number of Green supporters to get to & from the riding on a daily basis from their own ridings. There is NO riding which has sufficient strength on the ground by itself, and we can’t buy the amount of labour we need. We can only do it with volunteers, and ridings like CN (and probably BGOS) simply aren’t accessible enough to outside volunteers.

  25. Erich,

    If your intention is to win by simply overpowering the opposition, you will need more volunteers than can readily be found anywhere in Canada. Every campaign has to work smart with limited resources. The phone canvas is integral to this because it builds lists quicker, and more efficiently than a foot canvas. By phone you can contact considerably more people per volunteer hour. Face to face is much better for many, or even most things, but if you hook up a few computers to diallers, you will burn through dozens of calls per volunteer hour.

    For the winning campaign, getting surplus volunteers would be great. If this becomes your sole criteria, then you are excluding a lot of potentially excellent breakthrough ridings from the mix. The right policy mix in the platform. A very efficient canvas plan. Pre-writ fieldwork working the riding, etc. etc. These are all part of the mix. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pre-writ phone canvas to ID supporters and potential supporters. A few people in Ottawa with decent phone setup can get a lot of pre-writ canvassing done over the course of some weeks. This will greatly simplify the work of the EDA once the campaign is in full rush.
    The fact that Green turnout is the lowest amongst all the Party’s is demonstrably true. That the playing field can be tilted back again is also true. I will stand by my previous assertion that a really strong ID GOTV can raise the green vote by one tenth. It won’t double it though. There’s plenty of evidence for this in the likelihood of voting poll numbers from Ipsos reid, amongst others.
    The gist of all this is that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. If you don’t have overwhelming volunteer strength, then you plan accordingly, including making good use of the most efficient campaigning tools available.
    So how’s this for an idea. The GPC sets up regional volunteer phone banks in regional campaign offices in each regions target EDA. A minimal investment gets proper telephony hard, and software. The voters lists get loaded, and populated with phone number by the Party. I will bet you that in the GTA you could have a dozen phone volunteers kept busy for the whole campaign, and that gives you the ability to target lots of calls on any critical Campaign you need it for. This would be an excellent use for central Party campaign funds, and wouldn’t be that hard to organise when you’re tapping into the strongest EDA’s in the region.

  26. The Central Nova EDA 2008 financial report is now on-line.

    Their expenses are the ongoing expenses of the May headquarters- other than during the formal campaign period.

    2008 expenses were $72,000. In my estimates above, I had projected$50K- but $70K is close to what I had expected. And I suggest that as a gauge for when I have said “conservative estimate”.

    So that makes, only through year-end 2008, not to the present:

    20,000 2007 Central Nova EDA
    60,000 May campaign
    70,000 2008 EDA

    150,000 total RECORDED expenses

    – plus GPC paid salaries for the last 2 years [virtually none shown] Range: $100-200,000

    – plus $4,000/month, at least, since year end for ongoing headquarters expenses [$43,000 2008 Office Expense, not including campaign period]

    And the salaries of course are a continuing expense too.

    And just a reminder that back in February or March May told a reporter that her campaign didn’t get any more support than any other Green campaign. Which she segwayed into “We need to talk about whether my winning a seat should be a higher priority…”

  27. Here is where the Central Nova EDA- aka slush fund for permanent May campaign- would stand now.

    $ 20,000 EDA surplus
    $ 56,500 May campaign surplus
    $ 33,000 estimated campaign rebate

    There were no tranfers to the GPC as of April 1, so it is safe to say all this money is still there, or will be [rebate].

    The May campaign actually had a surplus of $66,500 if you don’t count the $10,000 that had already been transferred on to the EDA in December.

    [Any 2009 transfers into the EDA will not be a matter of public record for one year from now. While any transfers into the GPC- which there have been none- show in the quarterly filings.

  28. Typo on my estimate for salaries. That was supposed to be $100-150,000, NOT 100 to 200.

    I actually think it might be more like 200 [Freudian slip?], but that would be counting things like at least some of the regional organizer’s salary- things virtually impossible to get to the bottom of.

    But its worth noting that the salaries aren’t at all necessarily the only Central Nova expenses that the GPC is paying. It could easily be some of the advertising, or whatever.

    So these numbers are what has been, and is being spent, At LEAST.

    So BGB is right in calling it “hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

  29. Hot off the presses [at least to me]… and apologies for not knowing how to use HTML in this kind of blogpost:


    “Now the party is convinced that our number-one goal is to elect me to the House of Commons. So that changes quite a lot of things,” May told Green party members in Eastern Ontario yesterday at an election-preparedness briefing.

    May says she’s ready to switch ridings to make that happen and is now deciding whether she should run in Guelph, Owen Sound or on Vancouver Island in the next campaign.

    Her short list also includes Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley in Nova Scotia, now vacant because of the retirement of independent MP Bill Casey, a former Conservative.

    The Green leader confirmed publicly for the first time yesterday that she’s unlikely to run again in Central Nova.

    The primary focus on getting the leader a seat is a switch in strategy for the Greens, said May, explaining that the party’s culture is not normally organized around the leader.

    The last point is true but rather ironic. In this case the Leader just ignores and sidelines the organization- among other things, hiding how she was allocating resources as if getting herself elected was indeed THE priority….. THEN, as if it was brand new, “asking” that it be the priority.

    Be that as it May…. I had belated followed others in thinking that she was fading herself back, at least somewhat.


    Though she did take her time coming to what would seem to be a no brainer conclusion. It would seem that it was Elizabeth May who had to convince herself rather than it being “Now the party is convinced that our number-one goal is to elect me to the House of Commons.” But then, I guess she is the party, so its all the same.

  30. […] has been a lot of interest and discussion within, (and without) Green Party ranks regarding the big question: “Where will Elizabeth May be […]

  31. […] has been a lot of interest and discussion within, (and without) Green Party ranks regarding the big question: “Where will Elizabeth May be […]

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