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|
|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.
Filed under: 2009 Election, election readiness, Election Tactics, Political Strategy, Ridings to Watch | Tagged: Canadian Election, election readiness, Elizabeth May, green party canada, Green Party of Canada, green party organizing |