Canadian Broadcast Media Consortium deliberately influencing a Federal Election?

Recalcitrant Consortium Member

Once again, CTV, oops, I mean the Broadcast Consortium has denied the Green Party admission to the Nationally televised Leaders debate. While it comes as no surprise whatsoever, it still begs the imagination. What is going on in the broadcast consortium’s collective heads? The criteria by which they exclude the GPC seems to change from election to election. Apparently, the requisite is that there be representation in the house of commons. I don’t know about you, but I do not believe that the rationale has much to do with the actual reason. By any other measure, the Green Party is a National Party that commands the support of approximately 10% of the electorate. That is not a small and insignificant number in a first past the post system. In fact, the Green Party is so significant, that their presence has changed the face of Parliament in a fundamental way. It is not an accident that the Liberal’s (Paul Martin Jr.’s) last majorities shrunk at the same rate that the Greens grew. A Conservative minority Government would be impossible without a fourth national party opening the door to Ontario. The Green Party raises and spends millions of dollars, fields a full slate of candidates, and has a policy platform that covers the full range of Federal responsibilities. So much for them being a fringe party.

So why did they (the consortium) do it again? I assume that this time out they have decided that it is better to give the Green Party a whack of free publicity, and a bullet proof issue in the first week of the campaign than to give them their ten minutes of fame before the whole nation. The communications job for the Green Party is now to have their cake, and eat it too. By this I mean that they need to get the petitions rolling, keep the outrage in the press, and apply more and more pressure and reel in the tens of thousands of new supporters this move will motivate. They also need to keep up the pressure on the consortium in general, and the CTV in particular for their ultimate inclusion in the debate. I wouldn`t hold my breath waiting for a turn about this time, so start preparing the ground for the couple of days before, and immediately after the debate

The issue will fade a bit as Ignatieff, Harper, and Jack slip on assorted banana peels, and trade hollow sounding invective over the coming days. In a couple of weeks though, the debate will start to loom closer, and this issue will come back in a big way if it is tended properly. The other 4 party`s have been smart enough to pretend that Elizabeth May ought to be in the debate, but that it is all the broadcasters fault. They are pretty well bullet proof on this issue, but the broadcasters themselves have stepped way over the line… So use this fact, and start bludgeoning them now. It will likely pay off with improved coverage, more or less as it did in 2005. Actually, there are plenty of neat things to do with a recalcitrant media consortium. Start speaking to the fact that the airwaves are publicly owned in Canada, and the broadcasters get to use them on sufferance. How about the fact that the only corporations that are legally allowed to provide free publicity for political party`s are the media companies? Use your imaginations folks, since the media consortia are trying to directly influence the political process, they should be reminded that they are accountable too.

So there it is. The deed has been done, and the issue is live. Let us hope that there are at least one or two people still working on it for the National Campaign at GPC headquarters in Ottawa. I know this isn`t about electing Elizabeth May in SGI, but perhaps the Party could spare a few thoughts, and a little time for the other 307 Green Party campaigns. They will need some kind of, any kind of support from the Party, and this is a good starting point.

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Election Objectives for Green Party of Canada

Green Party Election objectives

What's the Objective?

Well, it has certainly been awhile since I blogged about the Green Party. When last I posted, the GPC was in the throes of a particularly convoluted internal conflict, complete with plots, counterplots, and counter -counter, etc. in the runup to the Leadership contest that never happened. So a quick recapitulation is in order, as it pertains to the current election.

The Leadership of  the Green Party of Canada has determined that the election objective is to get Elizabeth May elected in Saanich Gulf Islands, (SGI). According to media reports, there will be no leaders tour, and Elizabeth May will be making very few forays beyond her own riding (SGI). That is problematic for the other 307 local campaigns, especially when you consider that Elizabeth May was elected leader of the Green Party on the promise to bring media attention, and an Air War element to our campaigns. Well last I checked, SGI was not exactly the media capital of Canada, so I don’t think we will be seeing much earned media in the current Campaign. I guess I cannot really blame Elizabeth May, since it is pretty clearly understood that having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and focussed the entire party apparatus on winning in SGI, if she fails to get elected, she will be looking for employment elsewhwere.

For the real Party, which is to say the hundreds of Electoral District Associations which will have to wage this campaign without an Air War to back them up, we will have to turn back the clock to 2004 or so, when the EDA’s were on their own looking for earned media, and messaging etc. There are other similarities between today and 2004. Most tellingly, in 2004 the bulk of the Party were new to Politics, and inexperienced. The GPC membership has tanked. So many of the Party faithful have withdrawn over the past two years, I get the sense that a lot of campaigns are sitting around tables as I write, wondering what the heck does a Campaign do?

So how do you wage a campaign starting from scratch? My best advice is to start with a few simple and clear election objectives. One of those objectives should be to grow your local membership, and volunteer base. The implication is that every campaign, be it however so humble, needs to have a volunteer co-ordinator in place. You need to take every volunteer that comes forward in hand immediately, and give them something useful to do. Don’t be haphazard about it. Have specific tasks, and all the tools needed to fulfil the task. You need to take some time and teach the volunteer how to do it, and make sure there are get togethers and events where they can socialise and have some fun. This volunteer campaign team will provide activists, and volunteers for EDA building after the election.

A second objective for every campaign should be to identify as many Green Party supporters as possible, and retain that information in the Party’s centralised database, (GRIMES). Grimes is also a pretty nifty phone canvassing application, so your volunteers can telephone canvass from any place with Internet access, and a telephone. All the data collected is hosted by the National Party, in their servers, so the information will be accessible, and preserved for future use.  How much, or even whether or not you foot canvass depends on your volunteer strength. You need a whack of volunteers to canvass an EDA, so if you are canvassing, make sure you have targetted which polls carefully. (You can get 2008 poll by poll electoral results from the Elections Canada HERE ) Remember, to focus your canvassing on the campaign objective(s). If your prime objective is building the EDA, then focus your canvas and your scripts on asking for violunteers, and getting people to your campaign events. If the objective is simply identifying the vote, then a very short script, asking for support and recording the answer is what your volunteers should stick to.

In the 2008 election, there were 41 Ridings where the GPC candidate exceeded the 10% threshold whereby they received a 60% rebate of their election expenses. Probably a paramount and overriding campaign objective  for them, is to repeat this feat in the current election. Ditto for the host of EDA’s that were within a percent or two of the 10% threshold. Chances are, if you were in this category in 2008, you don’t need me to tell you what to do. While that hasn’t stopped me before, for now I will stick to reminding you that the advanced polls are of vital interest to you. The Green Party Vote will once again soften, and move to other Party’s in the final days of the election, so it is vitally important that you get your vote out in a big way for the advance polls. Put them in the bank before they change their minds, so to speak. In the last General Election, Ottawa Centre missed getting their $24,946 rebate back by some 45 odd votes. Ouch! How much you wanna bet that this time they will have a strong GOTV to the advance polls? lol The practical difficulty for these stronger campaigns will be that there will not be much of an Air War to support their campaign, and believe me, that will have a disproportionate impact on the stronger ridings. Ridings which have built their support to the 10% range will have to reach out to a much higher proportion of their electorate to win more votes. Presumably, the bulk of the motivated Green voters in these ridings are in fact already being mobilized, so reaching more and more undecideds with a conversion message is their route to improving their standing at the polls. Without an Air War reaching masses of people with a simple repetetive Campaign message, it will be hard slogging indeed to make fresh inroads. I wish them luck, as the only antidote is to pour it on at the local level, which will take plenty of folding money. If you doubt that money is important, have a look at some of the simple analysis I did after 2008. (Correlations between Campaign Spending  and Vote outcomes).

For a small, (actually VERY small) number of ridings, there will be a more ambitious campaign objective. One of the interesting ridings to watch will be Dufferin-Caledon, where a very capable Ard Van Leeuwen is the candidate for a second time. They will likley have a Campaign objective to move into second place, and grow their vote by XX percent. The Liberal Party edged him out of second place in 2008, and Ard has not been standing still since then. I expect a very strong showing from the local Campaign, and will bet dollars to donuts they meet their objective. Bruce Grey Owen Sound has had a strong EDA since Shane Jolley organised the heck out of the riding prior to the 2005-2006 election. Their objective has to be to win the seat, althoutgh frankly, the odds are stacked heavily against them, but where else do you go from a strong second place finish, with a robust campaign team and organisation behind you? Guelph, the strongest showing in 2008, (with the exception of Central Nova), will likewise be shooting for the winners circle. Guelph has some real organisational depth, and have a lot of skilled and hard working volunteers. Probem is that Elizabeth May’s call for strategic voting in 2008 really knee-capped their campaign, and there is a lot of bitterness towards the Federal Green Party in Guelph. Will the volunteers sit it out, or will they show up ready to campaign again? Time will tell, but in either case, it will take a minor miracle for them to get any growth without a robust, and well targetted National Campaign speaking to the good citizens of Guelph through their TV sets every night. How about Vancouver Centre? Well, in 2008 Adriane Carr, loyal deputy leader to EMay received lashings of cash in Transfers from the Party ($73,500 to be precise), and made a dismal showing with a fourth place finish. My bet is that they will have an objective of getting their deposit back, cause I sure as heck don’t see anybody gifting Adriane with any $70k anytime soon. And what about Central Nova,? LMAO, Say no more. Actually, I will say more, Central Nova (Elizabeth May’s ‘home’ riding) has received hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. (Some was repaid, some disappeared into organisers salaries, and office rents etc.). Their objective has to be to get back their deposit by surpassing the 10% threshold. Will they manage it? Bwaahahaha. (Code for I doubt it very much).

Then there is the obvious, and apparently over-riding objective, electing Elizabeth May in SGI. So what are the chances? Obviously, a win in SGI will require seperating a great many senior citizen votes from Gary Lunn, the CPC Minister for Sport, and runaway victor in the last several elections. Based on some internal, and third Party polling, Elizabeth is a contender when voting intentions are considered. The GPC has paid a lot of salaries, and put hundreds of thousands of dollars into acheiving this objective. Money, when well spent, has a really big impact on getting the message out, and making a lot of voter impressions. The difficulty there will be putting the puck in the net with an efficient, and well managed Ground War. All the positive voting intentions in the world will not help them in a close fought battle if they cannot Get Out The Vote, (GOTV) on E-Day, and at the advance polls. I will lay long odds that they cannot do it, but I wish them the best of luck. Fact is, there is not a big enough split in the vote, and SGI has a monolithic block of Conserative voters ready to back Lunn again. Since the only way to win is to either convert these voters to Green, or to suppress the Conservative turnout through a negative campaign, it aint likely to happen. After all, the only National Campaign message from the Green Party so far is that negative campaigning, and attack ads are BAD, so this route is closed. (And I do not disagree with that. Some tactics are effective, but still reek like the pond scum that invented them. After all, you still gotta look at  yourself in the mirror the day after the vote. Still, were it my job to win in SGI, I would have to be considering robodialling with a negative message about Lunn day and night. As the Conservatives have discovered, it is hard to hold you accountable for a lie or foible when it is narrowcast one on one.)

So there it is, and here we are. There are a number of interesting ridings to watch, and the stakes are pretty high in this election for the Leadership of the Green Party of Canada. The local Ridings, and Electoral Districts are pretty well on their own. They will need to think about their own objectives, and craft the local message to help acheive their objectives. There will be a minimal National Campaign, and Air War, so the biggest hurdle is going to be the inexperience, and lack of direction at the local Campaign level. There will be somewhere between 50-70 Campaigns that are firing on all 4 cylinders, (No V8’s in the GPC please, lol), but they will be badly handicapped by lack of coherent Air War, and invisibility in the press. But never mind all that big picture stuff. This is IT folks, the Campaign is on, and thousands of new friendships will be formed, EDA’s will be stimulated, volunteers will come forward in droves, and the reason we exist as a Party is to do this job, so get out there, and above all, have a blast!

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