By-Election Called: Is the Green Party of Canada Ready?

By-Elections Called

By-Elections Called

It’s official now, four by-elections have been called, with the vote to fall on Monday November 9. The lucky ridings are:

Hochelaga, in Montreal, with the Olympic Stadium on it’s West boundary.

New Westminster – Coquitlam, In Vancouver, where NDP Incumbent Dawn Black quit to run Provincially.

Cumberland – Colchester – Musquodoboit Valley, Right next door to Central Nova.

Montmagny – L’Islet – Kamouraska – Rivière-du-Loup, East of Quebec city, on the South Shore of the St. Lawrence.

It’s no big surprise, but it will have some interesting consequences. First off, Elizabeth May once promised to run in the first available by-election. Well, I doubt very much that will happen now. She has made a major commitment to running in SGI by picking up and moving to the West coast. It appears that  $62,000 has been commited to pre-writ spending, and the canvas is already in full swing. The die is pretty well cast, and I’d be surprised if Elizabeth’s next few months were spent anywhere outside SGI, meeting her prospective constituents.

Mike Nagy By-Election beneficiary

Mike Nagy By-Election beneficiary

So if Elizabeth May isn’t going to be the Green Party’s focus in these by-elections, what’s the plan? We have

Chris Tindal in Toronto Centre

Chris Tindal in Toronto Centre

seen in the past how important By-elections can be for building up a strong EDA. There are two by-elections that spring to mind. Toronto Centre, where Chris Tindal’s campaign ID’d thousands of new supporters, and Guelph, where Mike Nagy and his team went all out, and posted one of the most competetive finishes ever for the Green Party. Then, of course, there’s London North Centre, where Elizabeth May surprised her sceptics, and pulled off a strong second place finish. Thousands of Green Party supporters were identified in London. It seems clear to me that every by-election is an opportunity to mobilise and target resources. We should always be ready to take advantage of the electoral opportunity to build another strong EDA to go forward with.

By-Elections are utterly predictable. You don’t know exactly where they’ll be, and you’re not exactly sure when they’ll be, but sure as rain, there will be a couple of By-elections every year or so. For the leadership, there will be a number of media opportunities, where they will have a few opportunities to speak before the national media. For the National Campaign team, there is an opportunity to ‘test drive’ parts of the national platform, and campaign theme. There is an opportunity to build the infrastructure for the central party to lend direct support to target ridings. For the local Electoral District, there is the growth in membership numbers, and profile of the Green Party of Canada. Local capacity to fight future elections will be dramatically higher after a by-election supported by an active Party apparatus.

I know the Election Readiness Commitee has been pretty pre-occupied lately. Small wonder, it’s always a daunting task to prepare for a General Election, and that was properly their focus in the past several months. I’m sure the search for a riding for Elizabeth May to run in took up a lot of attention, and ‘bandwidth’ at head office too. We can also remember though when the last by-election / general election tangle occurred, it confounded the national Party. They were seriously wrong footed by the general election call. I’m afraid that this has been the case for every election since 2004. There is a persistent problem with election readiness.

I find it hard to credit that out of all 23 staff listed on the website, only Catherine Johannson is tasked to election readiness. The Election commitee is Catherine’s election team, but they are all volunteers, not a permanent staff with resources dedicated to the job. We need to have a much more robust campaign infrastructure, and the mechanisms to effectively direct staff and volunteers to acheive strategic and tactical objectives. I mean things like phone banks, volunteer co-ordinators, and field workers to send to hot spots. Trained and experienced campaign managers to plan and execute deployment of resources. Obviously, they should all be prepared to re-focus quickly, as priorities change.

In the past, a relatively ‘green’ (pun intended), leadership made the assumption that elections were all about the Air War waged on the National stage. I think though that Elizabeth May’s experience should by now have taught her that the local election campaign cannot be won by the air war alone. The way she was constrained to choose between such a small number of viable EDA’s to run in for this election should drive home the need for many more well organised EDA’s, with lots of volunteers, money, and experienced campaigners. It would be natural to conclude the central Party needs to be supporting EDA development, and doing all in it’s power to augment local teams. This isn’t a small thing, as it would require a shift away from the current focus on communications. There are only so many salaries to go around, and putting real resources into election readiness, and EDA support will require re-thinking the current payroll. It’s not enough to have an effective public relations organisation. You have to have people on phones, and pounding the pavement if you want to realise your potential. The central party is in a unique position to put in place the infrastructure to augment local efforts, but it will take administrative skill, and some tough decisions.

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10 Responses

  1. Oh come on! Of all the pictures of me… Where did you even get that one, anyway? Maybe it provides a clue to your identity. ;-)

    (And, of course, you’re right about the rest of it.)

  2. Federal Council has never been committed to on the ground organization and the financial structure reflects this. If you think we can change horses in midstream as they say your mistaken. The year is set and there is no way in hell its going to change. The local by-election campaigns will most likely be local campaigns with no real national focus. That’s the price of GPC tunnel vision.

    There’s simply no point complaining about this. EDAs are largely on their own and need to look to each other for collective strength and support. Here in Toronto this is happening through Toronto Greens which is a regional umbrella. Together we are looking at collective ‘buy ins’ for campaign materials which lower the cost for all EDAs with a clear aim to help those ridings that still struggle with fundraising and organization. Collective fundraising is also an option. I would encourage all CEOs and Organizing chairs to sit down and look to form regional cooperatives where they haven’t already.

    Then we need to develop policies for the 2010 convention that push Federal Council in the right direction and state loud and clear that financial resources must be committed to on the ground organization. However if we are going to continue to boast about being grassroots then we need to act on a grassroots level.

    • I get the feeling that the GPC operates without a calendar on the wall. There are quite a few salaries for organisers, and etc. in the mix, but there is no sustained, and systematic outreach. It’s just plain silly that with over 10,000 members, and tens of thousands of additional contacts, there is no active phone bank maintaining contact with the membership. That would pay for itself, and put extra resources at the disposal of the organisers.

  3. […] cross-posted from Not an Official Green Party Site. […]

  4. […] cross-posted from Not an Official Green Party Site. […]
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  5. To pick up on Stephen’s point, In the Ottawa area, we also have a regional group that organizes events and joint buys of campaign material.

    The GPC has 22+ staff, but 4 of these staff are personal assistants to the leader (3) and deputy leader (1).

    Given that fact that GPC is under financial pressure this fall (yet again), perhaps these assistants could be reassigned to party-building activities?

  6. Those assistants probably wouldnt be very productive in party building, so having them temporarily re-assigned would probably only serve to mask the systemic/structural problem.

  7. May I humbly ask if the GPC has found it worth it to run a candidate in Montmagny – L’Islet – Kamouraska – Rivière-du-Loup,?
    Through my last glance – the GPC does not seem to be running candidates in any of the by- elections.
    Correct me if I am wrong.

    Thank You,
    P.S. Is it too late to form a real GREEN Party???

  8. Hi O.
    There are candidates nominated in CCMV, Hochelaga, and westminster. As far as I know, Montmagny has no candidate yet. Not a very good showing eh?

  9. Yes, I do stand corrected, fortunately.


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