Green Party of Canada and the Youth Vote.

'Too busy' to vote?

'Too busy' to vote?

The Green Party of Canada has for many years enjoyed exceptional levels of support amongst younger voters. In fact, it could be successfully argued that the growth in Green Party support has roughly tracked the graduation of our youth into the ranks of voters at the age of 18. The most recent series of EKOS polls has simply re-stated something that pollsters have been telling us for the last 5 years. Green Party support comes disproportionately from young (under 25 years old) voters.

This is, of course a very positive signal for the future prospects of our Party. It comes with a built in problem though. The fact is that young people simply do not bother to get out and vote. I know that sounds harsh. I know that there are other factors to point to in every election, like exam schedules coinciding with the vote, or poor voter registration mitigating against the youth vote. These might be contributing factors, but the underlying reality is that turn-out amongst the youth is dramatically worse than any other population segment, and that has held true for many many electoral cycles. I would even go so far as to argue that a large chunk of the polled support, that always seems to evaporate on election day is due to the fact that the youth vote picked up in the opinion polls doesn’t get converted into ballots on E-day.

I just read Dave Baglers poston this issue. Dave has proposed that the solution is to mimic the other Party’s, and establish a full time Campus club organizer to improve the GPC’s presence on Campus across the country. Dave is right that this can have a huge impact in those few riding’s where a large Campus exists, like in London North Centre. I remember L.N.C. by-election pretty well. While the Campaign was overall a badly managed affair, the work that Ben West did to shake up the Western campus was extraordinary. I cannot stress enough though that this was a tactical effort, that was executed very well. Strategicallyspeaking, it simply doesn’t address the opportunity we are discussing. The resources required to duplicate this success in all the major University riding’s are not available. Even if they were, and everything went perfectly on every major campus, it would still only translate into 50,000 extra votes at best. The fact is that only a small fraction of young voters are accessible to us on campus, and at the very best this would be a small part of an effective strategy to mobilise the youth vote.

 There hasn’t been much in the way of serious tactical, or strategic discussion about what to do about it. In a sense, Jim Harris’s focus on Trippi’s social networking campaigns was driving towards a solution, but the Green Party has ultimately failed to work out a systematic approach  to boosting turnout amongst youth. In all fairness to the GPC, the NDP spent decades wrestling with the same issue, with the same result. (no change, or even a further decline).

IMHO, in order to achieve a big boost in turnout, we need to go back  to first principles, and define the problem, and proximate causes. Then we need to determine a strategy, and tactics required  to acheive the required result. This is a very ambitious project I’m talking about. In order to succeed, we will need to work it out pretty carefully, and focus a chunk of our election budget, and communications strategy towards achieving a concrete advantage.

I cannot speak for anybody but myself, but I haven’t let that stop me in the past! First off, we need to be able to target communications on this demographic. Since young people do not watch much TV anymore, the best way to reach youth is probably the ‘internet’. I would tend to agree that boring static sites are not going to help much, and interactive, and networking sites will pack the best bang for the buck. The real trick will be to focus on attracting, and retaining an audience. That includes using traditional media, ( TV and Newspaper), to promote, and highlight the online campaign. Every trick in the book should be utilised to identify, and collect contact information for Green Party supporters on-line. Self-identification, newsletter subscriptions, petition signers, ‘invite a friend’, and as many more great ideas as yet un-thought of as can, and will be forthcoming.

By itself, the exercise of identifying throngs of youthful GPC supporters will NOT solve the turnout problem. What will be needed is, (to paraphrase Monty Python), ‘something completely different’. Like what? Well, lets start by making the act of voting something interesting, and above all FUN. What I would like to propose is to turn the advance polls into a big push for the Green Party. If we build this into the communications strategy for the next National election, then I believe that we can get an enormous amount of very positive ‘old media’ coverage by running a positive campaign to boost voter turnout. If we pop a serious budget at promoting the advance polls, with a ‘non-partisan’ theme of getting out to vote at the advance polls, then we will be the biggest beneficiary of whatever success the campaign enjoys.

 It will be a message that self-inoculates against any contrary message that the other Party’s may want to respond with. Like Mother, and Apple pie, the media, pundits, and other political actors can do nothing but make positive noises about increasing voter turnout, no matter how much they might gnash their teeth at the prospect of the GPC scoring a big win. It also goes a long way towards countering the strategic voting message that the Liberal Party will be counting on to steal our vote on E-Day. In the past, the Liberals have really poured it on in the closing days of the Campaign. We really, really have to forestall this tactic in the next election. What better way could there be than to take the GPC vote out of play a week before the Liberal strategic voting campaign message starts to saturate the electorate?

Green Party Party!

Green Party Party!

In order to really capture the imagination, and motivate youth’s to vote, then we could co-ordinate a network of advance poll parties across the country. If we can promise people a great party to go to after the advance polls close, with large venues in major cities, and small and large parties alike in smaller population centres, but really push it from coast to coast, then people will have a perfectly good reason to get out and vote. It will be associated with lot’s of fun. Who knows, maybe we can fill the coffers with some ready cash if we can work it right.

The possibilities are exciting to contemplate. The GPC frankly has no hope of commanding the attention of the electorate in the last week of the election, youth or otherwise. Even if we saved every penny we could, and spent it all in a rush just before E-Day, we would still be completely swamped by the spending power of the other Party’s. The Advance polls are another story though. If we only have enough resources to dominate the news for a couple of early campaign days, then rather than dribbling out our pennies to minimal effect, why not capture the airwaves for a few days before and during the advance polls? There is absolutely no reason why we should hang around waiting for E-Day to be clobbered by the firepower of the other Party’s. A ballot cast at the advance poll is just as precious and valid as a ballot on E-Day. It serves our purposes so well, in so many different ways, that I truly believe we should think ‘outside the box’, and re-write the book on getting out the vote. Besides, the timing is perfect for every campaign to take a break after the polls close, and have a great party to charge up the Party for the last lap of the National Campaign.

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GPC Fundraising: New initiatives needed.

Fundraising_PyramidI am often pretty critical of current practices in the GPC. I hope that my readership understands that the criticism is seldom meant to denigrate, it’s intended to promote positive change. When it comes to fundraising, the GPC has done a couple of things pretty well since Elizabeth May took over. First and foremost, the Party has worked out that emails are free, can be deployed in a matter of hours, and are a pretty good tool to gather in resources. In the past, (pre-2006), fundraising efforts were sporadic, and had an ad-hoc nature. “It looks like an election is coming, set up something to go and get $250k from the membership.” A temporary phone bank would get set up, a small group of people would learn on the job, and just when everybody had it figured out, Jim Harris would pull out his magic rolodex, and raise the other $200k in an afternoon or two. The website was the primary fundraiser, and relied pretty much on passive traffic to leave a present as it visited the website. It was a pretty good website, and with the kind of traffic it generated during an election, it was capable of raising some pretty impressive $.
What has been done since then is that fundraising has actually focused on the proven returns of systematic communications, coupled with issues based, and results oriented asks. A recent example is the plea in Elizabeth Mays words to reach deep into our pockets and help retire the election debt. This is a very good way of couching an appeal for money. People can readily agree to serving this objective, and for a certain proportion of recipients, it will justify making an impulsive decision to shell out some cash on the spot. Over the past couple of years, this approach has helped to raise on the order of $250k per quarter, which compares pretty well to past ad hoc efforts.
I have also noticed a second trend in action. When Elizabeth May heads out on the road, she often makes appearances at local EDA events, and fundraisers. There is a revenue split between the local EDA, and the central Party that is very wise. Elizabeth gets to go out and galvanise the troops at a local level. The EDA gets a nice boost, and probably an impressive turnout at a local event. A thousand or two dollars are raised, and shared, so it’s a win-win. This is a laudable effort, and in my mind it is starting to justify the recent focus on Elizabeth’s book tour. With Elizabeth on the move across the country, she was able to hook up with EDA events at a minimal cost. The nicest thing about it is that it is systematic, and provides an ongoing stream of resources, not just a one time dribble of cash, but a regular flow of new recruits, motivated EDA memberships, and cash on the barrelhead.
That’s enough gushing praise from Bluegreenblogger. We currently only have one Leader to gad about the country, and the main thrust of fundraising has a couple of serious limitations. From the standpoint of the fundraising staff, the world is divided into those for whom we have email addresses, and the rest of the world which doesn’t count. The world which counts, (current email addresses of known supporters), is continuously augmented. The website provides a regular flow of new members, sign takers, etc. to populate the email lists. Active EDA’s are out there recruiting new members, and contacts, which eventually flow back into the fundraising database. Elizabeth’s event appearances are probably pretty good at harvesting new names and email addresses to feed into the passive fundraising ‘machine’.
You would think that with the constant flow of people being introduced to the mailing lists, that fundraising would be on a continuous growth curve. Well it isn’t, and the reason why is one of the two factors that will determine our fundraising success. What it boils down to is that for every new contact shelling out a $100 donation, there is a previous donor deciding not to do so anymore. In fact, if it weren’t for the frequent elections, which periodically restock our membership numbers with thousands of new donors, the numbers would look more like one new donor being matched by two donors taking a step back, and donations would be in decline.
There’s no question that money is the mother’s milk of politics. Right now the GPC needs to clobber our $1mm plus election debt, and it would be nice to actually start banking some serious cash, instead of relying on bank loans to fight future elections. Based on the discussion above, there are two ways to do it. Firstly, we could focus on developing new data sources, and adding larger numbers of new names to our fundraising database. This approach is fine, and neccessary. Ideally it would not be a one-off effort. It would involve different communications channels, would be repeatable and ongoing, and would have a quantifiable payoff. After all, in the long run we’d be better off with programs that deliver 2 new prospects per week than a non-repeatable initiative that delivers 20 new propsects all at once. The problem is that no matter how large the email lists got, based on current, and recent past practices all those new names will quickly reach the point of donor fatigue, and the growth in funds raised would level off at a point somewhat, but not dramatically higher than todays numbers.
The second approach is to get to the root of donor fatigue, and improve the retention rate of members, and donors. In the world of Sales, and Marketing, customer retention is extremely important. It boils down to the fact that it is much cheaper, and easier to keep a customer happy and loyal than it is to go out to the big bad world and win new customers. It is in fact so much cheaper that corporations large and small alike set up call centres, offer loyalty rewards, put TV’s and free coffee in their waiting rooms, and put great creative energy into finding and improving ways to meet their customers needs. We are a political Party, so it’s actually not true that it costs us more to gain new ‘customers’. Every election is a blizzard of free publicity, and the outcome is a blast of new resources. That doesn’t change the other side of the equation though. Provided the costs of retaining members for longer is lower than the resulting revenue stream, the GPC is ahead of the game in financial terms. I won’t even get into the bonus in terms of volunteer hours, larger pool of prospective candidates etc.
So what? you ask. We’re not an auto service business that can put a large screen tv in our waiting room, and provide nice loaner cars to help retain customers. In order to find what motivates the membership, then what better way than to ask them? It will take resources, and good planning to actually go back to the membership and systematically uncover what motivates every person. First of all, it will take dedicated staffers, with a proper call centre suite of tools to effectively manage their time and tasks. This will not be pure overhead though. We currently hire Key’s direct marketing to make outbound fundraising calls on behalf of the GPC. This expense could be saved, while the outcomes for the GPC would be enhanced as we widen the scope of the phone bank, and start reaping more rewards than just the membership renewal, or enhanced donation level. By maintaining direct contact on a regular basis we can build a stronger relationship with the members, find out what motivates them, reatin their interest for longer, and therefore put fundraising on a growth track again.

I would also like to add some anecdotal evidence to back up my proposal. Over the years, I have made about 4,000 or more phone calls directly to members of the Party. Far and away the most common response I have had from members is gushingly positive, because for the majority, no-one has ever contacted them unless it was to ask for money. I can definitely tell you that a simple courtesy call to ask about the members interests, and perhaps refer them to the shadow cabinet member responsible for their particular interests WILL result in a dramatic increase in funds raised. Couple this with an ongoing outreach program, and you can start to do things like build volunteer teams to achieve Party objectives. Involve people in their local, and National Party institutions, and generally provide a support team for the Field Organisers out there shaking the bushes for more resources.

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Bad news for Provincial Green Party’s in Canada.

GPNSLogoWhat a depressing story I just read. Apparently, according to the Edmonton Journal,  the Green Party of Alberta is about to get decertified. This comes on top of the recent news from Nova Scotia, where according to the CBC,  the GPNS is purported to be at the brink of decertification.

What the hell is going on here? I can sort of understand the Nova Scotia greens. They have a miniscule membership, and despite the public funding they received last year, are pretty small potato’s. There isn’t much of a Federal organisation to piggy back on, and despite Elizabeth May’s heavily funded Central Nova campaign, there just isn’t much on the ball there. Clearly they don’t have anybody hanging around who can prepare a basic set of financials. While it looks like there’s a chance to avoid de-certification now, it’s still touch and go.

ABGREENS_Logo1Now what about Alberta Greens? In the past, the Alberta Greens have done a lot of things right. The Province has a real wealth of political talent for the Greens, and the Green activists have been as effective as anybody in Canada. The GPC has approximately 1,000 members in the Province, and that is despite a certain level of hostility to Elizabeth May, our current national leader. In Alberta, the need for a credible provincial voice for the environment is really important. The Conservatives have been running the fiefdom on behalf of the Oil patch for several generations now, and with an increasingly diverse population, people need a clear choice on election day to voice their displeasure.

I know that this blog is primarily about the federal Green Party of Canada, but this one-two punch is relevant to the GPC’s fortunes. I have posted often on the importance of organising in between elections. The bare truth though is that the resources available outside an election period are a tiny fraction of what happens during an election. The entire electorate gets galvanized, and starts to actually pay attention to politics. For the GPC, this has meant that many thousands of people come to our website under their own steam, and join, donate, volunteer, take signs, and attend our events. The funds raised, and more importantly, the big spike in membership numbers is a huge fillip to the GPC organisers everywhere.

What is true Federally is also true Provincially. Every Provincial election is an opportunity for the Provincial unit to draw in thousands of new members, volunteers, donors, etc. In Ontario, where I live, the GPC and the GPO have an awful lot of informal attachments. If you look at the websites of the most succesful Riding Associations, you will find that the Federal, and Provincial executives are often mirror images, with roles swapped, but the names being the same. When supporters are identified, then obviously the sister organisation benefits at the same time. Electoral skills are honed by fighting more elections. ID’d supporters lists grow in leaps and bounds with every election, Federal or Provincial. Donor lists can be worked in rotation, depending on when the next election is. Oh, there are all kinds of ways in which they re-inforce each other.

With the loss of Alberta Greens, this mutual re-inforcement is gone in Alberta. It’s not only that, there’s the big loss of credibility with the electorate. All of you GPC activists out there can expect a few embarrasing moments as a result of this news. Expect to be buttonholed at the office by gleeful colleagues asking you about the joke Party you belong to.

I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done. For some reason, the GPC has been a little bit hostile to some of the Provincial Party’s, where they should be recognising the dynamic I have written of here. Certainly the best and strongest EDA’s in the country understand full well what I am saying. It cannot be a surprise to the GPC’s paid organisers that their greatest successes have been where there is a strong Provincial organisation to backstop the GPC organisers. Should not the GPC lend a helping hand?

Well irrespective of whether the GPC should formally help out or not, I encourage all my readers who have contacts in Nova Scotia, or especially in Alberta to get on the phone, or email, or smoke signal, or however you like to communicate, and get in touch with them. This matters to us all, and every bit of pressure we can bring to bear to resolve these farcical issues should be brought to bear. For the Alberta Greens, bury the goddam hatchet for an hour, and file the goddam returns. I have no interest whatsoever in the merits of the dispute, or who did what to whom. The failure to file, and the withholding of statements is inexcusable, and worthy of a kindergarten class, not grown ups.  Resolve the issue, then continue with your bun fight if you still feel so inclined.

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Green Party of Canada: Governing council elections, background and picks.

CouncilElectionEWhile it is true that I am allergic to council politics, it’s not true that I think it’s irrelevant, or un-important. I just don’t have the patience to unravel the tangle of personal, policy, and parochial conflicts, alliances, and armed neutrality. Over the last 5 years or so, council has been a bit of a revolving door. During the actual Council elections, there are a bare sufficiency of candidates stepping forward. During the actual working year, council sheds members on a pretty regular basis. This results in the ‘losing’ factions retreating to the sidelines to plot their revenge. It’s not a very entertaining prospect to get involved in this cycle, so I have the utmost respect for those people who go into the fray with eyes wide open. On the flip side, there is always a fresh crop of cannon fodder, who don’t realise what they are in for. Someone they sort of trusted told them: ‘Run for council, Elizabeth really needs your support’, or conversely ‘Run for council, we need to stop Elizabeth from controlling everything’. These are the people most likely to throw up their hands in disgust, and resign after a few months. I feel sad for both the individuals, and the Party, as often these are the hardest working organizers, and as often as not they are lost to the Party after they have been used up and thrown away.

In the period between the 2004 election, and the 2005-6 election, much of the conflict was over what to do with the per vote subsidy for Political Party’s. The Leadership, under Jim Harris wanted some serious funding to run the Leaders tour, hire staff, hire consultants, and generally beef up the ‘Hub’ in Ottawa. Much of the Party, especially at the EDA level wanted the revenues to devolve to the Electoral District Associations, to help fund the expansion of the most local units of the Party. Both arguments had significant merit, and the debate was spirited to put it mildly. Ultimately, a Revenue Sharing Agreement was put in place whereby a significant chunk of the vote subsidy was channelled back to the EDA’s, according to a formula taking into account the depth of the EDA executive, the number of members, and the number of votes won in the last election.

It’s not as simnple as it sounds of course. For example, the RSA funds were not supposed to be disbursed until the election debt was paid off. Surprise, surprise the election debt was large, and the Hub got to spend a lot of money in the election, which was subsequently repaid from the subsidy funds. It should really surprise no-one that the fight over how to spend millions of dollars would be hard fought, and that the various constituencies used any number of tools to fight the good fight. The issues have changed a little bit, but it is, and will remain true that the next council will be the arena in which the GPC’s strategic direction, and resource allocation will be decided.

I have my own opinions about what the Party needs to do to become stronger, and to ultimately elect members of Parliament. I guess that my opinions start at that point. The direct route to influence is to elect sitting members of the house. The indirect route to influence is to grow, and earn a significant proportion of the vote at the ballot box. As our vote grows, the incentives for our opponents to win the votes back grow, and they adopt those of our policies that they believe are best in the effort to win their coveted minority government status. EVERYTHING stems from our strength at the ballot box, so that’s where we must focus on winning.

When I paint the broadest strokes of a general election campaign, there are three main elements. The Air War, and the National Campaign, which are the province of council, and the Ground War, which happens at the local campaign level. All three elements are very damned important if we are to become a serious force in parliament. The Air War has to build up a willingness to support the Green Party across the country. That means that there needs to be a coherent strategy to target potential voters with a compelling message. Then the strategy needs to be implemented, and the War Room, (or whatever we want to call it), needs to ensure that the earned, and paid media delivers the compelling message on target.

The National Campaign isn’t just the War Room, and the Leaders media presence. There is also the neccessity to provide a degree of co-ordination between the National Campaign, and the local Campaigns. The Party structure needs to provide a degree of assistance to weaker, inexperienced, or non-existant EDA’s. There are a lot of mechanistic details, like Candidate recruiting, literature design, election sign bulk orders, candidate deposits ensured, liability Insurance coverage, and tons of other legal, and practical requirements co-ordinated. The third element is the local ground war.

The ground war happens locally, and is the ultimate key to electoral success. When the Air War succeeds in delivering the right message, on target, then it becomes the job of the ground war to put the puck in the net, and win the vote on E-Day. While the National Campaign can demonstrably increase the vote by hundreds of thousands, the effectiveness is multiplied many fold by having a strong local Canvas, Candidate, and Campaign to identify and get the new supporters out to vote on E-Day. The Green Party has a growing number of EDA’s that are capable of running an effective ground war. Those EDA’s come out of every election with a larger membership base, and bigger lists of ID’d supporters. In short, they capture, and retain resources with every election. Unfortunately, there are still hundreds of ridings where there is no EDA, or the EDA is too weak in human and monetary resources to do  much good. In those ridings, membership is static, or falling between elections. Lists of ID’d voters get lost, and they have to start all over again with every election.

In the coming council election, I will be supporting candidates who are prepared to focus GPC resources on building capacity for future ground wars. In practice, that means effective field organizing, with measurable objectives like EDA formation, membership recruiting targets, fundraising goals, local earned media impressions, candidate recruitment, etc.

BlueGreenBloggers pick

Rob Routledge - BlueGreenBloggers pick

The two candidates for Ontario Rep. are Camille Labchuk, and Robert Routledge.  Rob Routledge is my

Good Communicator but...

Camille Labchuk

pick for Ontario Rep. He has extensive experience as a Field organizer for the Obama campaign, and can speak from experience about building local campaign organizations. I like Camille well enough. She is competent, and has plenty of experience with Air War type issues. She is handicapped by the fact that her mother, Sharon Labchuk is the director of organizing, and I would expect that she will support a continuation of current practices. That doesn’t cut it for me.

There are a whopping 16 candidates for Councilor at Large. There were enough good candidates that I had genuine difficulty deciding on who to vote for.

Mark Taylor wins top pick. I know him well enough to be certain that he will work hard to ensure that Air War, National Campaign, and EDA

organization will all be emphasized in the right degree. My next four picks are as follows: Huguette Allen, Lynne

Champoux-Williams, Rob Ewaschuk,

and Sonny Day. Dan Murray, and Paul Maillet get honourable mentions, and both would make good councilors, but I only have 5 votes, so I had to bump somebody! I was quite surprised to see that my picks exactly mirrored Kersten’s Kolumn picks. This was NOT co-ordinated, so I guess it’s a case of great minds thinking alike.

The two candidates for Manitoba Rep. are Michael Moreau, and Ed Driedger. Michael has helped me with some number crunching for my past blog on the impact of spending on vote outcomes, and he is very much a data driven decision maker. I think he is pretty new to the Party, and provided he doesn’t become disillusioned ‘roadkill’ from council infighting, he will bring some valuable skills to the council table. I do not know Ed, and so I’ll have to say that Michael would get my vote, were I in Manitoba.

The two candidates for Nova Scotia Rep. are Sheila Richardson, and Aaron Victor Podolsky. I will have to leave the pick for the NS membership to make for themselves. I have to confess that I have been pretty embarrassed by the recent performance of the Provincial NS Greens. They got totally shellacked in the Provincial election, and are at the edge of being decertified Provincially, according to media reports. Nova Scotia needs to be grabbed by the ears, and shaken, so please don’t elect an ‘insider’ to be your rep. Vote for somebody who will actually try to build the Party profile, not just a ‘loyal’ vote on council.

For the Territories, the two candidates are Mike Ivens, and Kim Melton. I don’t know either, despite the fact that Mike has been on council for awhile. I’ll reiterate what I said about the Nova Scotia candidates. Make sure it’s not another placeholder you elect!

As for the uncontested positions, I don’t want to go making any negative ‘None of the above’ picks, so I’ll leave it to my readers to qualify, and/or disqualify candidates. In general, if your’ candidate has no history of local organizing, then please do NOT pick them. We don’t need fly-by-night place fillers, or ‘loyal’ councilors, in place to vote as instructed. We need people who can think for themselves, and who will be an asset in our quest to organise the hell out of Canada!

You can cast your e-ballot any time now. I encourage you to do so promptly. With any luck, we’ll have a strong council, prepared to make some tough staffing and budget decisions, that will lead to many more members, EDA’s, and strong local candidates to complement a data driven National Campaign, and Air War.

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Let’s Have a look at Saanich – Gulf Islands

There has been a certain degree of speculation as to exactly where Elizabeth May will run in the next general election. Mark Taylor posted in Report on Greens that Elizabeth is going to be running in Saanich – Gulf Islands, (SGI). There have been public statements to the effect that SGI was one of 5 or so target ridings, so the choice is a plausible one. I just finished reading an extensive Elizabeth May interview in the Island Tides, and it sure sounds like a Saanich campaign is in the offing.

Whether or not Saanich is the best riding is a point I will gloss over for today. The fact is that the decision is beyond our control or influence, so I’ll focus on what is, rather than what might be.

First off, a quick look at the published census profile of the riding. If you segment the population by the same age brackets EKOS used in their monster polls in June, and then use the regional (BC) EKOS numbers on vote intention by age, you get the following estimate of current voter intentions to vote Green:

For voters 25 and under, there are 10,105 electors. @20.6% that yields 2,081 votes.

For voters 25-44 there are 23,435 electors. @9.9% yields 2,320 votes.

For voters 45-64, there are 36,895 electors. @9.9% yields 3652 votes.

For voters 65+, there are 25,265 electors. @6.1% yields 1,541 votes.

For the other Party’s the projection is as follows: CPC: 25,902 votes. LIB: 16,765 votes. NDP: 17,630 votes.

This yields an estimated total of 9,594 Green Party voters. Please remember that the actual voter turnout will be between 70% and 74% based on past elections. Historically the Green Party voters have a worse turnout than the other Party’s, but if we assume that the leaders premium overrides this then there are 6,716 votes to be had on eday, all other things held the same.For the other Party’s the projection is as follows: CPC: 25,902 votes. LIB: 16,765 votes. NDP: 17,630 votes.

Contrast this to the last election:

Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Gary Lunn 27,988 43.43 +6.28
Liberal Briony Penn 25,367 39.36 +13.28
Green Andrew Lewis 6,732 10.45 +0.51
New Democrat Julian West 3,667 5.69 -20.85
Libertarian Dale P. Leier 246 0.38
Western Block Party Patricia O’Brien 195 0.3 +0.03
Canadian Action Jeremy Arney 139 0.2
Christian Heritage Dan Moreau 114 0.2
Total valid votes 64,448 100.00%

Please note that the NDP numbers are skewed to hell. Julian West was the unfortunate dipper candidate who withdrew from the race over an earth shattering skinny – dipping scandal. ( What a ridiculous non-controversy!) It could be argued that the NDP turnout was too high, as we have heard that somebody, (obviously a CPC ally), was making a lot of GOTV calls on behalf of the withdrawn dipper candidate. The turnout was a little lower than expected, but as you can see, it was the Liberal Party under Briony Penn that benefitted the most from Julain Wests withdrawal. They exceeded expectations pretty dramatically, with growth of  8,100 votes over the 2006 election. The balance of the lost NDP votes went over to the CPC, (about 3,500).

OK, I can hear the sceptics now. ‘The NDP voters didn’t move over to the CPC’. Probably fewer then 2,000 did, but whether they were replacing Liberal voters who wouldn’t vote for an environmentalist like Briony Penn, of whether they moved directly over to the CPC is quibbling. The fact is that the tea leaves were shaken up, and the CPC gained 3,500 odd votes, between all the strategic, and non-strategic shifts the voters chose to make.

Having taken a quick look at the past, what needs to be done to win the next election?

First off, Briony Penn and the Liberals had it just about as good as it gets in 2008. There was a lot of pressure from former Greens to vote strategically Liberal to oust Lunn. Julian West got the bums rush, so I would judge that the Liberals got about as many anything but Conservative voters as could conceivably be motivated. It won’t work as well for the Greens, because the past Liberal vote is likely to be more resistant to a strategic shift than either the Greens or Dippers. Yes, the campaign will need to play that card very strongly, and there will be a strong response to it, but it will still leave the GPC short by 15,000 votes or so. Then there is the Leaders premium. That will pull a few thousand votes from Lunn, and the others, but overall will still leave a substantial deficit. If I had to guesstimate, without the benefit of polling, the EMay campaign will come up 6,00 – 8,000 votes short of the CPC numbers.

This shortfall must be made up at the expense of the Conservatives. There are only two things to consider. Either the Conservative turnout must be suppressed by the whole amount, or 1/2 of the 8,000 needed Conservative voters must be converted to Greens, or both must happen proportionally. In my opinion, it will be extremely difficult to manage a narrowcast message to Conservative voters that will acheive the desired result, without impacting the anything but conservative vote switchers. Since it cannot be narrowcast, it will need to be a big part of the broadcast Campaign Theme, and message. I am not a BC’er, and I know very little of the local population. If I am correct in my analysis so far, there needs to be a very strong Green message that will appeal to older Conservative voters. It will need to be delivered again, and again. It will need to be re-inforced at the National level, with broadcast media coverage, as well as at the doorstep, and local media by a hard hitting local campaign. It will be incumbent on the Canvas Chair to ensure that excellent voter records are maintained, with Liberal, NDP, and CPC voters identified no less than GPC voters. Why? Because with all these things positive things put together, we’re still likely to come up short. That means that there will need to be a dirt dishing canvas, or even a push poll to suppress the Lunn turnout. I really don’t like push polling. I think it’s deceptive, underhanded, and has the potential to backfire because most normal people would share this opinion, and would react accordingly if it were publicised that it was happening. Nonetheless, we are playing ‘for keeps’, and this tactic, or something like it must definitely be considered by the campaign team if they are to leave no stone unturned.

For those of you who are scratching their heads, ‘What the heck’s a push poll?’, a push poll is where telephone calls are made to the target audience. The push poll pretends to be an opinion poll, but the ‘survey’ attempts to manipulate the voter through carefully constructed leading questions. A hypothetical, and extreme example would be: ” Would the fact that Gary Lunn is a known pedophile affect your decision to vote conservative?” Lunn is obviously no such thing, but just try to refute it once the push poll has reached several thousand gossiping voters. The best push polls at least will stick to elements of the truth. Obviously, a publicly known foible, or statement by the opposition is the best handle to hang an attack like this on. It’s still fundamentally dishonest, because of the pretense that the caller is non-partisan, but at least then it is pointing out something in the open public record.

Whatever the Campaign decides, the point I want to emphasise is that SGI has a lot of older, and predictably Conservative voters. The Green Party needs a really solid Campaign theme targetted at this demographic. They also need to retain the Green, and younger vote, so the theme must have some appeal for every part of the age spectrum. If they plan on being vitriolically anti-Conservative, we lose. Don’t go there. In a riding with very weak Conservative support, then setting up a CPC ‘Straw Man’, and metaphorically beating the crap out of it might be a successful strategy, but in SGI it’s guaranteed to fail.

Apart from the Campaign Theme, there are a number of things that need to be prepared, starting now. The Campaign needs to be well staffed, with experienced campaigners. I think this will be easier in Saanich than in many other places in Canada. When the announcement is made, (and it should be soon), then it should be coupled with appeals in the local media for campaign volunteers. The Campaign manager should be experienced, and professional. I’d suggest going outside the Party to find real skills, and paying a decent salary to ensure retention. There should be a lot of locally advertised and promoted events over the summer to ensure the word gets out, and the Liberal and NDP volunteers will either step out, or perhaps even join the Greens rather than work their hearts out on a doomed effort. This riding will be difficult, but if the ground war is competently managed, and the theme is well constructed, then this might be the first Green riding in Canada.

As a post script, this choice of ridings, and theme will have an impact across the country. If YOU are a GPC activist in a currently Conservative held riding, you should plan to make an extra effort this time. Assuming the Saanich Campaign does the right thing, and directs the National Campaign to serve the Saanich campaigns needs, then your target electors are going to be older Conservatives as well. Just be aware in your’ planning that the Campaign message in the media is likely to be Conservative friendly. Many Greens really dislike the Reform Conservatives in power. If you want to hit ’em where it hurts, smother them in honey, not vitriol. Appeal to the CPC voter, and you’ll actually be doing something about it. I promise you, it will feel better to see a strategy of splitting the CPC vote succeed in throwing the rascals out of power, as opposed to saying lots of nasty things about them, which helps them into yet another minority CPC Government.

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