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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21 Responses

  1. […] See original here:  Green Party of Canada: Governing council elections, background and picks. […]

  2. […] More: Green Party of Canada: Governing council elections, background and … […]

  3. New to the GPC but not new to inside-party tug-of-war. Been there before. Interesting reading.

  4. Hi Line,
    I’ve been on Condo corp. boards that were no less political. I guess it’s the nature of Homo Sapiens.

  5. Yup. I must admit I find this a bit discouraging, but I guess I should have known seeing how things are at the level of my riding association (very motivated people, but not enough of them).

  6. Since there doesn’t seem to be a discussion of the main topic to deflect, there is a tangent I noticed when reading BGB’s good backgrounder.

    There is an echoe of that recent unsigned request for EDAs to donate back their revenue sharing funds for May’s next campaign.

    I said elsewhere I thought the request was mostly have baked- as in amateurish or not well thought out.

    But as specific to the current circumstances as it sounds, it is really an unspoken expression of that same tussle that came up during Harris’ leadership tenure.

    May and the crowd right around her are different- wanting to appear to be all things to all people. We’d never try to ‘take’ what has been allocated to you, but you know we really do need it.

    Strictly speaking they have plenty of funds to spend on May’s next campaign- once again spending a LOT in the run-up as well as the election period itself.

    But the election campaign overall, and the $300K or so in particular on that drawn out Central Nova windmill tilt, added about $1million to the GPC structural debt.

    With a debt that is half of annual revenues, ad no visible means of paying it down, the manouvering room for blowing money has been narrowed.

    Hence looking at the RSA funds again.

  7. Just bear in mind that the RSA is a ‘Third Rail’ in GPC land. The EDA’s won, handily, because at the end of the day, staff, and council have to face the music eventually. No-one will re-open that battle, although I guess it could get tinkered with a little.
    As far as the ask on behalf of the next Emay campaign, I laughed about it when i first saw it. They can ask, but only a small number of suckers will respond positively. It’s a non-issue. I could see how they could run short of money though. Overhead is really high, with so many staffers on the payroll. They need to live within their means, or else they will find that they don’t have the money to actually function as a Party. As I understand it, there’s still a little debt left on the books, and there’s probably some discussion as to how the next election will get funded. Just FYI, the debt is appreciably smaller than 1/2 annual revenues. Don’t forget that the GPC does fundraise, plus there’s the vote subsidies, and election rebates.

  8. I agree with your central points BGB, but I the debt at year-end was $1.3million. If you look at cash flow and expenses, it could not have come down since.

    And I was accounting for fundraising- and at 2008 rates, which is no guarantee at all. And the debt is about half of total revenues.

    And not only as you said is the ongoing operating overhead high [too high to be paying down debt put on during the election], but it looks like at least of the $1million in debt added during 2008 was from the election campaign.

  9. Correction required, IF the GPC could maintain fundraising levels of an election year, then close to a million in debt could be paid off over the course of 2009 [if there is no election].

    In the more likely event that fundraising is not as high, itwould be more like a possible surplus of half a million- and everyone has to plan for an election coming before the year end, whether or not that happens.. with more debt from that.

  10. I was off again- working from another computer and I was going off memory rather than consulting the EC filings and GPC financial statements.

    The amount fundraised in the last couple years, except for the end of last year with the election, would leave a small or non-existant surplus.

    2009 is tracking in that pattern thus far. And on that pattern there is actually an operating deficit until the last quarter of the year.

    So unless something has changed- and with the heavy GPC staff turnover substantial improvement in fundraising figures that seems unlikley- then you have to expect that the GPC is financially treading water,, parked at that $1.3M debt.

    And when the fundraising goes up because of an election, the expenses go up even more, and the result is new debt added to old debt.

    So while I agree that the ask for giving RSA funds back to the GPC was half witted… I think it was ultimately driven by basic financial concerns that are actually more daunting than those that got the Harris crew in practice preempting funds before they could be allocated to the EDAs as revenue sharing.

  11. It’s pretty difficult to do a financial analysis, without the opportunity to interview the bookeeper/accountant. You’re probably right that based on past numbers they’ll not be reducing the debt by much. The fact is though that every number in the historical record is amenable to change. Fundraising is partly a function of skill, and systems which could be dramatically improved over time. Staff could be let go, or quit. If, for example, some of the many assistants, and assistants to assistants were to be replaced, or re-tasked with serious membership and recruitment duties, and If they actually had a degree of success, then revenues could be ramped up quickly.
    It’s a question of how much non-revenue generating activity is being subsidised by how much revenue generating activity. I personally don’t worry too much about the spending level for the National Campaign next time around, because it won’t make much difference to the outcome. What I’m saying is that if you don’t use the money wisely, then there will be no harm if we spend that much less in the next election.

  12. Again, I agree with your final point, AND that it is the most central.

    But as to the question of how much financial strength there is or might be, and what internal pressures that puts into play….

    The basic central expenses of the parties are remarkably stable over time when you consider how much the revenues and everything else changes so much and so quickly. The GPC is no exception, and from what we do know its unlikely that the May crew will have substantively decreased that this year. [Like me, you may have expected that it would have increased over 2008- which it has not… although the evidence would suggest that means at least some degree of shift away from spending on organizers in the field and more towards people working for and around the Leader.]

    At any rate, the expense levels you see from 2007 and 2008 [not counting the election and pre-election] are pretty certainly still there.

    I agree that “Fundraising is partly a function of skill, and systems which could be dramatically improved over time.” But I think you are pretty sanguine about how short that time can be, when we are talking about a diffuse national organization.

    The Liberals are testimony to that. They have been putting a huge priority on ramping up smaller donations, since before Iggy was Leader and with more focus since. But for all their recent success in sucking up every large donation that can be found, capacity building in smaller donations is a systems thing, and thats slower in coming: zero results on that for the LPC yet.

    Similarly, the NDP had a much more straightforward path to ramping up findraising 5 years ago: none of the complications the LPC has, a Leader with savvy and top notch new hires that the GPC does not have… and even with that, it was well over a year before you could measure improvements in dollars.

    Given what is going on in Ottawa for the GPC, the chances of systematically improved fundraising over as short a term as we are talking here, seem just about zero.

    If I were in your position I also would not worry about whether the inner sanctum has enough money to run a good central campaign and pour into the Leaders seat from now till there is an election. Since you don’t have much confidence in their ability to spend effectively, why bother worrying about whether they have enough?

    Problem is they have every incentive to spend regardless of the debt they saddle all of you you with. So if they added a million in debt last go around, and if it is true there is little chance the $1.3million debt will go down much or at all before there is an election…..

    Bringing this back to Concil and the election at hand:

    These are just the kind of questions you want Councillors to be asking, and to have some confidence who you vote for is willing and able to push for real answers.

    First Quarter GPC fundraising was the same as the last couple years. In two weeks you’ll have the Q2 results- expect those to be the same [at best].

    Questions that follow from that are not rocket science- and you SHOULD be able to count on a healthy collective process that gets them asked. [IE, no one person needs to know now exactly what questions they would ask.] But if you don’t get enough Councillors willing and able to have a productive discussion, no one will ever have any idea- as is the case now.

  13. I have a ton of experience in sales and marketing. I am far from unique though, so I’m sure that the skills are everywhere you look in the Party. Ramping up fundraising would take a professional like me about two weeks. Maybe an extra week or so if I was constrained by politically motivated hiring practices. The kind of routine fundraising done by Keys marketing, the company that fundraises for the GPC is about as difficult as falling off a bike.
    It might take a little longer to establish best practices, and positive returns on direct mail, targetted telephone work, fundraising events etc., but the potential is obvious to anybody who ever had to reach out to relieve people of their cash professionally. That’s just scratching the surface of what could be done with affinity programs, co-marketing, and some other really out of the box things I can think of. It could happen very quickly that the GPC dramatically improved their fundraising capacity.

    That’s not neccesarily in the cards, but it could happen at any time. Ditto for the Liberals, and Dippers.

    As far as oversight, council will be asking questions, and there is debate about spending, borrowing, and campaign budgets. If the money isn’t there, then I cannot imagine big loans being available to the next Federal Campaign, because Banks will limit their exposure, and Jim Harris will not be producing his magic rolodex to go out and raise private loans as he did in the 2008 elections. The current debt load is temporary, but fortunately it looks to me like it will difficult for the GPC to incurr any form of long term debt, so the next leadership will have a chance to start improvements pretty quickly. Even the current leadership might decide to hit the reset button when confronted with serious spending constraints. Why not? It’s not that hard to read the statements and come to the obvious conclusions.

  14. Well BGB, we can say that we’re pretty consistent about this business of how quickly a party can ramp up fundraising, whether we are talking about the Liberals or the GPC.

    But its been several months since we had the discussion about the LPC- and as much as they have invested in it, to date there has been no change in their smaller donation capability, and I’d say the indications are they are at least still many months away.

    They have improved their event based Iggy talking large donor scooping- enough that they are back up to breakeven. But they say themselves that the hanges they require are in the smaller donation capability.

    You may be right about whether the current leadership will even have the option of adding to the long term debt. I wouldn’t be so sure it requires Jack Harris’s touch… but this is a cae of where it may be shoe on the other foot: me underestimating how difficult it is to keep expanding the number of people privately loaning tens to hundreds of thousands to the GPC. I would certainly agree that I don’t expect the banks would be willing to ADD another million to GPC loans.

    • “Well BGB, we can say that we’re pretty consistent about this business of how quickly a party can ramp up fundraising, whether we are talking about the Liberals or the GPC.”
      I think that the processes of fundraising are easy to ‘ramp up’. The constraints are elsewhere. For the Lib’s, it’s not much different than the GPC. It’s about internal politics, and the local/central tussle for resources. I think that the Liberals are going after the very easily plucked low hanging fruit. It will take some money to prime the pump for small donor programs, so they’re filling the coffers, then graduating to direct mail, etc. That’s a guess only, but predicated on what kind of roll out I would expect for a sustainable fundraising program.

  15. Just a quick observation: the supporters of “Ground War” candidates seem to be out in full force, and are doing a pretty good job of getting their messages out through the internet. I’m perplexed by the lack of webpresence of the “Air War” candidates. Has anyone else noticed that these candidates appear to be laregely Missing In Action?

  16. Hi Steve,
    yes, I’ve noticed the same thing. I guess that we’ll see natural selection at work shortly. Those who run the most effective campaigns will get elected, (hopefully). Don’t forget that the blogs, and active campaigning won’t reach very much of the membership, so this race isn’t neccesarily going to be won by the best camapigners.
    I only wish that telephone canvas of the membership were possible. It would be nice if the membership were to be contacted for some reason other than fundraising asks, and even peripheral involvement in the party would be better than most members ever experience.

  17. Are there any candidates who would publicly argue against greater support for the ground campaigns?

    Or who would say, publicly, that they think the priority must be the central campaign [and May’s campaign]?

    • Are there any Americans who would speak out against Apple Pie? It would not be much of a winning strategy. Whatever people might know, or think they know about Party operations in Ottawa, they surely all know a lot more about their local campaigns. There are very few places in Canada where the GPC campaign is as visible as the CPC or Liberals. To actually argue against strengthening the local Campaigns would be akin to a death wish.
      The way to do it would be to argue in favour of highlighting the central campaign.
      Actually, that makes me think through some interesting implications of Elizabeth’s new-found dedication to winning a seat. If she is to be Campaigning on site to win a seat, then the National Campaign won’t be needing as much money.
      I just went to the EC site, and the GPC spent $1.579 mm on advertising. The other $1.2 was on professional services, travel, other advertising, Salaries, and office. Looks like half of the budget, (advertising) is totally discretionary. Hmmm

  18. Actually it was $1.8m for advertising, and $1m on the rest.

    Mind you, all that advertising would have to be dropped to run a no debt central campaign. [Taking account of the rebate effect: $2m less spending to not have the $1m debt that was accrued last time.]

  19. Back of envelope: $2mm spending costs $1mm. Every vote yields $2 per annum. Expect average minority gvt tenure of 18 months, the the GPC would need to win an extra 350,000 votes with that extra spending to financially justify. ( There’s more to it than that, but the Party has to be fiscally responsable, so the pure money discussion is not optional). It sounds do-able to me.

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