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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22 Responses

  1. Let Elizabeth Run in Saanich. Let her lose.

    There is a huge silent sound of experienced Greens not lifting a finger to help her after the 2008 strategic voting fiasco.

    Let us move on with a new leader and new vision in 2010.

    Like a sports team, GPC needs to shed an unperforming coach/GM in 2010 and enter a “rebuilding” phase.

  2. There is absolutely no way EMay could win the SGI riding. To think so is revealing of weak strategic thinking. The CPC could run a chimp and have it elected if EMay were to run there. The Conservatives must be jumping with joy at the mention of this possibility. Many of the voters are well aware that EMay could do absolutely nothing for them in parliament her time would be mostly spent on rah rahing the GPC. There is the possibility of a strong ‘green’ party candidate running, to have EMay here would ensure that neither of them made it to Ottawa.
    I t is also rumoured that the Greens did a poll in SGI and it appeared that they had strong support until one discovers the question had to do with who would you vote for Lunn or May. No mention of other candidates. How lame is that?!
    And they expect people to vote for a party with that kind of thinking. DUH!

  3. in the previous rant it should read “the possibility of a strong ‘green’ Liberal party candidate running.”

  4. David, thanks for your comments, but allow me to rebut?
    I don’t see why the Green Party should give a damn about the Liberals. This is serious business, and the Liberal desire to greenwash themselves should not wash with Greens. If you’re talking about Briony, then I’m sure the CPC would be happy to beat Brionny as many times as you want to put her up. If your candidate is green, then run for the Greens.
    I have heard so many times from your fellow Liberals that the Greens are irrelevant, and that people need to stifle their voice, and vote strategically for the Liberals. Now the shoe is on the other foot. You can kiss any Liberal hopes in Saanich goodbye, so what is your’ strategic response going to be? Will you expose the Liberal lies about strategic voting, and run some sorry assed lame duck Liberal candidate, or will you actually walk the walk, and help the GPC to beat Lunn?

  5. BGB has the main point on this score, but who might this “strong ‘green’ Liberal” candidate be?

    Briony Penn was already not going to run again, and May running there makes certain there is no chance she would change her mind.

    Is there someone else or is this just wishful thinking?

  6. SGI

    Liberals are having a nomination contest, the previous candidate Briony Penn is supporting Renée Heatherington


  7. So the SGI EDA is having there AGM tonight, with Elizabeth May speaking.

  8. Yes,Renee Heatherington and what a shame it would be if Emay entry into the SGI riding knocked them both out. Which it will, the numbers just will not work regardless how many volunteers bang on doors. Also nobody has commented on the faulty poll that was done, the one looking at a comparison of Emay and Lunn and then saying she, Emay, has a lot of support when nobody else but those two were mentioned. As Mentioned before that is just plain dumb and a good reason to question the Greens strategists.

  9. I for one don’t know anything about the poll you are referring to. I don’t know what questions were asked, or how it was designed. It wouldn’t particularly surprise me if it was as useless as you indicate, but I simply have no factual basis to judge. You should not be losing so much sleep about the apparant damage to your’ candidate. There is little hope of a Liberal being elected in SGI, no matter who runs or doesn’t. When you comment on a Green blog, you surely don’t expect sympathy for a plea to garotte ourselves, and take Liberal needs into account when we make our decisions do you? I think it was stupid of Dion to allow the GPC a free run in Central Nova, because it didn’t serve the interests of his Party. Liberals should do whatever they can no less than should we. It’s how representative democracy works.

  10. You are so right about the free run in Central Nova and you can be assured it won’t happen again, anywhere.
    I do disagree re: a Liberal not winning in SGI, a lot more of a chance than a GPC. I don’t think it is Liberal ‘needs’ that have to be taken into account it should be GPC needs and running the leader of the GPC and hoping she will get elected just because she is The leader is wishful thinking (foolish too)

  11. Brionny had the absolute best possible scenario in 2008, and didn’t come close. IMHO Something dramatically different would be needed to effect a Liberal win. The Greens though might just be able to pick off enough CPC voters to win. It will take a bold campaign plan, an army of volunteers, and a big name candidate, which obviously Elizabeth May is. I’m not saying she’ll win. I doubt she will, but if some analytical, hardass, win-at-all-costs campaign team is put together, then this riding is winnable by the GPC leader. re-read the post, or browse the rest of the blog, and you’ll see that I have no interest whatsoever in wishful thinking. If I say that it can be done, it’s because I have thought through the steps and resources required, and concluded there is just enough possibility to say maybe. Unless a superstar Liberal shows up, then Elizabeth May has a better chance than Renee.

  12. Bold plan indeed! They would need to pick off about 15,000 voters all told and for is perceived in this riding as a one issue party. The voters in this riding could likely care less if they were the first to elect a GPC member. They are mostly concerned about having someone speak to issues and be able to act or have their party act. They are not interested in someone barking from the sidelines. The scenario of EMay winning sounds like the hopeful laments of an out of it hockey team thinking ” well if we win the next x number of games and y loses w number of games and z beats w for two and o ties r and then we ‘might have a chance to get in the playoffs’.
    I went through the whole buzz of Andrew Lewis in 2004, and supported him, huge buzz, what a disappointment that was. Most of the extra support came from NDP supporters. It turned out that there was not a huge amount of support for the GPC just a lot of spin. No wonder people are not bothering to vote. Emay needs to find a riding where there is a small number of voters and have a large, very large team convince them to vote GPC. That will be the only way she will get in. The voters in this riding will respond very poorly to young earnest door knockers and long time commited activists trying to sell them a GPC message.

    • Sure the scenario looks far fetched. That`s because it`s not fleshed out. No less than for the hockey team, it`s how the tasks are completed, not naming the tasks that counts. Elizabeth May is very eloquent, and compelling personality. She is a very strong Candidate, and no-one who hears her speak at length will dismiss her as you seem to think they will. This will be a very tough campaign, and likely she will lose, but the margin will be a lot closer than you seem to think. There are a plethora of reasons for people to vote one way or another, and there are a lot of chunks of electors who will dump their first choice with some exposure to Elizabeth. That’s why I say there will be a shortfall of 6,000 votes or so. It’s silly to pretend that she’s a GPC candidate of Lewis’ calibre, she isn’t. If they don’t win, it will be because they don’t target the right people with the right message. The GPC will fail where they always fail. The ground war will be ineffectual. Elizabeth May, and her friends and allies DO actually make decisions based upon warm and fuzzy feelings instead of data. They are prepared to deceive themselves, as do so many activists from every Party in ridings where there is no hope. I don’t. There are only a couple of ridings in the country where she’d be my odds on favourite, and Saanich isn’t one of them. I do know that if I were tasked with managing this campaign, then it would be no-holds barred, and I would go for Lunn’s throat. With a little luck, that might make up the plurality for the GPC. I won`t be involved though, so it`ll all depend on whoever runs the campaign, and the choices made over the next month or so.

  13. Yes, I agree with most of what you say. What I find a shame is that by running here she takes away a good chance for Renee. Briony did not lose by very much, she had 25,367 to Lunn’s 27,988 and there were 3,667 votes to the NDP that didn’t have a candidate running. Maybe I too am deceiving myself. I would love to see Lunn defeated and to have an MP that is part of a ‘new’ governing party.

  14. […] Nova – the bets are on that May will run in Saanich-Gulf Islands. Both Mark Taylor and BlueGreenBlogger along with myself previously stated our beliefs that this would be the chosen riding. It has a […]

  15. I live in the SGI.
    I consider myself “green”, and have from time to time been a member of the GREEN party. Last year, holding my nose, I joined the LIBS to vote in Briony. Scads of people did this, many from the NDP.
    As the prestigious Margaret Fulford said at Briony
    s nomination: “WEll, you might be wondering what an old prairie socialist like me is doing up here at a podium to introduce a candidate for the Liberal Party….”
    Because Briony is supporting the excellent nominee Renee Heatherington, people will respect her choice.
    Also, the NDP might come up with a stunning candidate as well. All this assures that Elizabeth, who we all have revered,will NOT succeed in winning votes.
    The NDP and Libs will not back off.
    Elizabeth would have to get about 25,000 votes or more to defeat Lunn.
    I’ll bet my most prized possession, my electric bike,that she will not do this.
    There has GOT to be some other place that Elizabeth has a better chance.
    She is needed in the House, but as I have said, she won’t get there from here.

    • Oemmissions: Thanks for your comment. Looking at SGI from Toronto, I would have to say that with the information available to myself, I concurr with your conclusion. I bet that Brionny is wishing she could take back a few things, like Rene’s endorsement. This race just became a Green CPC contest. (Assuming SGI is the target riding.)

  16. […] blogged some time ago on the choice of SGI as Elizabeth May’s target riding. The post is not rigourously supported with data, but it is directionally sound, and outlines the […]

  17. […] objective is to get Elizabeth May elected to Parliament in SGI. I blogged on the decision to run in SGI waaay back in July 2009. It is clear that in order to win in SGI a significant chunk of voters, […]

  18. […] Adding on to my previous post, a few interesting comments here: “I blogged some time ago on the choice of SGI as Elizabeth May’s target riding. The post is not rigourously supported with data, but it is directionally sound, and outli… […]

  19. These comments are amazing to read in retrospect and should be revisited every time someone says “it can’t be done!”

  20. @jen, lol yes, it is amazing what over a million dollars can do in politics, which is about what was spent in the year and a half prior to the actual election

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