Sizing up the big red machine: Liberal leadership vote turnout by riding

I have been contemplating compiling the Leadership data riding by riding, but Global has done a great job, mapping Leadership Race votes using Google Maps. Here it is, enjoy!

Update: Here are the Raw Numbers courtesy of the Liberal Party.

Liberal Party Organising: Integrating Facebook with Voter contact lists means GAME OVER for the Conservatives

I have blogged repeatedly on the Importance to the Liberal Party of ‘building the database’ and populating Liberalist with as many Liberal Party supporters as possible. That is step one of the critical three-step of Building the database, Engaging supporters more deeply, and effective Calls to action. Until about an hour ago, I thought that using social media like Facebook was a side-show. Basically, as far as I knew, you could do events, spread messages, and do a bunch of nifty things, but that it was a completely different data silo that was basically useless to the main task of enriching Liberalist with data about what truly motivates individual electors and supporters. BOY WAS I WRONG!

I was going to post about how I tracked back this fundraising email 10000 donors Apr26, addressed from Katie Telford, Co-Chair of the Trudeau Campaign. The email was an effective ask for $$, but it did not have any clickable html links to share with friends, to network, and help the Liberal Party to build the contact database. That was missing a great opportunity. Surely their email service providers could have provided these services for them? I wanted to learn more about the email servers, and back-end data management of the Trudeau Campaign, and by extension, what we can expect from the Liberal Party as the Trudeau Campaign spreads its influence at head office. With a little help from Google and GMAIL, I found myself on this website for NGP VAN, which is a Progressive / Democrat Party affiliated data and communications management firm based in the States.

As so often happens in the information age, following a lead put me squarely in front of something related, but un-expected. You see, I have been overly dismissive of the uses of social media for campaign purposes. Facebook is a great way to spread a message, invite people to events, and a myriad of vitally important campaign related stuff. Until about 1 hour ago, I thought that there was a fundamental problem that the data about social media contacts are isolated within a world effectively controlled by third party data vendors. In plain English, Facebook controls their users data. I did not see how all that wonderful data about the preferences, causes, friends of each individual supporter and contact could be linked directly to Liberalist. As I have posted repeatedly, engaging Canadians more deeply, and building an ever more detailed picture of what motivates our supporters allows us to target our communications, way more effectively. It is going to be an integral part of rebuilding the ground game of the Liberal Party by building up donor and volunteer lists at the National and EDA level.

So now I get to the point. NGP VAN has a social organising component that integrates Facebook friends and contacts with compatible Contact Databases! I figuratively drooled all over my keyboard as I watched the promotional video embedded below. If you are a Liberal Organiser, you need to ENSURE that your EDA has a nice Facebook page, because every like, every friend of every supporter can be quickly and seamlessly integrated into Liberalist utilising this tool. HOLY CRAP! The Liberal Party is going to freaking BURY the Conservatives in 2015! Imagine what will happen when 75% of Liberal voters are magically profiled and accessible to the local field organisers in the year leading up to a general election? The Conservatives have spent literally tens of $millions building a partial and spotty database on supporters and donors. The Liberal Party can acquire a much richer dataset in one tenth of the time. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below, and get to work with that Facebook page!

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It is time for the Liberal party to start ‘Doing’ policy.

Attack ads, counter attack ads. Lots of earned media so far, and with some actual media buys happening, I am sure there is going to be some movement in opinion polls, and very early voting intentions, but seriously, what does it mean 2 years out from the next general election? Lets take stock of what the practical results of the first two weeks of Trudeau’s leadership are. The most obvious practical outcome is the incredible success of the Supporter category of membership in the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party raised a nifty half a million dollars in the first 7 days after the leadership race ended. I suspect that by the end of this weekend, the total will be approaching a cool $million. Not too shabby for the third place Party, two years away from a general election! And how did the Party do it? Well two words encapsulate it: Trudeau & Supporter. Here is a copy of one of Trudeau’s ‘asks’ that tells us there were 7,000 donors last week.

First Look at our Ad

When Justin Trudeau was faced by an immediate barrage of attack ads, the Liberal Party was able to send out mass emails to an enormous number of recipients, largely because the supporter category had added somewhere around a quarter million names to Liberalist. I am sure that the social media networking drove more than a few donors into Trudeau’s arms, but the lions share had to be in the form of click-throughs from the emailed communications.  I am thinking that the skeptics about supporter category are taking a sober second look at the concept right about now, as I do not think that the Liberals have ever really seen anything like this. But here’s the thing. People are motivated right now. There is a lot of excitement still in the air over the recent Trudeau win, but those Conservative attack ads are going to start to have an impact. It will not be long until the existing lists start to suffer from donor fatigue. (Not to mention bumping up against contribution limits). Without something more concrete than excitement and enthusiasm for Justin, the edge will come off. The need to replenish Liberalist with fresh contacts, and the need to motivate and engage people who have not yet contributed will become an ever more pressing concern.

I will never stop believing that a great event is nowhere near as good as an effective PROCESS. I know it sounds ridiculous to say that the Leadership race, and this huge fundraising boom is not the best thing that could happen, but that is exactly what I believe to be true. To put this most excellent fundraising week into perspective, the Liberal Party blew the doors off, and raised $500,000. At an annualised rate, this would yield $26 million, assuming the same level of excitement and engagement were sustainable year round.  The Conservative Party raises between $17 million in 2009 and 2010, up to a high of $22 million in 2011 from about 100,000 donors. They do this dependably, reliably, and repeatedly because they have systematized their fundraising and outreach efforts. They tap into people motivated by specific policy prescriptions, or ideas, and that is why their donors dig deep into their pockets again and again.

So how do you go about building a reliable process to recruit, and engage new donors? Well the answer is to appeal to people based upon something more reliable than excitement and pizzazz. That something is, and always will be to appeal to deeply held beliefs, which means policy. In a sense, the Conservative attack ads are highlighting this fact for us. They are absolutely correct that without any policy substance, the Liberal party is not going to forge any kind of real relationship with the electorate. I think that Justin Trudeau is also correct, that policy that is delivered from on high is not the best way of forging that relationship, and engaging more Canadians. The Trudeau campaign has actually started a process of soliciting policy input from Canadians, utilising a tool called soapbox. The website is ok I guess. It definitely has been envisioned as both an idea factory, and a tool for harvesting resources, but there is something missing from it. To my jaundiced eye, there is a proliferation of disconnected ideas, and no real way to pull the threads together into common themes, and ultimately serious policy prescriptions. I am not an expert in website design, or social networks/forums, but to my mind, what is missing is a stronger guidance and structure, so that people can actually assemble online clustered about policy themes and statements. For example, The Liberal Party has several prominent advocates, and scholars of democratic reform in our ranks. I am thinking Stephane Dion, and latterly Joyce Murray. If they were invited to build an online community addressing electoral reform, then we could be assured that there would be some solid policy prescriptions being presented for debate, and a tool like soapbox can form the meeting place where Canadian proponents of electoral reform could engage ever more deeply with the issue that moves their hearts and minds. With a few thousand dollars of seed money, plus a plethora of social networking tools, I can pretty well guarantee they could build a community of many many thousands of Canadians around this issue. And naturally, there are many policy fields that could engage large and small groups of proponents, each with a few prominent Liberals providing the steady guiding hand. Periodically, they could be asked to contribute funds to an advertising campaign to promote their policy prescriptions to all Canadians, thus drawing in new participants, donors, volunteers, and members, whilst forever banishing the public perception that Trudeau, and the Liberal Party is bereft of ideas.

As I said earlier, I am not an expert in forums or social networking, but I guarantee that Liberals exist who ARE. I can also guarantee that without processes to draw in, and ever more deeply engage Canadians with the Liberal party, it is ony a matter of time before the Conservatives, and the NDP stomp the Liberal Party. Because the fact is that the Liberal Party IS at a policy crossroad. And both of out opponents are ideologically driven, with ideas and policy at the heart of  their party’s. My ideas along these lines may be fatally flawed, but it is definitely time to start the hard work of building the Party, and policy formulation has to be front and centre in this effort.

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Justin Trudeau ‘Anti-Attack’ ads released

OK, so I just got an emailed ‘ask’ to help pay for airing this 30 second spot. I am not an advertising expert, so I do not know how effective it will be. In essence, Justin tells us he is a Teacher and proud of it, Canadians deserve better than attack ads, and he is going to work hard. The budget so far is for $500,000 but the objecteive is to raise another $500,000 for a total buy of $1,000,000.

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Attack ads are not the issue for the Liberals. It is the lack of money.

All this focus on attack ads!

I do not normally have much to say about Air War aspects of political campaigning. Broadcast and media aspects of campaigns are important, but they are really outside my area of expertise. What I do know is that when the public gets engaged, money and volunteers flow into Party coffers, so naturally I always want to see the Air War driving traffic to websites and events where money and people can be solicited. What I can say positively is that earned media (meaning press coverage) that drives traffic to websites is unequivocably GOOD, while paid media (meaning paid advertising) seldom, if ever brings in enough resources to cover the costs. That paid media had better be performing some really vital function, because advertising has an impact only for so long as the money is flowing, and the money is NOT small. Lesson number one, media buys COST money, they do not generate it.

Earned media galore

Earned media galore

So my question now is how Trudeau should respond to the CPC advertising campaign just starting this week? Trudeau knew it was coming. He spent the entire leadership race, with absolute SHIPLOADS of earned media inoculating against it as best he may, by defining himself as an ‘anti-politician’ all positive and sweetness, with just a hint of  ‘tough as nails’. There are a number of polls say that it has worked pretty well as he might have hoped for, because for his supporters (and they are legion), they are so far calling foul instead of doubting. Trudeau shall continue to get earned media and will do his best I am sure to counteract the attack, but undoubtedly he will still suffer from those ads, and those yet to come. In fact, we can count on it, because it is easier and cheaper for the CPC to suppress support than it is for Trudeau to build it up.

There are people whose professional opinions I respect who call those polls rubbish. Warren Kinsella, arguably one of the Liberal Partys most succesful war room operatives and communications experts has said repeatedly that those attack ads are going to be devastating, and that the only solution is to fight fire with fire, and quickly. I guess he earns the big bucks by being right about his trade. I do have to ask a simple question though. For everybody calling on the Liberals to ‘counter-attack’, I am scratching my head and wondering what do you call 6 months of inoculations that have gone before? Are you suggesting adding paid attack ads into the mix, going against the grain of everything Trudeau has uttered to date by suppressing Conservative support? TWO years before the next election? With money that the Liberal Party does not really have? I am dead sure that Stephen Harper can be attacked effectively, and his support suppressed. But if and when that happens, Trudeau’s’ promises to stay positive, and all that earned media that went with it are gone, gone, gone, along with a large chunk of $$. inoculation effect vanishes, and Trudeau sinks like a stone. And the payoff? The CPC drops a couple of points in the polls, TWO YEARS before the next general election… Mulcair chortles and says ‘Thank you very much!’ Lesson number two, genuine attack ads will hurt the ‘anti-politician’ image so carefully built.

Maybe fighting back means that Trudeau should drop a few million of paid advertising into supporting his ‘anti-politician’ meme built with earned media? With TWO years to go until the next election? It is true that the only way to reach many of those seeing CPC attack ads today is to respond in the same media, in the same time slots. Normal people do not read blogs like this, or avidly consume media reports about Trudeau, or any other politician. They are emphatically NOT inoculated against anything. Those millions of people are getting their first strong impressions about Trudeau from the CPC spots they are seeing now. That is quite a dilemma for the Liberals isn’t it? They need to reach those folks who are less engaged, but they are lacking the basic requirement for a sustained effort. To whit, a steady supply of money.

If you ask me, the fundamental problem is that the Liberal Partys options are limited by their relative weakness in fundraising. Trudeau has popped maybe a $million into the bank to ‘fight back’ against those inevitable attack ads. The Conservatives are holding their breath and hoping he will respond to them in kind. Why? Because $1 million is chump change for them. They will see his million, and raise him two, and bleed the Liberals dry. The CPC do this because their donors deliver like clockwork. The Liberals are on an upwards trajectory in their fundraising, but they are not ready to compete with the Conservatives in a sustained Air War. If there were $2mm rolling in per month, then there would be any number of responses possible. The Liberals could while away the months beating the crap out of the CPC and the Dippers, or build gold statues of Trudeau in every city, lol, so job number one is creating the systems to systematically fill the coffers. I see some very positive signs in that direction, so positive that I think it may be possible to go toe to toe in an Air War next year. Time will tell.

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Here`s a surprise. The Greens kickass at political outreach while Libs CPC and NDP all FAIL.

Come on In!

Come on In!

As regular readers may have gathered, I am very interested in effective political fundraising, data management, and communications strategy and tactics. I have had practical experience in it too, so I think my thoughts are worth the Liberal Party`s time to consider. One month ago, I blogged about methods to build the database, with some basic suggestions for the Liberal Party. The post was about how to use petitions to gather contact information from highly motivated citizens. You see, a petition is an extremely effective way to collect the names and verified email addresses from people who are self-identifying with a very specific issue. In the ‘New World of Electoral Politics’, the world where Big Data is both the objective, and the means to engage in political activism, success will depend upon the ability to:

  • Build the Database with contact names, where they live, and most importantly their validated email addresses.
  • Engage supporters on their terms, and enrich your data by identifying the issues that are of burning interest to the supporter.
  • Employ effective ‘calls to action’ that harvest tangible benefits from those engaged supporters.

With that in mind, I decided to conduct a little test of  just how effectively Canada’s Political Party’s utilise the data that falls into their hands through petitions, and I had a very surprising result. The test was as simple as could be. I signed a leadnow petiton to `Save the Parliamentary Budget Office`,  that directed emails to the leaders of the 4 Party’s in Parliament, plus my local MP (who is that lame Conservative who unseated Ignatieff here in Etobicoke Lakeshore). I have preserved and briefly analysed the responses I received. To date, there are 22,295 petitioners who have responded to this specific call to action. It sounds like a very simple test, and most readers will dismiss this as a trivial pursuit question, but it is NOT. The responses are hard evidence of a serious failure of the Political communications of the three main Party`s  Here are the results, ranked from worst to best.

The Conservative Party`s grade is F–: This result surprised me the most. For all of the Conservative Party`s vaunted expertise in Big Data, and the related communications tools, I did not even receive an acknowledgement of receipt of the email from either the PMO, the CPC, or most tellingly from my local MP. I mean, what the hell are they thinking? For all they know, I am a fat cat capitalist, rolling in potentially donatable funds, with a network of Conservative buddies who LOVE Harper, but are concerned about Parliamentary accountability. There was nothing from them highlighting whatever else they think they are doing to further accountability. My suspicions are that they did little more than forward my contact info to the RCMP and CSIS as a potential ` accountability terrorist `, lol. In short, the CPC and the local MP actually hurt themselves by failing to respond in any way whatsoever. They told me that they do not give a shit what I think.

The Liberal Party`s grade is an F: Unfortunately, this result did not surprise me. I received a polite response 2 full weeks after I signed the petition. ( Petition Response from Bob Rae  ) It was a plain text email that was actually specific to the issue at hand, BUT…. The email was NOT signed by Bob Rae, but by an assistant. The formatting was primitive, without a single call to action. I am not certain what was done with the data I provided, but I suspect  it is sitting in an outlook folder with 22,295 other contacts, NOT a kick ass database like Liberalist. The reason I suspect this? I have not received any communications from any Liberal Party entity at the test email address I provided. The Liberals did not actively hurt themselves, but they did themselves no favours.

The NDP`s grade is a D: Tom Mulcair responded personally (NOT- lol) on the same day I signed the petition. ( Petition Response from Tom Mulcair  ) It was a bilingual auto-responder, with French first, then English telling me that boy, does he get a lot of email, and that I should perhaps follow one of the two links to either follow Tom on Twitter, or visit the NDP website to find out what they stand for. The formatting was a very freakin ugly font, and aside from the quick response, it said nothing whatsoever about the topic at hand. Auto-responders can be impersonal and a turn-off, and this one went out of it`s way to be an impersonal turn-off.  The one small saving grace was that there was a call to action, those two links to Twitter, and the NDP site. By itself, this response gets an F, but one week later, I received a specific response from Tom Mulcairs office. ( Tom Mulcair follow up 1  ) This second response was pretty well identical in content to the Bob Rae response, with the exception that there was a clickable link to the Parliamentary website highlighting a private members bill on the Parliamentary Budget office. That link was not to any actual NDP site, so there was no attempt to harvest me for future appeals. It doesn`t really deserve a D, but I want to acknowledge that the first crappy response was timely and had some calls to action, and the topical response was late, badly formatted, but again had some kind of call to action, (even if it was useless). Based on what I have seen, I did not make it into an actual political database though, so that D grade is probably optimistic.

The Green Party`s Grade is a B+: Now this is how you work with Data! The initial response was personally signed, but it took 5 days to get to me. ( Petition Response from Elizabeth May  ) It was specific to the issue, and it included a call to action to visit a page with topical press releases on it, BUT the links were plain text URL`s, so the only way to take action would be to copy and paste the links into the recipients browser. Kind of dumb, and a fail until you see what happens next. 4 days later, I received a very well prepared and formatted email. ( Elizabeth May follow up 1  ) In order to finish reading that second email, I had to click on a link to Elizabeth Mays constituency website. Follow that link, and you will see that hundreds and hundreds of Canadians were engaged in a discussion of the topic at hand, through a Disqus comments board. Very slick! The Green Party has thought through the value stream of voter outreach, and are utilising a cheap and effective tool to elicit further response and engagement with their contacts and supporters. The email is replete with calls to action. For example, this link invites me to `protect democracy robogate.ca`, which is intended to collect information on an issue that I may feel strongly about. The landing page was not created for nothing, it`s purpose is to find out more about ME, and what turns my crank. If I clicked on anything whatsoever having followed the link, that information would have been appended to my contact in the Green Party`s contact database, and I guarantee I would be receiving a topical email with an ask for money, time, or skills before too much time went by. There were links to social media, including the means to forward emails. Really, you should take a look at the email, it is a pretty damned good template for a very effective political communications piece. Two weeks later, Lo and Behold! I received a second very well formatted email, with all the bells and whistles. ( Elizabeth May follow up 2  ) The calls to action were shaken up a little, with similar objectives in mind, but different methods of achieving the same results. Two more weeks go by and there it is, regular as clockwork, another very well presented email. ( We Only Have Days to Stop the Canada-China FIPA  ). Again similar, with one interesting difference. There is link inviting me to share the email with my friends, that directs me to this landing page at the Green Party website. That page is intended to harvest email addresses of my friends, whilst associating them with the specific topical call to action the original letter was about. So there it is, as a result of signing a third-party petition, I have now been fully incorporated into the Green party of Canada`s mailing list, and they are effectively using that list to build their mailing list, to engage supporters and citizens with the Green party, and to build up an ever more detailed picture of their supporters through well conceived calls to action. The reason I only gave them a B+ was because the initial response should have been stronger, and they failed to go above and beyond a business standard of good and effective communications. I am a tough marker, and I agree with my old University Profs that an A or A+ has to be earned by going beyond the course material, and introducing something new and pertinent to the subject at hand.

As far as the relevance of this trivial analysis to the broader picture goes, the Green Party was in deep trouble when the per vote subsidy started to dry up and disappear. Their reaction was exemplary, they adapted to their changing circumstances by focusing on what they already did pretty well in the fundraising sphere and beefed up their email campaigning. The results are publicly available at the elections Canada political funding database. Despite the loss of subsidy funds, they are actually improving their revenues, incrementally, quarter by quarter, and this is the mechanism by which they are doing it. Liberal Party take heed! Even from the humble starting point as of today, Liberalist should be easily generating $10,000,000 per annum in donations, and that should be on a permanent upward trajectory. This stuff is so freaking easy to do, all it takes is the recognition of it`s significance, and a concerted effort to make it happen. EVERY single tool exists within Liberalist and the Party, you just need to start treating emailed communications like the solid gold that they are. rather than an irksome task of responding to pesky petitioners and constituent inquiries.

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Caption Contest!

A friend on Facebook posted this old photo of an extremely awkward Stephen Harper in a leather vest and cowboy hat. I asked my 14 year old daughter, Katherine to add Justin Trudeau stripping where Harpers shifty eyes are gazing. It is hilarious! Sorry folks, I will try to keep it more serious in the future.

Caption Contest!

Caption Contest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Justin Trudeau is just plain Wrong about Micro-Targeting being negative.

J TrudeauUh-oh. I read this article on Friday and it got right under my skin. Taken together with past statements by Justin Trudeau that he would not allow negative attacks on the Conservatives ( or presumably the NDP), I am wondering if I find myself back in Green Party Land, where warm and fuzzy thinking replaces serious analysis, organizing, and campaign planning at the decision making level? On the negative advertising front, well I don`t know. Maybe their is some substantial research extant that positive messages can be just as effective as vote suppression measures when it comes to winning elections. Without a serious quantitative analysis, I guess I am prepared to say, sure, give it a shot. Bt when it comes to labelling an analytical tool as negative?

Here`s the quote that has me worried:

`But it’s not just attack ads Trudeau is promising to eschew. He’s rejecting the entire thesis that successful political marketing means identifying potential supporters and then targeting those sympathetic segments of the population with messages tailored specifically to their concerns.

The Conservatives have used that approach successfully in Canada, as have Democrats in the United States to elect President Barack Obama.

Trudeau acknowledged that “micro-targeting” of voters is “an extremely effective way of doing politics.”

But he contended it’s a negative approach in a country as diverse as Canada. And, as practiced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, he maintained it has exacerbated regional, linguistic, cultural and religious tensions and ultimately made Canada harder to govern.”

Oh dear, please say it aint so. Communicating with people based on what topics interest them is hardly divisive is it? I mean, seriously, what the heck are you going to talk to Canadians about if you do not want to find out what turns their cranks? Big Data, and segmenting is about methodology, and organising principles. It is a systematic way of viewing the electorate in the aggregate. In other words, it is about how you view large collections of individuals. You can stick with very broad definitions like the traditional demographic groupings, like male or female, age brackets, or geographic locations, but the fact remains that these are simply proxies to assist in identifying issues that interest them. In past generations, it was assumed that being 65 years old meant that you would be totally absorbed by pensions, old age benefits and other old people`issues. Now that the tools exist to parse those demographics further, why would anybody want to retain broad proxies for what people actually think? Why not group people specifically by what actually interests them, and skip the broad demographic groupings altogether? By grouping the electorate by affinities, and issues of interest, and then mapping those segments onto geographic locations for electoral purposes, you can stop wasting resources broadcasting one size fits all messages, and focus directly on bringing your IDEAS to the people whom they are intended to help. Further than that, you can go POSITIVE in a  BIG WAY, by engaging Canadians on the topics that interest them most. The tools exist to engage a much larger community than just the Liberal party supporters and members. What could be more positive than focusing on people who are most interested in policy, and asking for their help in creating the very best policies possible?

What you choose to do with your data can be called negative, or positive I guess, but how the heck does changing the way you group your data become negative? The Conservatives have micro-segmented, and exploited some of those segments for the purpose of suppressing their votes and their interest in voting Liberal or NDP. That doesn`t mean that there is anything wrong with the methodology. I am absolutely convinced that if the Liberal Party fails to take advantage of the technology that enables micro-targeting and individualised communications, they are doomed to irrelevance. Doomed not in the long run, but immediately. Like in the next general election. I was excited by Trudeau`s assertion that ALL nominations would be open and contested. It is another great tool to build memebrship, and more importantly to gather and engage ever more supporters in rebuilding the Liberal Party. `Yep, Trudeau gets it` I said to myself. I hope that I have misunderstood this quote, or over-interpreted it, because it does not sound like someone who understands the true impact of a technological shift on electoral politics.

So in conclusion I offer this rebuttal of Trudeau’s rejection of micro targeting as `negative`. If the Liberal Party is truly going to try to engage the electorate. If the Liberal Party is truly going to engage Canadians in positive politics, it is incumbent on the Liberal Party to find out what interests individual Canadians the most, and then engage them more deeply on precisely those terms. Far from being negative, I believe that the most effective means of going positive lies in carefully managing your data, and bringing your message to those who are most interested in it.

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The Liberal Party should stand FOURSQUARE behind the Unions on Temp workers

Where is the Crimson Permanent Assurance when you need it?

Where is the Crimson Permanent Assurance when you need it?

I just popped over to National Newswatch, and I read a CBC article there about the Royal Bank eliminating the jobs of an entire department, and replacing those employees with Temporary Foreign workers imported from India. To add insult to injury, the employees being replaced are spending the last few weeks of their banking careers training the foreign workers that are replacing them.  In British Columbia, there has been a long running battle between the Unions and a Chinese owned Coal mining company. The mining company does not want to pay wages and benefits consistent with Canadian employment standards for this dangerous and dirty work, so they fiddled their hiring requirements to make fluency in Mandarin a job qualification, and brought in hundreds of ‘Temporary Foreign Workers’ from China for minimum wage. Actually, according to some reports, those temporary foreign workers purchase their jobs in China from ’employment agencies’. If there is any truth to the assertions that they pay BIG fees to their employers, they are actually earning a LOT less than minimum wage, to perform work that thousands of unemployed Canadians are fully qualified to do.

I very seldom post about issues, except as they pertain to building and growing the capacity to fight elections. It is definitely NOT because I do not care about any issues, it is because there is no shortage of people blogging or publishing about political issues of the day. Now these specific cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The terms and conditions between employees and employers are being dramatically altered in Canada, at a very fundamental level. There is an ideological war going on, where the mantra of  ‘efficiency ‘ and ‘economic growth’ is being abused to force working Canadians into a weaker and weaker bargaining position with their employers, right across the entire labour market. I simply cannot enumerate all the measures being enacted by the Conservative Government that will have significant impacts on the labour market, but here are a few of the fundamental shifts under way:

Employment Insurance ‘reforms’: How much really needs to be said about these reforms? If I had to characterise them, I would say that the intent is to reduce the bargaining power of job seekers. Recently un-employed Canadians are normally in a financial pickle. They have lost their weekly pay cheque, but they cannot discard their family and personal obligations so easily. Every measure that reduces their cash flows while job searching, and compresses the time they have to secure employment before their stop-gap EI cheques run out is designed to pressure them into accepting employment on worse terms than they otherwise might have been able to secure. A growing pool of desperate people has a fundamental and broad impact on employment conditions for ALL working Canadians. It isn’t complicated. If you have a good job, but there is an army of desperate un-employed people lined up to replace you, just exactly how will you respond when your employer informs you that they are taking away your pension benefits? Do you feel any pressure to surrender your pension so as to keep the paychecks coming in?

Temporary Foreign Worker programs: Well, what do you call a program that pretends that it is about securing skilled employees from overseas, but then allows the employer to pay minimum wages for those supposedly

But its Good for Business!

But its Good for Business!

highly skilled employees? I once hired a skilled worker from Hughes Aerospace in California. That employee had skills that were absolutely unique in the whole world. I paid a fortune in re-location costs, legal fees, and the Salary was oh-la-la. But that was OK, I got a unique skill set that allowed me to manufacture products for the space industry. THAT is the good that can come out of hiring skilled foreign workers. But the current Foreign Temporary worker program does not do anything like that. It opens up a floodgate for very cheap labour market entrants, whose terms of employment are restrictive at best, and approach indentured labour standards at their worst. The Federal Government has claimed numbers as low as 250,000 temp foreign workers are in Canada right now. Other credible sources claim as many as 500,000. It would be nice if we could believe our own Governments statistics, but the days of truthful statistics from the Federal Government are long gone, and Canadians are reduced to guessing whose lies are the most truthful in this day and age. Suffice it to say that over a quarter million positions have been sliced off the supply of jobs for Canadians. What is the impact? See my discussion about EI reforms above. More and more pressure on Canadian wage and salary earners. Fewer and fewer options to earn a buck while searching for a better job, because the quick and dirty jobs that can ease you through a rough patch are all in the hands of indentured workers. More downwards wage and benefits pressure, boy those clever Conservatives are really fixing the employment market aren`t they?

Right to Work legislation: Once upon a time, industrial and clerical workers were abused, and squeezed into inequitable employment conditions. Labour laws were wide open, job security non-existent, and large and small employers alike could dictate whatever they pleased to their employees. Then something happened that shifted the balance in favour of workers everywhere. The Trade union movement responded to those bound by the worst practices, and predatory employers. Without going into the history of the labour movement in Canada, there was a continual pressure applied to employers to improve the terms and conditions of employment. Those who failed to respond found themselves facing a Union drive, and the mere possibility of unionised workforces obliged the not so dumb organisations to pre-empt a union with ever improving labour standards. The existence of Unions in about 10% of the workforce acted as a spur, and pay scales and benefits came close to parity between unionised, and non-unionised shops. These improved working conditions led to the longest sustained economic boom in history. Ordinary working stiffs took on mortgages and bought homes of their own. Ordinary Canadians saved their pennies, and sent their children to Universities, which truly opened the doors to ALL the opportunities that this great country had to offer. Canadians have forgotten about just WHY those unions are an important part of our working lives. Any egregious prick who is skinning his or her employees could eventually expect Union organisers standing outside their doors, signing up members and showing them there IS something they can do about it. This last and final refuge for abused employees is under attack at this very moment. The so-called `right to work`legislation that the Conservative Government is itching to saddle us with, is designed to drive the last nail into the coffins of working Canadians everywhere. While Foreign Temporary workers, and restrictive EI benefits are direct manipulations of the labour market, Union busting is on a whole other plane of existence. It is all about eliminating recourse, and directly intervening in the underpinnings of our labour market by taking away the right of workers to say `no`to their employers. This is not just an assault on organised labour. Oh no, the worst afflicted will be those people who face intolerable conditions, and are no longer entitled to respond with a Union drive. The impact will not be subtle. Over time, workers WILL face more danger for less pay, less benefits, and far fewer opportunities for themselves and their children.

Canadas Temporary Foreign Worker program

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program

So you want to know what I think the Liberal Party should do about all this? I think they should grasp the nettle, publicly support the Union movement in support of a Union Registration drive on the Royal Bank. If the reports are true, then the Royal felt entitled to ignore labour law provisions, and replace skilled and well paid Canadians with imported workers that have minimal rights as employees. I mean, this stuff is really really fundamental to all of us. The equality of opportunity espoused by Liberals everywhere is being subsumed by an ideological hate-on for working and middle class Canadians. As much as the Unions are parochial, and self-centered, they have, without question, been integral to the rich and glorious way of life we all enjoy. When a truly massive employer such as the Royal Bank blatantly and conspicuously breaks the law, and employment standards to replace entire departments with indentured workers, something is seriously screwed up.

God, I can hardly believe what I am writing! Here am I, a fully fledged capitalist, red of tooth and claw urging union rights on my fellow Canadians! But you know something, I have children, as do my neighbours, and fellow citizens everywhere. A capitalist I may be, but I do NOT want to indenture my employees. I want employees who are proud of themselves, and proud of the good work they do. I want to bargain fairly with them, and I believe that their children should be educated to the limits of their abilities. I want them to be productive, and co-operate with me in delivering superior goods and services to our customers. I do not want serfs or drones, I want them to be PROUD CANADIANS. How can I possibly do this when all my competitors are paying minimum wage to deliver shoddy services, but for half the price? Not the Canada that I signed up for, and that is for damned sure. I am pretty sure that there are millions of Canadians like me. Canadians who are not enamoured of Union workplaces, but would defend the rights of workers to hold out for fair working conditions, and a decent standard of living. Surely there is room in the Liberal Party for ordinary Canadians who want nothing more than some security for themselves and their families?

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Issues based Segmenting and Targeting the new activism

Slice it and Segment it for best results!

Slice it and Segment it for best results!

I just read an excellent article on how activists, and issue advocates in Canada are adopting new techniques and models to drive their message home to Government. It seems I am not alone in my assessment that a direct one-on-one interaction with individuals presents the opportunity to more effectively engage small segments of the electorate to more readily mobilise them for political action.

I have written a number of posts recently about my belief that the Liberal Party absolutely MUST get into the game of big data management if they are to have a hope of gaining ground in the new world of electoral politics, and this article points out the way. The Liberal Party has recently had some first hand experience of how an effectively managed issues based database can be leveraged for political ends. Joyce Murray engaged with ( or was engaged by?) Leadnow and FairVote Canada to mobilise a substantial campaign for electoral co-operation. Both of those organisations were built up as online communities, engaged with a specific, and highly motivating issue, electoral reform in Canada. AVAAZ is another organisation that has proven very effective in mobilising Canadians around specific issues. Please do have a look at their websites as that is the primary tool utilised to build these substantial and effective online communities:

Leadnow Site.

FairVote Canada.

AVAAZ.

As you can see from the main landing pages of these organisations websites, their primary focus is on drawings contact information from people interested in their issues, and securing some kind of ongoing interaction so as to build engagement within their organisation. You see, every time somebody clicks on a link, signs a petition, or donates a few bucks, they are quantifying their level of engagement with both the organisation, and the underlying issue being promoted. Because this is an ongoing, and interactive process, it is possible to create a continuous flow of people becoming more and more deeply engaged in the campaign, and the organisation.

One VERY telling example of a micro-targeted campaign is where Dogwood Initiative was opposed to the China-Canada Foreign Investment treaty, so what did they do? They downloaded the list of Conservative Party donors from Elections Canada’s political finances site, and polled them directly. What they found was that the Conservative Base was very strongly opposed to the provisions of the treaty. In their case, they forwarded the results of their poll to Stephen Harper, but there are even better things that the Liberal Party could, and should be doing with the Conservative Party’s donors list. Sometimes, (but not always) the best defense is a good offense. Rather than hanging around waiting for the Conservatives to unleash attack ads, the Liberal Party should be targeting the Conservatives directly, where they will feel it very quickly, and be forced to react. I would suggest that it is time for the Liberal Party to be directly contacting the Conservative base. There will be numerous chinks in the Conservatives armour, in the form of policies that are unpopular with many of their own most important supporters (donors and volunteers). Determining WHAT those chinks in the armour are, and then exploiting them can force the Conservatives to re-trench. ALL the broadcast advertising in the world cannot stop the Liberals from systematically initiating direct contact with the average CPC donor, so an approach like this will be very hard to counter. And counter it they MUST, as it directly challenges their enormous cash flows that they need to finance broadcast advertising. If it costs $100 k to turn off the taps on $1m per year in donations, that can be chalked up as a win for the Liberals.

Anyway, there is plenty to say about specific uses of segmented data, and specific campaigns, but I hope that Liberal readers of my blog will take home some important information from these examples. Liberalist exists and is being populated with hundreds of thousands of new contacts. The tools to draw in more people, engage them more deeply with the Liberal Party barely exist.  Finally, mobilising them for effective political action seems limited to fundraising asks. These things need to be the focus of Liberal activists everywhere if we are to match the political effectiveness of the non-aligned political activist community. With two years until the next General Election, there is more than enough time to build a truly effective electoral database, perhaps even enough to win the next General Election.

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