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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How can the Green Party of Canada co-ordinate Air War and Ground War?

Dan Grice Effectively Targeted Conservative support

Dan Grice Effectively Targeted Conservative support

In some prior posts, I blogged about just how weak and ineffective the GPC’s attack on the Conservative Party was in the 2008 general election. The basic fact is that in electoral politics, if you want to attack a Party, you do so by appealing to their supporters with a message that strongly resonates, and will draw them away from their allegiance. The heightened rhetoric coming from the GPC in 2008 was counterproductive if the objective was to actually hurt the CPC. By castigating Stephen Harper in such strong language, we gave no reason for softer supporters of the Conservatives to reconsider their position, and entrust their votes to the Green Party.

I am going to make a bold assumption about the GPC’s national campaign theme, and message for the upcoming general election. Federal Council has apparently decided that there is only one overriding objective in the upcoming election, that being to elect Elizabeth May. It is becoming equally obvious that the intention is to achieve this feat by unseating Gary Lunn in SGI. Hopefully, it’s become clear to the FCC that the only way to achieve this result is to directly target, and win over Conservative voters in  SGI. If the national campaign is actually going to be delivering a (partly) Conservative friendly message, then there are quite a number of campaigns in Canada who will have a great opportunity which they should be ready to capitalise on.

Yes, there are Liberal and NDP voters who could, and should be targetted everywhere. After all, these voters are much more inclined to vote Green, and in many ridings will represent the low hanging fruit. I will guess that Ignatieff’s rejection of Dion’s Green Tax Shift, and unequivocal promotion of the Tar Sands, will give a small, but significant opportunity for us to target Liberal voters. There are places though where the local Campaign will need to focus on small c Conservative voters. I’m thinking about the obvious candidates like Bruce Grey Owen Sound, or SGI, or pretty well any riding in Alberta. I would go so far as to argue that Alberta, (and Quebec), should be planning a regional campaign, with a dramatically different theme than the rest of Canada. Any riding in Canada that has concentrated pockets of Conservative voters should have an opportunity to crack the CPC vote open a little bit, without having to expend huge resources on it.

If the ‘Air War’ is in fact going to be broadcasting a message targeting conservatives, then this will present an opportunity for most EDA’s to expand their vote in previously barren grounds. I recently commented on the GPC blogs regarding targeting the CPC vote. Dan Grice, the GPC Candidate for Vancouver Quadra responded with a link to a campaign flyer they developed to target Conservative held polls in his riding. Anecdotally, he claimed a great response, including a big bounce in the vote in those polls, and plenty of sign requests. I ask you to consider, if your campaign were to do a flyer drop into strongly Conservative polls, while at the same time the national Campaign was emphasising the same, or very similar messages over the airwaves, would this not be a very effective tool for winning support?

Co-ordinating the ground war, and the air war are pretty important in my opinion. The National Campaign will undoubtedly have a 36 day plan, with key messages, and announcements planned for maximum impact. The timing of the Air War, and some of the content will undoubtedly be a closely guarded secret. That’s all very well and good, but the secrecy must be tempered by the need for local Campaigns to plan their efforts to coincide with the national Campaign. If, for example, a major media event is planned for the leader, and if, for example, the message for this event is conservative friendly, then the local Campaigns should have the opportunity to capitalise on the exposure. They might want to print flyers, issue press releases, revise and re-target their telephone and foot canvas, in order to take advantage of the exposure the Air War has generated, and reinforce it where it will do the most good.

A very well planned National Campaign would be ready to help make this one-two punch possible. By developing a sound, and targeted message. By targeting effectively, and then developing the collateral (flyers, press release templates, subsidy for EDA’s to do targeted mailshots, etc), they will empower the local Campaigns to take advantage. Above all, by having a well planned, and resourced internal communications strategy, they will be able to co-ordinate the timing, and ensure that the right information and material gets into the right hands with enough time to act on it. All the planning in the world is wasted if  there are no people in place to make the phone calls, order and deliver flyer print runs, and make sure that the plan gets implemented. Conversely, if the National Campaign feels they don’t have the resources (people), to co-ordinate release dates like a well oiled machine, then the decision should be to lift the veil of secrecy somewhat. It would be essential to allow the local campaigns to plan for themselves how to wring the maximum benefit from the planned ‘Air War’. It’s far more important that our own campaigns are able  to capitalise, than it is to prevent our Opposition from finding out what we’re up to.

Many local campaigns won`t really have the people to divert from their ID – GOTV canvas to start doing big flyer drops in short 1 or 2 day windows of opportunity. Here is a simple model for the National Campaign, and the local campaigns to consider. Research the theme and message centrally, and test with public polls to ensure that the theme resonates with, and will convert the target demographic. Purchase the broad form census results from Statistics Canada, and use geospatial mapping tools to map the target demographic onto poll maps. When the time is right, release the poll maps to the local campaigns, with suggested targets clearly outlined. Integrate this data into Grimes database, so that the local campaign can target the appropriate voters. The local campaign can then go to Canada Posts` unaddressed, or addressed admail site, and have Canada Post deliver the appropriate flyer to the target postal walks. Canada Post makes it pretty easy to target unaddressed admail by postal walks, (the last three digits in the postal code). The costs of delivery can be reduced to below $0.12 per piece, if the National Campaign were to negotiate contract rates on our behalf. If you assume printing costs of around $0.07 per piece, then you could deliver 10,000 pieces, to a well targeted audience, at a cost of about $2,000. I know that `junk mail` is a little, (lot), controversial, but the fact remains that it is a cheap and effective way to get a whole lot of literature on target in a hurry.

It should be obvious to all that this methodology should be the same no matter who our target audience is. While I am argueing here that the message will most likely be directed at conservative voters, this is how the National Campaign should be operating whosoever the campaign theme targets.

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Managing expectations and the Green Party of Canada’s ‘message’.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May plans to take on Tory MP Gary Lunn in the next federal election. Photo Credit: Tyler Anderson, National Post

Green Party leader Elizabeth May plans to take on Tory MP Gary Lunn in the next federal election. Photo Credit: Tyler Anderson, National Post

There has been a lot of interest and discussion within, (and without) Green Party ranks regarding the big question: “Where will Elizabeth May be running in the next election?” There have been some pretty open discussions about the relative merits, and electability in given riding’s, in a kind of a guessing game based on public utterances by Elizabeth, and whatever drip-pets of information come from informal internal sources. This discussion is healthy, and without question serves a useful purpose in drawing out strategic analysis of varying quality from people both within, and without the decision making loop.

I am afraid that most of us that I am aware of, (With the notable exception of Bill Hulett, a leading light and long time organiser in the Guelph EDA), have more or less ignored the consequences of talking it up so heavily. Cast your mind back to the 2004 election, with tons of hype by Jim Harris, and GPC hacks that Greens were poised to elect MP’s all over the place. Remember the public, and media reaction to the election outcome? “Greens fail to elect MP” is a reasonably representative headline for you to think about. Again, in 2005-6, Bruce Grey Owen Sound was trumpeted as the ‘breakthrough riding’, with predictable results when the election was said and done. London North Centre by-election? Same deal, with the added salacious fact that the shiny new media star had failed to win, even in a by-election. Central Nova? There was a broad reaction that despite the presence of Elizabeth in the debate, the Green Party still came nowhere near.

Over the past few weeks, Elizabeth May has been giving interviews charging that the Green Party has a single objective, that overrides all other concerns. Electing Elizabeth May to Parliament. If you actually sit back and consider the past consequences of failing to meet very demanding self imposed expectations, this starts to look like a very very risky communications fiasco in the making. The downsides for both Elizabeth May, and the Green Party are pretty big. If Elizabeth fails to get elected in SGI, then the Green Party has failed once again.

I don’t believe it will be fatal, or even particularly injurious to the GPC. We will continue to grow our strength in more and more EDA’s, because we do have many hundreds of dedicated local activists. Every election pours resources into well organised EDA’s, and the teams get broader, and deeper in skills, experience, and raw electoral resources like ID’d voter lists. Nonetheless, it will further damage our credibility, and will provide plenty of ammunition for our political foes. For Elizabeth May, it will be a big drag on her personal profile, and will devalue her once impressive stature as one of the foremost environment advocates in Canada. It is likely, even probable that Elizabeth would lose the leadership of the Party, with the attendant loss of prestige and credibility. Not a very good outcome for somebody whose future livelihood depends on the high profile that she has spent a lifetime building.

I have been as guilty as anybody in inflating the rhetoric surrounding the choice of riding’s. It’s a choice that needed to be made, and many people wanted to influence the decision, in a positive direction. I apologise if Elizabeth thought it was needful to quell criticism by acknowledging the Party’s wishes in this way. I wonder if it is too late to wind back the clock, and start managing expectations better? What would the best route be to backtrack, and start publicising equally important, but less ‘sexy’ objectives? Should we set up broader objectives to be given equal, (at least), prominence to the laudible, but very challenging task of electing an MP?

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Just read a great post on DemocraticSPACE.com

What does the Data mean?

What does the Data mean?

I just read a great post on DemocraticSPACE.com. Greg Morrow has constructed a matrix to do comparative analysis and ranking of  electoral potential for the Green Party of Canada. What a novel thought for the National Campaign, data driven decision making!  Greg has constructed a matrix whereby he ranks every electoral district in the country by relative standings for the following variables: Membership, votes won, gap between GPC and the winner, numbers of ID’d voters, and then compiles them into a ranking from strongest to weakest riding.

 Normally I have criticisms to make about anything that anybody has to say. Call it a personality flaw, or call it attention to detail  if you’re more diplomatic. In a previous post I discussed the importance of how the vote split falls in determining the electoral opportunities facing an electoral district. Greg’s matrix should probably include a measure of close 2-way, 3-way, and 4-way splits as well. The closer the split, the more different strategies, and opportunities will exist to win votes from other Party’s. For example, if there is a close 3-way split in the vote, and there’s a 20 point spread between the GPC and the first place, the GPC has the opportunity to win votes from each of the three front runners, and build up the 20 point deficit. If there is a way out there front runner, with a 16% spread between the GPC and the winner, then the chances are the deficit needs to be made up entirely at the expense of an incumbent. The incumbency factor is very difficult to overcome, and as far as the GPC annihilating a single Party, if you believe that possible, then I’ve got a bridge for sale you should really think about.

The only other significant criticism I could make would be regarding the ID’d voter data. I can only assume  that Greg has access to civiCRM, and/or GRIMES voter ID data. Many EDA’s don’t use them. I know at least two EDA’s that have significant numbers of ID’d voters resident on custom local d-base apps. Plus there’s the stacks of paper records in most campaign managers basements, waiting for somebody to do the data entry. (Unfortunately, the data entry seldom ever happens, and the data is lost).  In London North Centre by-election, I compiled data on over 9,000 identified Green Party supporters in order to quantify the outcomes from the GOTV effort. The scrutineers sheets were sent to the shredder instead of putting in the two hours of work needed to scan in the actual voters names, so the analysis could never be done, but surely the GPC retained the lists of ID’d voters?

The above paragraph illustrates a point that most professional users of data are aware of. When you formally start quantifying things, run sophisticated analysis, and present it neatly, the conclusions take on a life of their own. They become ‘THE NUMBERS’, and are inherently believable. You need to retain your critical faculties, and dig deeper into the underlying assumptions, and data quality. In conclusion, Greg Morrow’s matrix is a most excellent tool for targeting resources, and ranking Electoral districts. There are a few flaws and/or problems, but they are readily overcome. Be sure to check it out if you plan on holding an opinion on targeted ridings.

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More ‘Target riding’ news for the Green Party of Canada.

How about Genest earning his keep in the Montmagny By-election?

How about Genest earning his keep in the Montmagny By-election?

Every Monday, I trot off to the Hill Times website to imbibe the best political reporting in the country. This morning, I saw an intriguing article entitled: May ‘closes the door’ on a byelection run for Greens, seeking new riding . As usual, it was a little frustrating to find the balance of the article blocked, and I even, (briefly) considered ponying up for a subscription so as to get the whole story NOW. It isn’t only the Hill Times, apparently Elizabeth May has told several journalists that she is out of the running for any Federal by-elections, and is focusing on finding the best riding for herself in the next General election.

The Owen Sound SunTimes seems to think that Elizabeth is looking hard at Bruce Grey Owen Sound as a target riding. (As does the Toronto Star). It is also reported that there are still 2 other target ridings. Saanich – Gulf-Islands, (SGI), and Guelph. I had been under the impression that the decision had already been made to run in SGI, but unless Elizabeth is deliberately playing coy, these interviews seem to indicate the choice is still open. Two of these ridings are pretty serious Conservative strongholds. BGOS, and SGI. There is only one way to win in either of them. That is to campaign with the message that targets the Conservatives. Please read this post I wrote in January for a nice and simple explanation. Guelph is the obvious target though. The big caveat is that the Campaign Committee needs to actually discuss this with the Guelph EDA, and see if there is enough support for Elizabeth with the local membership. There were some very upset people in Guelph last fall, but maybe they’ve gotten over their ‘mad’ enough to give a leaders campaign a whirl?

 In the same article, the Suntimes report that CCMV has been discarded, because the by-election hasn’t been called yet. Since no by-elections have been called anywhere, I think that means that Elizabeth isn’t prepared to take the risk of declaring for any by-election, and then having the rug yanked out from under her if a general election super-cedes the by-election. I can understand why. She has to win in her next trip to the polls, and while a by-election  is the best opportunity, the ridings available aren’t very good candidates for her in a General election.

 The problem of course is that Elizabeth very publicly, and frequently promised to run in the first possible by-election, so now she has to find a graceful way to back down from that commitment. In my estimation, she will have to eat a wee nibble of humble pie, and back down. It will help a lot if she were able to make a grand announcement of a couple spare deputy leaders decisions to run in Quebec, and BC by-elections. Who to get for CCMV I don’t have a clue. Better get cracking though, the by-elections will be happening this fall, and the GPC cannot afford to lose any ground in the event the general election doesn’t happen this fall.

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Green Party of Canada and the Youth Vote.

'Too busy' to vote?

'Too busy' to vote?

The Green Party of Canada has for many years enjoyed exceptional levels of support amongst younger voters. In fact, it could be successfully argued that the growth in Green Party support has roughly tracked the graduation of our youth into the ranks of voters at the age of 18. The most recent series of EKOS polls has simply re-stated something that pollsters have been telling us for the last 5 years. Green Party support comes disproportionately from young (under 25 years old) voters.

This is, of course a very positive signal for the future prospects of our Party. It comes with a built in problem though. The fact is that young people simply do not bother to get out and vote. I know that sounds harsh. I know that there are other factors to point to in every election, like exam schedules coinciding with the vote, or poor voter registration mitigating against the youth vote. These might be contributing factors, but the underlying reality is that turn-out amongst the youth is dramatically worse than any other population segment, and that has held true for many many electoral cycles. I would even go so far as to argue that a large chunk of the polled support, that always seems to evaporate on election day is due to the fact that the youth vote picked up in the opinion polls doesn’t get converted into ballots on E-day.

I just read Dave Baglers poston this issue. Dave has proposed that the solution is to mimic the other Party’s, and establish a full time Campus club organizer to improve the GPC’s presence on Campus across the country. Dave is right that this can have a huge impact in those few riding’s where a large Campus exists, like in London North Centre. I remember L.N.C. by-election pretty well. While the Campaign was overall a badly managed affair, the work that Ben West did to shake up the Western campus was extraordinary. I cannot stress enough though that this was a tactical effort, that was executed very well. Strategicallyspeaking, it simply doesn’t address the opportunity we are discussing. The resources required to duplicate this success in all the major University riding’s are not available. Even if they were, and everything went perfectly on every major campus, it would still only translate into 50,000 extra votes at best. The fact is that only a small fraction of young voters are accessible to us on campus, and at the very best this would be a small part of an effective strategy to mobilise the youth vote.

 There hasn’t been much in the way of serious tactical, or strategic discussion about what to do about it. In a sense, Jim Harris’s focus on Trippi’s social networking campaigns was driving towards a solution, but the Green Party has ultimately failed to work out a systematic approach  to boosting turnout amongst youth. In all fairness to the GPC, the NDP spent decades wrestling with the same issue, with the same result. (no change, or even a further decline).

IMHO, in order to achieve a big boost in turnout, we need to go back  to first principles, and define the problem, and proximate causes. Then we need to determine a strategy, and tactics required  to acheive the required result. This is a very ambitious project I’m talking about. In order to succeed, we will need to work it out pretty carefully, and focus a chunk of our election budget, and communications strategy towards achieving a concrete advantage.

I cannot speak for anybody but myself, but I haven’t let that stop me in the past! First off, we need to be able to target communications on this demographic. Since young people do not watch much TV anymore, the best way to reach youth is probably the ‘internet’. I would tend to agree that boring static sites are not going to help much, and interactive, and networking sites will pack the best bang for the buck. The real trick will be to focus on attracting, and retaining an audience. That includes using traditional media, ( TV and Newspaper), to promote, and highlight the online campaign. Every trick in the book should be utilised to identify, and collect contact information for Green Party supporters on-line. Self-identification, newsletter subscriptions, petition signers, ‘invite a friend’, and as many more great ideas as yet un-thought of as can, and will be forthcoming.

By itself, the exercise of identifying throngs of youthful GPC supporters will NOT solve the turnout problem. What will be needed is, (to paraphrase Monty Python), ‘something completely different’. Like what? Well, lets start by making the act of voting something interesting, and above all FUN. What I would like to propose is to turn the advance polls into a big push for the Green Party. If we build this into the communications strategy for the next National election, then I believe that we can get an enormous amount of very positive ‘old media’ coverage by running a positive campaign to boost voter turnout. If we pop a serious budget at promoting the advance polls, with a ‘non-partisan’ theme of getting out to vote at the advance polls, then we will be the biggest beneficiary of whatever success the campaign enjoys.

 It will be a message that self-inoculates against any contrary message that the other Party’s may want to respond with. Like Mother, and Apple pie, the media, pundits, and other political actors can do nothing but make positive noises about increasing voter turnout, no matter how much they might gnash their teeth at the prospect of the GPC scoring a big win. It also goes a long way towards countering the strategic voting message that the Liberal Party will be counting on to steal our vote on E-Day. In the past, the Liberals have really poured it on in the closing days of the Campaign. We really, really have to forestall this tactic in the next election. What better way could there be than to take the GPC vote out of play a week before the Liberal strategic voting campaign message starts to saturate the electorate?

Green Party Party!

Green Party Party!

In order to really capture the imagination, and motivate youth’s to vote, then we could co-ordinate a network of advance poll parties across the country. If we can promise people a great party to go to after the advance polls close, with large venues in major cities, and small and large parties alike in smaller population centres, but really push it from coast to coast, then people will have a perfectly good reason to get out and vote. It will be associated with lot’s of fun. Who knows, maybe we can fill the coffers with some ready cash if we can work it right.

The possibilities are exciting to contemplate. The GPC frankly has no hope of commanding the attention of the electorate in the last week of the election, youth or otherwise. Even if we saved every penny we could, and spent it all in a rush just before E-Day, we would still be completely swamped by the spending power of the other Party’s. The Advance polls are another story though. If we only have enough resources to dominate the news for a couple of early campaign days, then rather than dribbling out our pennies to minimal effect, why not capture the airwaves for a few days before and during the advance polls? There is absolutely no reason why we should hang around waiting for E-Day to be clobbered by the firepower of the other Party’s. A ballot cast at the advance poll is just as precious and valid as a ballot on E-Day. It serves our purposes so well, in so many different ways, that I truly believe we should think ‘outside the box’, and re-write the book on getting out the vote. Besides, the timing is perfect for every campaign to take a break after the polls close, and have a great party to charge up the Party for the last lap of the National Campaign.

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Let’s Have a look at Saanich – Gulf Islands

There has been a certain degree of speculation as to exactly where Elizabeth May will run in the next general election. Mark Taylor posted in Report on Greens that Elizabeth is going to be running in Saanich – Gulf Islands, (SGI). There have been public statements to the effect that SGI was one of 5 or so target ridings, so the choice is a plausible one. I just finished reading an extensive Elizabeth May interview in the Island Tides, and it sure sounds like a Saanich campaign is in the offing.

Whether or not Saanich is the best riding is a point I will gloss over for today. The fact is that the decision is beyond our control or influence, so I’ll focus on what is, rather than what might be.

First off, a quick look at the published census profile of the riding. If you segment the population by the same age brackets EKOS used in their monster polls in June, and then use the regional (BC) EKOS numbers on vote intention by age, you get the following estimate of current voter intentions to vote Green:

For voters 25 and under, there are 10,105 electors. @20.6% that yields 2,081 votes.

For voters 25-44 there are 23,435 electors. @9.9% yields 2,320 votes.

For voters 45-64, there are 36,895 electors. @9.9% yields 3652 votes.

For voters 65+, there are 25,265 electors. @6.1% yields 1,541 votes.

For the other Party’s the projection is as follows: CPC: 25,902 votes. LIB: 16,765 votes. NDP: 17,630 votes.

This yields an estimated total of 9,594 Green Party voters. Please remember that the actual voter turnout will be between 70% and 74% based on past elections. Historically the Green Party voters have a worse turnout than the other Party’s, but if we assume that the leaders premium overrides this then there are 6,716 votes to be had on eday, all other things held the same.For the other Party’s the projection is as follows: CPC: 25,902 votes. LIB: 16,765 votes. NDP: 17,630 votes.

Contrast this to the last election:

Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Conservative Gary Lunn 27,988 43.43 +6.28
Liberal Briony Penn 25,367 39.36 +13.28
Green Andrew Lewis 6,732 10.45 +0.51
New Democrat Julian West 3,667 5.69 -20.85
Libertarian Dale P. Leier 246 0.38
Western Block Party Patricia O’Brien 195 0.3 +0.03
Canadian Action Jeremy Arney 139 0.2
Christian Heritage Dan Moreau 114 0.2
Total valid votes 64,448 100.00%

Please note that the NDP numbers are skewed to hell. Julian West was the unfortunate dipper candidate who withdrew from the race over an earth shattering skinny – dipping scandal. ( What a ridiculous non-controversy!) It could be argued that the NDP turnout was too high, as we have heard that somebody, (obviously a CPC ally), was making a lot of GOTV calls on behalf of the withdrawn dipper candidate. The turnout was a little lower than expected, but as you can see, it was the Liberal Party under Briony Penn that benefitted the most from Julain Wests withdrawal. They exceeded expectations pretty dramatically, with growth of  8,100 votes over the 2006 election. The balance of the lost NDP votes went over to the CPC, (about 3,500).

OK, I can hear the sceptics now. ‘The NDP voters didn’t move over to the CPC’. Probably fewer then 2,000 did, but whether they were replacing Liberal voters who wouldn’t vote for an environmentalist like Briony Penn, of whether they moved directly over to the CPC is quibbling. The fact is that the tea leaves were shaken up, and the CPC gained 3,500 odd votes, between all the strategic, and non-strategic shifts the voters chose to make.

Having taken a quick look at the past, what needs to be done to win the next election?

First off, Briony Penn and the Liberals had it just about as good as it gets in 2008. There was a lot of pressure from former Greens to vote strategically Liberal to oust Lunn. Julian West got the bums rush, so I would judge that the Liberals got about as many anything but Conservative voters as could conceivably be motivated. It won’t work as well for the Greens, because the past Liberal vote is likely to be more resistant to a strategic shift than either the Greens or Dippers. Yes, the campaign will need to play that card very strongly, and there will be a strong response to it, but it will still leave the GPC short by 15,000 votes or so. Then there is the Leaders premium. That will pull a few thousand votes from Lunn, and the others, but overall will still leave a substantial deficit. If I had to guesstimate, without the benefit of polling, the EMay campaign will come up 6,00 – 8,000 votes short of the CPC numbers.

This shortfall must be made up at the expense of the Conservatives. There are only two things to consider. Either the Conservative turnout must be suppressed by the whole amount, or 1/2 of the 8,000 needed Conservative voters must be converted to Greens, or both must happen proportionally. In my opinion, it will be extremely difficult to manage a narrowcast message to Conservative voters that will acheive the desired result, without impacting the anything but conservative vote switchers. Since it cannot be narrowcast, it will need to be a big part of the broadcast Campaign Theme, and message. I am not a BC’er, and I know very little of the local population. If I am correct in my analysis so far, there needs to be a very strong Green message that will appeal to older Conservative voters. It will need to be delivered again, and again. It will need to be re-inforced at the National level, with broadcast media coverage, as well as at the doorstep, and local media by a hard hitting local campaign. It will be incumbent on the Canvas Chair to ensure that excellent voter records are maintained, with Liberal, NDP, and CPC voters identified no less than GPC voters. Why? Because with all these things positive things put together, we’re still likely to come up short. That means that there will need to be a dirt dishing canvas, or even a push poll to suppress the Lunn turnout. I really don’t like push polling. I think it’s deceptive, underhanded, and has the potential to backfire because most normal people would share this opinion, and would react accordingly if it were publicised that it was happening. Nonetheless, we are playing ‘for keeps’, and this tactic, or something like it must definitely be considered by the campaign team if they are to leave no stone unturned.

For those of you who are scratching their heads, ‘What the heck’s a push poll?’, a push poll is where telephone calls are made to the target audience. The push poll pretends to be an opinion poll, but the ‘survey’ attempts to manipulate the voter through carefully constructed leading questions. A hypothetical, and extreme example would be: ” Would the fact that Gary Lunn is a known pedophile affect your decision to vote conservative?” Lunn is obviously no such thing, but just try to refute it once the push poll has reached several thousand gossiping voters. The best push polls at least will stick to elements of the truth. Obviously, a publicly known foible, or statement by the opposition is the best handle to hang an attack like this on. It’s still fundamentally dishonest, because of the pretense that the caller is non-partisan, but at least then it is pointing out something in the open public record.

Whatever the Campaign decides, the point I want to emphasise is that SGI has a lot of older, and predictably Conservative voters. The Green Party needs a really solid Campaign theme targetted at this demographic. They also need to retain the Green, and younger vote, so the theme must have some appeal for every part of the age spectrum. If they plan on being vitriolically anti-Conservative, we lose. Don’t go there. In a riding with very weak Conservative support, then setting up a CPC ‘Straw Man’, and metaphorically beating the crap out of it might be a successful strategy, but in SGI it’s guaranteed to fail.

Apart from the Campaign Theme, there are a number of things that need to be prepared, starting now. The Campaign needs to be well staffed, with experienced campaigners. I think this will be easier in Saanich than in many other places in Canada. When the announcement is made, (and it should be soon), then it should be coupled with appeals in the local media for campaign volunteers. The Campaign manager should be experienced, and professional. I’d suggest going outside the Party to find real skills, and paying a decent salary to ensure retention. There should be a lot of locally advertised and promoted events over the summer to ensure the word gets out, and the Liberal and NDP volunteers will either step out, or perhaps even join the Greens rather than work their hearts out on a doomed effort. This riding will be difficult, but if the ground war is competently managed, and the theme is well constructed, then this might be the first Green riding in Canada.

As a post script, this choice of ridings, and theme will have an impact across the country. If YOU are a GPC activist in a currently Conservative held riding, you should plan to make an extra effort this time. Assuming the Saanich Campaign does the right thing, and directs the National Campaign to serve the Saanich campaigns needs, then your target electors are going to be older Conservatives as well. Just be aware in your’ planning that the Campaign message in the media is likely to be Conservative friendly. Many Greens really dislike the Reform Conservatives in power. If you want to hit ’em where it hurts, smother them in honey, not vitriol. Appeal to the CPC voter, and you’ll actually be doing something about it. I promise you, it will feel better to see a strategy of splitting the CPC vote succeed in throwing the rascals out of power, as opposed to saying lots of nasty things about them, which helps them into yet another minority CPC Government.

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Great News for the Green Party: Campaign Plan in the offing?

logo_torontostarThanks to Ken Summers for pointing me at this Toronto Star article. Is it too much to hope that the Green Party is going to do something waaaay more sophisticated than past practice? I hope I’m not reading the tea leaves badly, but it could be that this blog, and some other constructive criticism around the ‘corridors of power’, (OK, around the campfire  of power), are having an impact.

First off, it’s official, and public. The Green Party is focusing on the obvious potential ridings as target ridings for the leader to run in.

“The party is polling and testing the ground, in an unprecedented way, May said, in ridings such as Guelph, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, and Saanich-Gulf Islands, where the Greens did well last year.” CCMV is also a target riding, according to the Star article. What really grabbed my attention was the enigmatic comment about polling and testing the ground in an unprecedented way. I have posted quite a few times regarding target ridings, how to target your demographic, and how to organise on the ground. I have often stressed that the purpose of opinion polls for our needs is to identify issues, and the target audience that is susceptible to our message on the issues. Polling should be used to hone, and fine tune the message. It’s not enough to think you’ve got the message that will win over a specific group of voters. You need to test the targets, test your issues, then test the specific message, and campaign theme. Could it be that this is what she is referring to?

Why is it so important? Because when you have collected the right data, and use that data to inform your decision making, then you will make much better decisions. I have posted before that BGOS is a tough riding to win in, because it will entail a frontal assault of the Conservative vote. Given straight data on what messages will shift which people, this becomes so much more plausible. I could be completely wrong in my assumptions. It could be that conservative voters are the low hanging fruit, and that a Green Party message of fiscal conservatism is a Conservative killer, that will sweep Owen Sound before it. I sure hope so!

I’m going to make the assumption that this is the kind of polling being done. I know that there are competent people in the Green Party of Canada who will know what to do with this data. Rob Rischinski, several times candidate for Parkdale-High Park is a Geographer with Statistics Canada. There are any number of actuaries, and knowledgeable people like Michael Moreau as well. With the purchase of the National census results, it will be relatively easy to hold the key to the best possible electoral outcome for the Green Party in the next election. By feeding the results of the issues based polling back into the national population, we can build up a broader list of second tier target ridings. These will be the ridings that don’t neccesarily have the organisation on the ground to win right away, but that will respond most positively to the campaign theme and message. Depending upon the national strategy, these ridings can be given a little special attention, because they will be the places where the best results will be garnered from the specific policy prescriptions and message developed during strategy formulation. In fact, every riding in Canada could benefit from this analysis. It will take a lot of preperation work, but those same statisticians, and geographers working on riding analysis could just as readily find target polls, and provide maps to help every riding in Canada identify the polls where the national campaign will have the most resonance, and impact. The local campaigns can then focus their canvas, signs, flyer drops, etc. on the specific populations that are most responsive to our message.

Other things remaining equal, I believe that this approach will yield at least a 2% increase in our vote on eday. That increase will be concentrated in ridings where there is already a basic organisation that is capable of implementing a coherent campaign plan. I can assure my readers that there will be a whole lot more target ridings to be assessing when the preperations for a subsequent general election are under way.

I hope that I haven’t read too much into these chance comments of Elizabeth May’s. I hope that this is indeed what is going on. However, if the GPC is in fact conducting this most excellent research, then the next Federal Election will be the most important Party building exercise since the 2004 election. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, and keep on blogging!

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More detailed analysis of the relationship between spending and the Green Party of Canada vote.

In March, I published a post on the correlation between campaign spending and vote outcomes for the Green Party of Canada. I gathered together the Green Party of Canada Campaign spending data and votes results for 102 Ontario Ridings. Recently, Michael Moreau, a Green Party activist from Winnipeg commented on my basic correlation numbers, and pointed out that correlation is a poor analytic tool by itself. Since Mike is a mathematician, and knows what he’s doing, I sent him the raw data I compiled, and he produced some very interesting analysis. Mike’s blog is the Don Street Blog. What follows here is paraphrased from his reply to me, with some judicous cropping and editing.

 Mike ran a non-linear and linear regression analysis of the 102 ridings for which we have data. The non-linear graph tells us that there may be differing sensitivity of vote% gain to extra dollars – that in fact an extra $1 is worth more for the smallest of campaigns. However, there is little correlation improvement between the non-linear and linear, so we can use the linear model.

All reported Ontario campaigns: Linear

All reported Ontario campaigns: Linear

 

The linear model of the 102 reported ridings is the most important graph. It tells us that there is a massive correlation between the two variables. In fact, given a degree of freedom of 100, we can be more than 99.999% certain of the correlation existing! Now, the regression line tells us a lot, too. It predicts that for every $1000 in increased spending, we will get 0.1836% more vote total. In other words, it predicts that we will gain 18.36% over a base total by spending $100,000 in the riding. Unfortunately, at some max $100,000 in spending, the model predicts only 24% of the vote share for the Greens in an average riding. That means that at base support levels in 2008 for the GPC, no Green could be elected by only pumping in money. But, the money gets us closer.

Under $5,000 spending

Under $5,000 spending

Now, the other graphs zoom in on certain money ranges and tell us that the relationship between spending and vote% is fairly consistent at any level. The lowest range ($0-$5000 in spending) is a bit of a dog’s breakfast, though, since there are so many other factors at play in those locations. There is some evidence that extra dollars at that level are more effective – but not too much evidence. We cannot be statistically certain that an extra dollar spent is more effective in a riding with little money versus in a riding with more money – just that a dollar is effective. In other words, we can’t say that the GPC should funnel money to smaller EDAs to help kick-start their campaigns – but, we suspect that this is money is more efficient in those ridings than in the ridings with $40,000 already in play.

 

Finally, there is a 95% confidence interval to deal with. No one much cares about this at this stage, but for $10,000 spending in a randomly selected GPC

Ontario Over $5,000 spent

Ontario Over $5,000 spent

race in Ontario in 2008, the model predicts that vote total would be 7.723% plus or minus about 4%. That is to say that we can be 95% confident that with $10,000 spent, you would receive between 3.7% and 11.7% of the vote share. Such a wide range reflects the fact that there are many other factors at play. So, using the regression analysis to predict a vote share result entirely based on spending is faulty. However, we can say for certain that increased dollars equals increased vote % in a particular riding – and $10,000 gives us 1.836% more vote share.

 

STRATEGICALLY:

 

If the goal of GPC is to increase vote share overall, money can be sent anywhere, but we suspect (and have a little evidence) that “seed money” in small ridings can be the best use of resources. This money should only go to ridings where there is someone organized enough to spend it effectively and efficiently, though.

 

If the goal of the GPC is to gain “beach-heads”, then GPC should fully fund EDA’s where the Greens have a solid base of support, many volunteers, and a credible candidate. However, there should be some caution here. Only 4 green campaigns spent more than $42,000 in 2008, so we cannot be certain that the linear relationship between vote share and spending continues at higher spending levels. There could be any number of results.

Finally, regardless of the strategy, money should only be sent to ridings which meet certain criteria for federal funds. Those criteria should include – but not be limited to – number of members, vote gap between green vote and riding winner, organized EDA, evidence of past effective use of funds, and intangibles such as the candidate nominated.

This ends the first in (hopefully) a series of data crunchings from GPC Ontario 2008 and Canada 2008.  

The above is largely Michael’s analysis. The conclusions are his, and are certainly subject to discussion. The Data is what it is, and at least subsequent discussion will be based on honest to goodness data, instead of conjecture, and plausible but untested intuition and opinion. I for one will be revisting my past conclusions about beachhead vs. rising tide national strategy. I think that more than ever our strategy needs to be more sophisticated, looking at both rising tide, and targetted efforts. The better we can understand both the limitations, and opportunities that face us, the better decisions we may make in the runup to the coming election.

UPDATE JUNE 23: Alice Funke at “The Pundit’s Guide” published a post on the relationship between spending and voter outcomes last month. For those of my readers who are involved in planning the next GPC campaign, they should read this post, and draw the appropriate conclusions regarding the likelihood of NOT earning a financial return on a rising tide strategy. (There are some good reasons to broaden the target, but nort broaden it to 308 target ridings.)

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Green Party: 2009 election and the Health Care Issue.

Really Really big survey

Really Really big survey

I have been sitting on a draught of this post for about a month now. It was simply a matter of time before a major poll came out with some convincing evidence to support my thesis. That is that the Health issue is one important direction the Green Party can move in order to broaden our support base. Now we have the second poll in the massive series that the CBC has commissioned from EKOS.

In a recent post, I suggested that Health care is a major issue that has simply dropped off the radar in the last two elections. It’s not because Canadians don’t care about it anymore, because they do. It’s not because it isn’t important, because it still gobbles up about 10% of our GDP. It’s not because it’s somehow been fixed, because there’s no permanent fix for people getting sick. It’s because the major Party’s have decided that elections are about slanging wars, sound bites, and that policy can jolly well take a back seat.

Green and Healthy choices

Green and Healthy choices

This content vacuum is a great opportunity for the Green Party. Yes, we certainly want to take back the Carbon Shift for our very own. That is an obvious major plank in our upcoming election plans. I propose that a second major plank should be a robust preventative health care program.
I have been digging up numbers, and there is lots of evidence to support my contention. Ipsos Reid released a poll on Dec. 4, 2008 in which 76% of  Ontarians believed that there were toxic chemicals in their environment, 77% believed that there were toxic chemicals in the products they use, and over 80% believed that these toxins could be harmful to themselves or their families. These are pretty direct fears, and I believe it’s the kind of material that can motivate people to change their voting behaviour.

The EKOS Poll didn’t ask a specific question about Health Care. Instead, they asked a catch all question about ‘Social Issues’, which included Health Care. The ranking of the top issues is here:

Top issue for next election:
¤ 35% social issues
¤ 27% jobs & unemployment
¤ 18% debt & deficit
¤ 11% climate change
¤ 10% none of the above

The Green Party has pretty dismal poll results in all these policy areas with the obvious exception

Liberal Policy: Prepare a $$Billion injection!

Liberal Policy: Prepare a $$Billion injection!

of climate change. I don’t think that the Liberals will miss the boat in the upcoming election. They will have spending promises, and I will bet dollars to donuts that they will have a carefully crafted Health Care message to trot out. It should be no great trick for the Green Party of Canada to have a really well differentiated Health Policy. The trick will be to help steer the conversation in this election away from the economy, where the GPC fares miserably in the electorates eyes.

Obviously the Conservatives will be in a cleft stick. Their leader is at an all time nadir in popularity and trust measures. They can be castigated on the Economic front, and will be seeking to steer the election towards the right wing fluff they call policy. Mandatory prison time for dope smokers. No early release for convicts. Minimum sentences, etc. It’s the Liberals who will be both our closest ally, and our deadliest foe. How would it be if we were able to tag team with the Liberals by talking up the Health issue, but by presenting a dramatically different policy prescription? I don’t think we’ll have enough traction to bring Health to the forefront of the campaign by ourselves. If we are pulling in tandem with the Liberals, then it provides Ignatieff with a debating partner for a public dialogue, which will eventually oblige the Tories and Dippers to defend their turf on this issue. So long as they are all talking about it, and we are saying something valuable and really quite different, then it will expand the pool of voters available to us.

I will confess a personal bias on this issue. When I first joined the Green Party it was because I was upset that the proximate causes of my infant daughters Asthma were simply not on the political radar screen. The rest of the Green Party platform at the time was eminently sensible policy, that appealed to the small business owner that I was, but the impetus to consider change was the issue that touched me deeply, and personally. To whit, my families health and security. I hope that I’m not falling into the trap of assuming that my own experience is universally applicable. Perhaps this anecdote will help my readers though, because it illustrates just how this issue is different from most other issues available to us. When it has an impact, it is truly visceral, and touches people in a place that will influence them strongly.

Whether I’m wrong or right in this post, I still believe that there is an election right around the corner. This is the kind of thinking that absolutely needs to be happening at GPC Headquarters. WHAT is the objective in this campaign. WHERE are we going to focus our efforts to acheive said objective. Who are our target voters that will get us there, and precisely what message are we going to deliver that converts those electors into Greens?

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