Green Party of Canada: An election result with mixed blessings

Well that was an eye popper of an election, wasn’t it?

Last night, Elizabeth May became the first Green Party candidate elected to Parliament in Canadian History. She didn’t win by a little, and it wasn’t a squeaker. The Green Party annihilated Gary Lunn, former Minister for Sport with the final numbers coming in at 46.26% for Elizabeth May, 35.59 % for Gary Lunn, of the Conservatives,  11.89% for Edith Loring-Kuhanga of the NDP and 6.26% for the hapless Renee Heatherington of the Liberal Party. There isn’t much point in dragging over the entrails of the SGI race, it boils down to the fact that the Green campaign successfully picked up the bulk of NDP and Liberal supporters, carved a little wedge out of the CPC support, and Gary Lunn’s vaunted organisational strength failed to get his voters out in sufficient numbers, whilst the Greens did not fail at the GOTV.

So what does this mean? First off, it means that Elizabeth May now has a great deal more credibility on the national stage than she did 24 hours ago. The growing doubts in the minds of many electors will be erased, and the simple possibility of electing Greens has been established. When Elizabeth May talks to reporters in the House in Ottawa, it will be as a sitting member, not as a spectator in the gallery. Elizabeth May will enjoy a substantially larger salary than she had as Leader of the Green Party, and will now have funds for Constituency office(s), staff in Ottawa, and Saanich Gulf Islands. That is pretty good news for her closest supporters, who might have been on the unemployment line in a few months otherwise. In SGI itself, there is now the opportunity to work hard at the constituency office, and cement the ridings votes in one at a time by doing what good constituency offices do, helping the electorate in their dealings with the Federal Government. I suspect that Elizabeth May is about to learn a whole lot more about the inner workings of the immigration department! Then there is the televised election debates. There is no way in hell that Elizabeth May can be excluded next time, for what it’s worth. Perhaps I speak too soon though. In a Canada with a majority CPC government, any nastiness now seems possible, and somehow I don’t find it implausible that the CPC will enforce their own criteria for debate inclusion on the broadcast consortium.

For the rest of the Green Party of Canada, it is pretty bad. The vote total came in at 3.9% with (approximately) 575,000 votes. Ouch! The 2004 election, was considered a great victory for the Green Party, which came out of nowhere as Jim Harris led the Green Party to an electoral showing of 582,247 votes nationwide, and a vote share of  4.3%. Jim Harris was deemed to have failed in the 2006 election, because he only grew the vote marginally to 4.6% of the vote, and his replacement as leader, Elizabeth May grew the vote share to just shy of a million, and 6.8% share of the ballots cast in 2008. I have yet to dig through the electoral results to see just how this collapse in green votes has impacted various ridings and regions in Canada, but even a casual glance reveals a crushing blow. Ottawa Centre, the riding built up by David Chernushenko until his departure from the Green Party collapsed with a final tally of  5.04%. Far from getting their expenses rebate (at 10% vote level), they halved their vote, and lost a whole bunch of funding from the per-vote subsidy. Bruce Grey Owen Sound had a heartbreakingly close result, with a 9.98% vote share. It looks like they may have missed their rebate by a handful of votes. Guelph, once the strongest Green Riding in the country was annihilated with a vote share of  6.29%. That is good news for Elizabeth May, there is no way that any rivals can rise to challenge her from the embittered Guelph Greens. In fact, the only Green Ridings that I found quickly that will get their election expenses rebate is Dufferin Caledon, led by the able Ard Van Leeuwen, Vancouver Centre, led by Adraine Carr, and SGI with Elizabeth May. I am sure there will be a few others, but the long term strength and growth of the Green Party in Toronto was squashed last night. I cannot speak for the rest of the country, but I know that the Green Party leadership fiasco last summer literally eviscerated the Toronto area ridings, when all their hard work and planning for a leadership convention was superceded by the constitutional shenanigans to avoid the mandated leadership race. Most of those activists simply left the Party in disgust, and as a result, the Greens had no detectable presence in the bulk of Toronto for this election.

So that leads us to a (quick) discussion about the finances of the Green Party of Canada. The National Party fought their usual battle in council about how much they would borrow for the election. Well, the bad news is that they raised their borrowing limits at the last-minute, but the good news is that most of it will be repaid immediately out of the elections expense rebate the National Party will receive. This means that unlike in 2008, the Green Party will be starting from a debt free position. Of course, with a massive drop in the number of votes received, the Green Party’s funding from the per vote subsidy will collapse from close to $2,000,000 per annum, down to $1,150,000. I am willing to bet that for however long the subsidy remains, an empowered Elizabeth May will be withdrawing the revenue share from the EDA’s, and bolstering the central office with those funds. Whether she does, or not will shortly be rendered moot, since the CPC will undoubtedly press their partisan advantage on all fronts now. I can guarantee that the per vote subsidy will be gone sooner than later. Either the Green Party of Canada leadership is going to suddenly become expert at organising at the grass-roots level and fundraising, or they are going to be eliminated at the riding level, and permanently hobbled at the National level. I have said it before, although I doubt that I will bother to say it again, the current leadership are very poor managers, and I do not belive that they will manage to become adept fundraisers and organisers. Since the membership, and EDA organisations imploded across the country, there is no other place for them to look for organisational strength. There was still a vestige of experienced Greens who were hanging on to see if Elizabeth May would lose, and a new leader would be selected, but that hump will evaporate now.  The GPC Leadership has not exhibited much interest in building at the local level to date, so this implosion is likely to be sustained. That means folks, that we have likely witnessed the birth of the Elizabeth May party, and the end of a National Green Party of Canada. Hey, maybe I am wrong, what do you think? Can the Green Party survive the elimination of the vote subsidy with Elizabeth May at the helm?

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Green Party Canada: Advance Polls and the Youth Vote.

Green Advanced Polls

Green Advanced Polls

This post addresses two seperate themes. The local SGI campaign to elect Elizabeth May to Parliament, and the National Campaign’s progress. Over the last week or so, I have been pleasantly surprised by some potentially effective campaign initiatives being implemented by the National Campaign. Somebody in Ottawa actually knows what they are about, and are getting stuff done that is going to get out the vote for the Green Party of Canada.

The Green Party of Canada is actually campaigning on two fronts. The first, and publicly stated ‘overarching’ objective is to get Elizabeth May elected to Parliament in SGI. I blogged on the decision to run in SGI waaay back in July 2009. It is clear that in order to win in SGI a significant chunk of voters, (3,000 votes minimum) will need to be poached directly from Gary Lunn’s Conservative support. In order for this to happen, the SGI campaign will need to broadcast a Conservative friendly message, and the National air war (media coverage) will need to reinforce these specific themes. The other side of the coin is that the Conservative vote in SGI will need to be suppressed a bit, and die-hard Conservative voters will need to be persuaded to stay at home on E-Day. Since a large proportion of people vote by Party affiliation, and their loyalties, (especially Conservative voters) are fixed, the easiest way to keep them at home is to convince them that the Candidate is not worthy of their vote. That means directly attacking the record, and character of Gary Lunn.

So why am I pleasantly surprised? First off, the GPC platform is once again promoting fiscally conservative policies. That is a given, and for people who actually read Party platforms, it will continue to shake peoples pre-conceived notion that the Greens are a left wing Party. The National camaign has been issueing media releases that speak to conservative voters. What do I mean?, well here’s some examples like a sort-of endorsement by Joe Clarke, Paul Martin, and Brian Mulroney.

Then there is the ‘Dark Side’, with media events like the joint Linda Keen/Elizabeth May press conference setting the stage to slag the incumbent, Gary Lunn’s handling of Nuclear Safety, and his subsequent demotion. It is ‘revalations’ like this that establish, and build on public perception of the Incumbent that will get some of those die-hard Tory voters to stay at home.

There are numerous sprinklings of very SGI specific media releases coming out of the National Office, which is a real bonus for any local Campaign. After all, people expect to read about the local Candidates and issues in the local village rag, but when the Globe and Mail, or CTV are talking about their issues, with Elizabeth May’s name attached, it packs about a million times the punch.

Then there is something unprecedented that popped into my inbox last week. I received an email from the National Campaign, which I can only assume was recieved by the entire contact lists. The email encouraged me to join a national effort to ID the vote in SGI through the virtual phone bank. It is unprecedented during a national election, because normally one would expect Green Party members and supporters to be working diligently on their local campaign. Since there is a decided lack of effective local Campaigns, why not serve the primary objective and put hundreds of people to work building the E-Day database for SGI?

Now I do not know how effectively the SGI campaign is using these tools. I do not believe they will win, because it was such an uphill battle, but IF they are re-canvassing the undecideds right now, making conversion pitches with targetted electors, and highlighting negative aspects of Gary Lunn’s record, they will be on track to pull off an upset. I am pretty solidly on the record in opposing this single minded focus on Elizabeth May, but there is still the possibility that she may retrieve her career as leader of the Green Party, and put the puck in the net on eday.

Now the second reason I am encouraged has implications for the other  303 campaigns. (The Party came up short on the full slate). Back in July 2009, I blogged on the youth vote, and the importance of maximising turnouts amongst the demographic most inclined to vote Green. I wasn’t joking when I said it would be very difficult, but I still believe that my analysis was spot on. Collecting contact information, and then associating the act of voting with FUN is a good starting point. Since younger voters primarily get their information online, end-running the traditional broadcast and print media is critical to presenting any effective message whatsoever to the under 25 set. I have also posted repeatedly on the under used opportunity of the Advance Polls, and just how important it is to get the GPC vote in the bag before the big drop off in support in the final week of the campaign.

There has been a consistent attempt to enhance the online presence of the GPC, and some pretty nifty looking tools are being rolled out. For a couple of weeks at the beginning of the campaign, every time I googled a topic related to the election, there was a GPC adwords advertisement presented. Very good targetting in my opinion. I do not know how much the GPC is paying for the clickthrough, but it is obvious that drawing people to the website, and collecting information about them is critical to the short term electoral goal of getting out more voters. The GPC should NOT be wasting money broadcasting impressions to the general population. You have to pay for every broadcast impression, and too few of the general population are prospective supporters. IF you are paying to reach out, then only paying when you actually connect, (adword clickthroughs), or targetting the message at a more recpetive audience, (Radio and direct marketing) are a much better use of scarce resources.

Last week, the GPC unveiled a new iphones app to help Greens connect. Now I do not think it took fire virally or anything, but this is an interesting tool for getting out the vote, and it will have a dis-proportionate impact on youthful voters. I imagine this was expected to support the big GOTV push for getting out the under 25’s. We have all seen and heard about Vote Mobs on Campus, well it is no surprise that the organisation and execution of these fun and engaging events was helped by the Green Party campus organisations. The National Campaign has also made a genuine effort to get out the vote to the advance polls. When I saw this video prominently featured on the home page of the GPC site, what I saw was a message that purports to make voting fun. It will be very difficult to push it out into the public space, because there are so few activists campaigning locally, but the direction, and intent are very sound indeed. Call this the test, and the next election will hold the opportunity to learn from WHY it did not work as hoped, and make the improvements that will make it work in the future.

And then, to cap it off, I was actually robo-dialled with an advance poll GOTV message from Elizabeth May this morning. It may not seem like rocket science that in the total absence of a volunteer base in most of the country, the National Campaign should be taking such measures to get out the vote. You must believe me though, this is unprecedented for the National Party. I remember well the scorn I recieved when I used robo-diallers to GOTV for Elizabeth May’s by-election campaign in London North Centre. Well it appears that the disdain from on high has been overcome, and a useful little direct communications tool has been incorporated into the National Campaign arsenal. Not only that, but the fact that any resources whatsoever were dedicated to GOTV for the advance polls indicates that a realisation of the significance of the classic GPC death spiral in the last week of a campaign, and the need to counteract it has taken root somewhere at a decision making level.

So there it is, and here we are. I still think that the Leadership of the Green Party has failed the Party by ignoring the need to organise, recruit, and build more and more effective local campaigns. I do not think that the type of issues research that allows really effective campaign messages to be crafted has been undertaken, so the messaging is pretty unsophisticated, and hit and miss. But given the strategic direction that the Leadership has decided to take, of electing Elizabeth May at any cost, the National Campaign team has done pretty well given the limitations that poor organisation have imposed. Will it succeed? We will find out in a little more than a week.

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Green Party Canada: Week 2 of the 2011 Election

So Sunday marked the end of week 2 of the 41’st General election, and I have to say this was not a remarkable week for the Green Party.
First off, there is the Debate on the Debate. As I mentioned last week, the issue generates some great positive publicity for the Green Party of Canada, but it does not go very far in giving Canadians a reason to vote for, donate to, or join the Green Party. That was the communications task for the National Campaign, and they didn’t put the puck in the net… The demand democracy site put up by the GPC to harvest petition signatories has added another 12,000 signatories since the initial 108,000 but that is pretty well it.  The landing page does a great job of arguing for inclusion in the debate, but I do not see how it advances the cause of the Green Party. While there is a ‘donate’ button, it is not central, it is kind of an afterthought. There are no links to the green party website, no policy statements, no call to action above and beyond the debate question.

This Mondays court challenge came and went so quick, I blinked and missed the media coverage. So the court challenge came and went, the issue stirred up a deal of noise, but I do not really see it having much of a direct impact on the election. In a sense, it may even be counterproductive. If you Google News ‘Green Party Canada’ you will see literally hundreds of articles about the debate, but it is pretty hard to find much else about platform, or issues. I wish Jim Harris were still there, he understands that when you get the spotlight, you squeeze it for measurable and quantifiable benefits. He would have been entreating Canadians to join the Green Party, donate, and make your voice heard, but that’s a whole another story… The debate is coming up fast, and Elizabeth May is still working it as hard as she can, but to what end I wonder? I guess she’ll get some great interview opportunities on debate night, I only pray that she uses them to highlight something OTHER than the debate about debates. After all, this is the only major national media coverage the GPC is likley to get once Elizabeth returns to SGI for the final stretch….

On a more positive front, the Green Party released their platform early in week 2, and it did actually garner some good media coverage. Elizabeth May took a sabbatical from the SGI Campaign, and campaigned Nationally for the week, so at least a smattering of local Campaigns did get some support from ‘head office’. There were a number of local appearances stacked back to back, and she did get local media coverage to add to the National coverage. It is not going to help much though, because people will only start tuning in at the end of this week, and if the GPC is not in the news next week, then all that has happened to date will be lost in the noise…

I guess there isn’t much more to say about the National Campaign, so let’s move over to what will have to replace it, the local Campaigns. In the past, I have been critical of the importance of electing a single MP, and much more interested in broadening the capacity, and organisational strength of the Green Party. I have been on the short end of that argument, (obviously, given that the only campaign objective is to elect Elizabeth May), and of course the jury is still out. I believed that with a growing number of Electoral District Associations with robust memberships, more Campaign experience, and above all, money in the bank, the opportunity existed to build on that strength. This process should have started with Geographical targetting and allocation of resources to build up the basic units of the Party, the local Riding associations. The key to local success is of course, a growing membership, and active local Electoral District Associations to build bridges to community groups, and pave the way for the next election. The Federal Party apparatus is the only conceivable organisation to start the ball rollimg, and provide the logistical and moral support for a grass -roots organisational effort. Nothing like this happened, at least not at the instigation of the National Party. In fact, membership has tanked over the past two years plus. Instead the focus has been on communications, and supporting a top down Party structure, replete with salaried communications staff, and 100% focus on the Leader’s public image. So how will this impact the Green Party’s chances in this election?

The Jury is still out, which is to say the electorate has yet to vote, but I am not very sanguine about local Green campaigns’ chances. From what I can see, about half of the electoral districts that achieved above average results in the past two elections are moribund, and have little or no presence. I live in Toronto, which was completely demoralised by the Green Party’s Leadership fiasco last summer, so perhaps it isn’t a fair sample, but I will have to say that the GPC is likely to drop a few percentage points in all of Toronto. Why? because without volunteers knocking on doors, securing local media coverage, putting up signs, delivering flyers etc, there IS no local campaign. Guelph, which once shared pride of place with Bruce Grey Owen Sound as the top Ontario Electoral Districts has lost some of their best people, including Mike Nagy. This can only be construed as a vote of non-confidence in the strategic direction, and Leadership of the GPC. You can count on Guelph dropping some support on EDay. In fact, with the wholesale defection of the Green Party of Canada’s organisers to the Green Party of Ontario, I think that Elizabeth May has made an unintended electoral gift of significant proportions to the Liberal Party. Off hand, I can think of a couple of hundred activists who moved over from the national, to the Provincial party. The result will be a further contraction, and softening of the GPC vote. (But just watch out for the next Provincial election in Ontario!)

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu

Erich Jacoby Hawkins

This gloomy prognostication is not universally applicable. There will be some few Electoral districts where the local Campaign is well organised, and has leadership that is effective. Erich Jacoby-Hawkins, and the Barrie Greens are going to improve their vote, possibly quite dramatically. Ard Van Leeuwen, and the Dufferin Caledon Greens are going to increase their share of the vote, and I am betting they will surprise us all by just how much. In Toronto not all is lost. Adrianna Mugnatto-Hamu will be leading Toronto Danforth to a strong showing. Sylvie Lemieux, and her Campaign Manager, Jamie O’Grady will have a real impact in Glengarry Prescott Russell.  There will be other strong local Campaigns too, with capable and active Leadership effectively reaching out to their ridings.   I have no polling data, or

Lt. Col (RET) Sylvie Lemieux

any crystal ball to support these contentions, I am basing this conclusion on the fact that these are people that I know; People who are active year in and year out, building their EDA, and getting their message into their communities. They will not have the kind of impact that you get when your National Campaign is synchronised with the local campaign message, but they are Greens, and have never fought a campaign with the support of an effective Air War. This will be nothing new to them, and they will continue to grow and build for the next Campaign, under a new (or not?) Leadership.

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Green Party Starts to capitalise on Debate on Debates?

Debate about Democracy?

Debate about Democracy?

So it appears that either somebody at the national campaign is listening to me, or they came to the same conclusion that I posted on yesterday. The kerfuffle about excluding the Green Party of Canada from the debates has led to a ton of positive publicity for the GPC. Something more is needed though, to create a call to action that directly serves the electoral interests of the Green Party of Canada. This is a very rare circumstance in politics, inasmuch as the timing, and longevity of the issue are extremely predictable, and there is some time to really work the message over, and gain some real electoral support.

Off I went to the Green Party website today. Lo and behold, Elizabeth May is hosting a press conference to unveil a policy to provide stable financing for the CBC. OK, ok. So it’s not a Watergate moment, but how many Federal areas of responsibility are there that can be readily related to the televised Leaders debates? If I could perhaps make a wee suggestion, it is not too much of a stretch to relate the debate to the entire legislative environment regulating elections in Canada. And THAT means electoral finances.

We all know the history of the per vote electoral subsidy for Political Party’s, and we also know that the CPC will likely be revisiting this sometime in the next two weeks or so. They have prepared the ground well, and to a great many people, vote subsidies are a wasteful gift to no-good politicians. The Conservatives have been hammering this into their supporters for two years now, and what do you know? It worked. The CPC considers this to be a safe bet, because for the other Party’s no less than them, they cannot survive without taxpayer support. The obvious rejoinder is that all those other subsidies are far more generous, and much more wasteful, but neither the Liberals, nor the Dippers can afford to go there.

Canadian Political Party's

The per vote subsidy is the lifeblood of the GPC, so there is no question that this is almost an existential question for us, and we better be ready, but why should we give a hoot about the tax credit, and especially the 60% electoral expense rebate? Sure, some of our best ridings receive the rebate, but I promise you, we aren’t going to get elected to enact this policy, so they will still have their turn at the trough.  Since the way has been prepared so neatly for us, how about we simply steal this issue away when it hits the headlines next? So how about we build up a forceful counter-proposal, that is actually grounded in facts? The burden on the public purse represented by the vote subsidy is a mere pittance compared to how much money Canadians shovel at their political Party’s. As the in-and-out scandal has highlighted, 60% of all electoral expenses get rebated to the local campaigns, (provided they exceed 10% of the vote). Then there is the political donation tax credit, which reimburses the donor up to 75% of their political contributions. Combined, these two gifts to the political Party’s amount to literally hundreds of millions of dollars over a complete election cycle. I do not have the time to go dig up all the actual numbers, but they are in the public realm, so it will be as easy as falling out of a tree to create a factual compelling narrative about Democracy for sale, the taxpayer funding of sleazy mud-slinging political ads, closed shop debates, and the slow death of fair play in the Canadian electoral system. One of the planks would be the elimination of both the expense rebate, and the tax credit, and the beauty of it is that it will disproportionately appeal to the typical Conservative supporter.

I know that this is a lot of work, and I am sure that there are other issues and ideas that could be utilised to capitalise on the Debate about Debates. This is nice though, because it will serve Elizabeth May in splitting away Conservative voters from Lunn in SGI, and it helps the other 307 Green Party Campaigns to chip away directly at the conservative vote, while giving longer legs to the whole debate thing. 100% guaranteed that the GPC will be alone in championing elimination of ALL political subsidies, and we will have something really interesting to intrigue visitors to our petition about the debates page.

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Green Party Canada: Week 1 of the 2011 Election Campaign

Demand democratic debates!

Today marks the end of the first week of the 2011 Election Campaign, and I must say it has gone pretty well as expected for the Green Party. The national campaign has been lowering expectations for the GPC nationally by publicising the focus on getting Elizabeth May elected in SGI. If  the level of GPC popular support drops across the country, then we will be thankful that we have this fig leaf to hide behind. A future leader will be able to argue that the Green Party’s drop in the polls was attributable to this policy. It will be a pretty thin fig leaf, but hey, better than saying, ‘The people have spoken, we will do a better job…’As far as the actual campaign in SGI goes, who knows how it is doing?

I blogged some time ago on the choice of SGI as Elizabeth May’s target riding. The post is not rigourously supported with data, but it is directionally sound, and outlines the type of campaign needed and the consequences for the other 307 campaigns. What it boils down to is that there is a significant block of senior citizens, who have reliably voted for Gary Lunn in the past. They are dominant in SGI, and have to be seperated from the CPC by fair means or foul. The only possibility for Elizabeth to eke out a win in SGI is to convert a significant chunk of these votes to GPC votes, or to get twice as many of them to stay at home on Eday. This week, the first nationally visible attemp to suppress Lunns support was executed, with the joint press conference featuring Elizabeth May, and Linda Keen, the former Nuclear watchdog clumsily fired by Lunn. Given the topicality of nuclear safety, highlighting Lunns bungling of the Chalk River shutdown is a job well done. It will have some legs locally, as it resulted in the demotion of Lunn from the Natural Resources portfolio to Minister for Sport. Granted, it doesn’t give anybody a reason to vote Green, but it does speak to an issue on which the GPC has some credibility. There was a fair bit of local, and national press coverage, so I can guarantee you that it was discussed this weekend at many a dining table in SGI. Doubt has been planted, and a smidgin of Lunn support has been killed off. We can expect that there will be something similar every week until Eday. True to form, the press conference had nothing of value for the other 307 campaigns, but hey, our sole objective is to win in SGI, so who can complain?

As expected, the Green Party was excluded from the Nationally Televised leaders debate. If this were an election issue, I would be 95% satisfied with the Green Party’s performance. Problem is it is not an election issue. Let me clarify, it is an issue, and we are in an election, but it has not been framed in any way shape or form to win actual votes for the GPC. On the plus side, the GPC was at least somewhat prepared for it. It was easy enough to dust off the petitions, webpages, and do what worked two short years ago. The GPC got more publicity from it than could possibly be earned from our election platform, or any number of policy announcements. There have been literally thousands of articles, panels, blogs, and elder statesmen weighing in on it. The Green Party base has been mobilised, and a lot of Greens sent emails, publicised the issue on Facebook, etc. The petition site has harvested well over 100,000 contact names, and that number can be relied on to grow until the minute the televised debate starts. I have read a few journalists arguing that taking the issue to court on Monday is a waste of money, cause we won’t win. Well duh! The purpose of the legal challenge is to keep the issue alive and well in the press. The GPC has made a series of emailed fundraising asks, to pay for a newspaper advertising campaign supporting the Green Party’s inclusion in the debate. They weren’t badly couched either, and as a result, we are going to be treated to  some full page newspaper ads shortly. The asks were obviously influenced a teensy bit by Trippi, although there was zero interactive element at the other end of the links. I think that the GPC is on track to see some solid publicity from this issue until the day after the dabates, when all the pundits are saying too bad Elizabeth May wasn’t there.

So this brings me to the negatives. This issue does nothing but generate publicity, and name recognition. The GPC is frothing with outrage, and they are frothing very nicely indeed, but the calls to action do not do anything much to support the broader campaign objective of winning votes for the GPC, and building the Party. Make no mistake, it will be a major victory if the campaign succeeds in it’s stated objective of getting the GPC into the debate again, but the potential payoff from hundreds of thousands of people volunteering their contact information on the petition forms, and actually clicking a link to come and see us is more valuable in the long run than debate participation. Firstly, the landing page should be far more vibrant, and should be followed by a LOT more content than just the form and this issue in isolation. Once the data is harvested, the thanks and share page should have forums visible, and a democratic values election plank visible. Actually, I don’t much care WHAT election plank is promoted there, so long as it is topical, and relevant to all those relative strangers visting a GPC site for the first time, and gives them reasons to VOTE Green, Join the Party etc. The GPC has had two years to analyse the signatories of the last campaigns petitions, and should have shelled out some money to profile, and find out more about what will motivate petition signatories to do more, like volunteer, donate, and vote Green. Inviting people to share their opinions and participate in an open forum discussion would engage far more people than a static form. Don’t take my word for it, go back to e-electioneering kindergarten, and re-read Trippi’s The Revolution will not be Televised’ if you are not sure how it is supposed to work.

So tomorrow morning, the issue will recieve another breath of life when the application is made to the courts to hear a challenge. Tomorrow, a number, ( about $40,000 worth) of full page newspaper ads will start appearing promoting the issue, and inviting petition signatories to come forward. Certainly, by the end of the week, there will be a much bigger media splash when the court accepts/rejects the application. Sometime before the actual debate, there will be a court ruling, and that is the moment to be prepared for. If by some strange twist the GPC gains admittance, well David slaying Goliath is absolutely great coverage, and the free publicity from the debate will be  huge bonus. If, as seems more likely Goliath slays David, then David needs to be ready to win big time anyway. Have the outrage canned and ready to hit the airwaves. Relate it to Green Party policy, and start campainging for VOTES, instead of soft support. Guaranteed, there will be a much larger number of petition respondents coming forward this week, so there is not a whole lot of time to get something more effective and compelling together to start winning these visitors over in a substantive way. Play it right, and the GPC can fund those full page newspaper ad buys for the rest of the campaign, build an email list of 1,000,000 Candians interested in democratic values, and ‘fair play’, and have an extremely potent tool for future Party building. Not to mention the fact that sending out 1,000,000 GOTV email messages for the ADVANCE POLLS could have a strong impact on our electoral showing in this, the 41’st general election. I know that there is nothing much in the way of resources for a National Campaign. It is very likely that the GPC staffers are going nuts trying to keep up with the demands of the Campaign, but it is time to take a few smart people out of the fray, and task them with raising a million dollars, 100,000 votes, and 10,000 new members from the petition drive campaign.

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Green Party Moment: Is it Time for Real debate on Nuclear Power?

Linda Keen

Linda Keen former Nuclear Watchdog

So I was at the Green Party website, (actually, it’s more of an Elizabeth May site now.), and there was a media release with Elizabeth May’s schedule for the day. Lo and behold, amongst the local campaign type stops, is a notice of a joint press conference with EMay, and Linda Keen, the former Nuclear Watchdog sacked by the Harper Conservatives for, well, being a public watchdog and sounding the alarm.

This is clearly relevant to the local SGI campaign, as then Minister for Natural Resources was, you guessed it, Gary Lunn. I know that there was a lot of bad feeling betweeen Lunn and Keen way back then, so I can pretty well guarantee that Keen will have some damaging things to say about Lunn. I am also crossing my fingers that Elizabeth May will relax her determination to focus 100% on getting elected in SGI, and work this issue Nationally.

While Lunn should be held accountable for his heavy handed actions at that time, the topicality of Nuclear Safety issues is potentially an enormous gift to the Green Party in this current election. I don’t need to remind everybody that a terrible disaster is unfolding in Japan.  The nuclear debate has been continually clouded by mis-direction, and outright misinformation by parties on all sides of the argument. A geat many people ignore the fact that nuclear is horrendously expensive, and brush over the risks to the public by pointing to the very stringent safety standards the Nuclear industry operates to. What Japan has taught us is that you do not have to be incompetents, (Chernobyl), to poison your neighbourhood. Fact is that every nuclear reactor has the potential to become a major disaster. Folks, that includes huge swathes of Ontario, and with a number of Provinces mulling over their nuclear options, in the future could include more and more Provinces of Canada.

I am personally not a wild eyed hater of nuclear power. Some Greens are, and some Greens actually support nuclear power due to the lack of airborne emmissions. Nuclear power is relatively clean, and is unquestionably a stable source of electricity. For me, the problems are that it is overly expensive especially once power transmission costs are taken into account. The expense of de-commissioning reactors, and storing the wastes in perpetuity is completely ignored, but we all know that the public purse WILL end up footing the bill… and for generations to come. Then there is the potential for mis-use of spent nuclear fuel. Then there is the added potential, which is impossible to cost, of a nuclear accident that can kill millions of people. Just how the heck do you account for that risk when cost-justifying nuclear reactors? On balance, a great many Canadians would agree that the risks far and away outweigh the benefits, and the proof is fresh in the minds of all Canadians. The opportunity exists for the Green Party to justify it’s existence, and give this issue the airing that it needs.  The opportunity exists for all 308 Green Party campaigns to talk about the risks in an intelligent way, and actually perform a public service, while putting a whack of votes in the bank. So how about it Elizabeth? Will you attack Lunn with his shortcomings, or jump start an intelligent debate on the costs and benefits of nuclear power?

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Canadian Broadcast Media Consortium deliberately influencing a Federal Election?

Recalcitrant Consortium Member

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

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

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

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

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Election Objectives for Green Party of Canada

Green Party Election objectives

What's the Objective?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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