The Green Party demostrating strategic and tactical smarts on Vancouver Island

The Greens are running a tight ship on Vancouver Island these days. In the wake of Andrew Weavers win in Oak Bay Gordon Head on behalf of the BC Green Party, I decided to have a closer look at the BC Provincial election results in the Victoria area.

Knowing so little about BC Politics, I trotted off to find the Provincial riding maps, and past Provincial election results in the area. From that point it was a quick and simple matter to visually contrast the Provincial riding maps and compare them to the Federal ridings. You see, the typical Green supporter does not really differentiate between the Provincial and Federal Green Party’s in their area. A Federal Green voter is extremely likely to vote Green Provincially, so it would be reasonable to expect that the $million plus that the Green Party of Canada has sunk into Saanich Gulf Islands would be reflected in the Provincial results. The bulk of that money has been spent over the past 4 years in staffing offices in SGI, and systematically building supporter lists in the district.

In November 2012, Donald Galloway representing the Green Party of Canada ran a hotly contested campaign to win the Federal riding of Victoria, which is immediately adjacent to SGI. As I have posted before, the Greens have become extremely good at mobilizing volunteers from across the country to work virtual phone banks for a targeted canvas. In essence, they bombard their supporter lists with emailed invitations to volunteer to telephone canvas from their homes. It is very easy for volunteers, basically they get an emailed link to log in to the canvassing database. They log in, a name and phone number pops onto their screen, alongside a simple script, and they start dialling and recording voting intentions. Whether they work for 10 minutes, or 10 hours, all the data they collect is automatically preserved, and has gotten the campaign that much closer to identifying all their prospective supporters in the area. It takes literally tens of thousands of volunteer hours to fully canvas a riding. The biggest stumbling block for building up identified voters lists is the sheer volume of work involved in actually knocking on all those doors, or dialling all those phone numbers. By calling on hundreds of volunteers from all across the country, the local GP campaign can focus on key objectives, while the donkey work of identifying, and subsequently getting out the vote can be handled by volunteers from far and wide. Well the Green ID and GOTV virtual phone bank was firing on all cylinders on behalf of both Galloway in Victoria, and Turner in Calgary Centre by-elections. Galloway ran a strong campaign, in the riding adjacent to Elizabeth May’s stronghold of SGI. He was able to call on hundreds of local volunteers, and the Federal Party infrastructure of paid staffers and offices just across the riding boundary. The upshot of all those resources being mobilized to support a strong candidate, and a strong EDA was a pretty close second place finish with over 34% of the popular vote in Victoria.

So fast forward to the BC Provincial election 6 months later, and you can see the strategy of building an Island stronghold being implemented. At this point I wish I knew how to create poll level maps, and a geo coded database of vote results. But I don’t, so I will have to support my argument with fuzzier information and generalized conclusions. Have no fear, a poll by poll analysis will bear me out, but I am both too lazy, and insufficiently skilled to actually do all that work.

First of all, in BC, the Provincial riding boundaries are not really related to the Federal boundaries. The Federal Electoral Districts have 2-3 times the population as a Provincial riding.  As a result, the Federal Saanich Gulf Islands for example incorporates the entirety of one Provincial riding, and pokes into significant corners of  two more. The same holds true for the federal Victoria riding. So between SGI, and Victoria, there are larger, or smaller overlaps with 5 Provincial ridings. The Green Party of BC put their strongest candidates into ridings where the Greens had thoroughly canvassed, and identified large numbers of supporters federally through GPC campaigns.

Adam Olsen, who is a well recognised 2 term city councillor in Central Saanich ran for the BC Greens in Saanich North and the Islands. This riding is completely within the boundaries of SGI federally. Jane Sterk, Leader of the BC Greens ran in Victoria Beacon Hill, which is completely within the boundaries of Victoria federally. Andrew Weaver, a very well known Professor at U Vic ran in Oak Bay Gordon Head, which is split between Victoria and SGI Federally, while the relatively weak candidate in Victoria Swan Lake was Spencer Malthouse (my apologies Spencer), in a riding that overlaps with Victoria Federally.

The results are laid out in the table below. Please note the growth in Green Party of BC votes were exceptionally strong where the riding boundaries overlapped with SGI, and a lesser extent where the overlaps were with Victoria.


2009 2013 2009 2013 2009 2013
Federal Overlaps with: Provincial Riding Votes % Votes % GROWTH Votes Votes Votes Votes
SGI & Victoria Oak Bay Gordon Head 2152 8.91% 9602 40.09% 346.19% 11266 7124 10736 6772
SGI Saanich North & Islands 3016 10.91% 9294 31.86% 208.16% 12513 9629 12118 9681
Esquimault-Juan de Fuca & SGI Saanich South 1551 6.56% 3612 15.16% 132.88% 10728 8473 11141 10824
Victoria Victoria Beacon Hill 3768 16.64% 7852 33.72% 108.39% 5998 3981 12591 11335
Esquimault-Juan de Fuca Juan de Fuca 1645 8.53% 3253 15.46% 97.75% 6624 6513 11008 11272
Victoria Victoria Swan Lake 2459 12.01% 4502 22.62% 83.08% 5456 4509 12389 10891
Nanaimo-Cowichan Cowichan Valley 2807 11.64% 4662 18.79% 66.08% 8734 8786 11575 9923
Nanaimo-Alberni & Nanaimo Cowichan Nanaimo North Cowichan 2004 8.96% 3043 13.41% 51.85% 7956 6984 12159 10538
Vancouver Island North Comox Valley 2338 8.56% 3292 11.48% 40.80% 13016 12817 11593 11024
Esquimault-Juan de Fuca Esquimalt Royal Roads 3370 16.71% 4486 21.61% 33.12% 6098 5959 10705 9997
Nanaimo-Alberni & Nanaimo Cowichan Nanaimo 1852 8.96% 2198 10.53% 18.68% 7497 7812 11057 9548
Vancouver island North North Island 1561 7.25% 0 0.00% -100.00% 8411 8862 11232 10595
Nanaimo-Alberni & Nanaimo Cowichan Alberni Pacific Rim 1250 7.41% 0 0.00% -100.00% 5373 5981 10007 9829
Nanaimo-Alberni Parksville Qualicum 2465 9.57% 0 0.00% -100.00% 13265 13405 9803 9899


As you can see, over a 4 year period, the Green vote grew appreciably in every riding on the Island. If you look at the raw vote counts though, you will see that the truly impressive growth was happening in ridings where the Greens were strongest to begin with. In short, the possession of a strong ground game, access to extensive supporter and voter lists, and the mobilization of a nationwide virtual phone bank in support of a campaign is sufficient to propel the Greens within striking distance of winning in select ridings.

The implications for the next General election in 2015 are twofold. Locally, on the island itself, we can expect to see a concerted effort to continue to build on past successes. Provincial, Federal, and Municipal Greens will be co-ordinating and sharing resources in an un-precedented way. SGI will be an easy win for Elizabeth May, and Victoria and Esquimault-Juan de Fuca will be squarely in the GPC`s sights. I fully expect that there will be stronger campaigns in ALL the Vancouver Island ridings, and the process of building a regional stronghold will continue.

The wider implications are that the Greens will be paying a LOT more attention to Federal By-Elections. I would expect that Calgary Centre will have a well funded and organized campaign in 2015, based upon their excellent showing in the November By-Election. I doubt very much that the GPC will spend a nickel on the upcoming Bourassa by-election in Quebec, but they will be weighing their future chances in any riding where a by-election is going to be called. With a few months heads up, they are now fully capable of pledging the monetary support to entice a strong local Candidate. With the proven ability to mobilize a seriously massive volunteer phone canvas, they can strategically use a by-election build the local electoral database in preparation for the general election in 2015. In this respect, the Green Party is incrementally creating the conditions to win in a handful of ridings come 2015. I for one will be following their efforts with interest.

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BC Liberals Advertising for the Greens in Victoria!

Vote Green! Brought to you by the BC Liberals

Vote Green! Brought to you by the BC Liberals

I was tooling around on Facebook this morning, and some of my Green Party of BC FaceBook friends were talking about this full-page advertisement for Jane Sterk and the BC Greens in the Times Colony. You know, one of the most read newspapers on Vancouver Island. The thing is, this advertisement is bought and paid for by the BC Liberals. What I know about Provincial politics in BC could fit into a medium-sized tea-cup. I do know that it is a hypercompetitive, take no prisoners environment, and this ad highlights that fact. The purpose of the ad is obvious. The Liberal Party believes that the NDP and Greens are feeding from the same plate. There are two tactical outcomes this ad is promoting. The most favourable would be that the NDP and Green split is even enough that the Liberals can achieve a plurality in some, or all of the Island ridings. The second, deeper game is that the Greens should tip the balance and elect Andrew Weaver MPP for Oak Bay. This secondary objective denies the seat to the NDP, and establishes a Green presence in the Legislature.

The benefit of that first outcome is obvious. Every dipper who votes Green is one vote closer to the coveted Governing Mandate for the BC Liberals. The second outcome is useful in a tactical sense, (Like helping decide whether the Liberals or the NDP have more seats on E-Day). Strategically, there is probably some more subtle thinking at play. If there is not, there surely ought to be!  The most likely winning Green candidate, Andrew Weaver (Oak Bay – Gordon Head) is a heavy hitter. His election to the BC Assembly will represent a coming of age for the BC Greens. There is no doubt that adding Provincial representation to the Federal presence of Elizabeth May will be a big boon to building up a considerably stronger regional Green stronghold in BC. There will be another constituency office, staffed to the max, generating plenty of column inches in earned media over the coming years. The BC Greens definitely eat from the same plate as the NDP. If the BC Greens do in fact elect Weaver, then the Greens are going to consolidate that win, gain credibility, and build for the next election from a much stronger base. The BC Liberals will be a major beneficiary of a stronger BC Green Party, as the bulk of the growth in Green support will come at the expense of the NDP. Put it all together, and an enhanced BC Green Party will in the long run be a huge boon to the BC Liberals. The implications for the Federal Liberals in BC are a little more ambiguous. You see, they have serious prospects of eating from the same plate as the Greens and Dippers come 2015, so strengthening the Green brand in BC will cost them only a little less than it costs the Dippers, but that federal analysis will have to wait for a more opportune time.

Anyway, I think that most of what I said here today is pretty obvious and un-remarkable. What was remarkable to me is this big media buy by one Party on behalf of another Party in a General Election. I think it is unprecedented, can anybody else think of similar examples? I would be interested in knowing, as a student of the dark arts of Canadian electoral politics, lol.

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ROFL: The Green Party ‘concedes’ Labrador to the Liberals.

I did not get a chance to watch tonight’s debate yet, but I did get a good laugh at the headlines about Elizabeth May`s very canny playing of the Liberal Party on Saturday. Elizabeth May announced that the Green Party would not be running a candidate in the anticipated Labrador by-election. And some people actually bought it!

As I blogged 2 months ago, the Green Party is in a sticky situation. Firstly, the number of Electoral District Associations has declined as their funding from the per vote subsidy dries up. If you carefully examine the databases over at Elections Canada, you will see that the overwhelming majority of surviving EDA`s have received substantially ALL of their cash receipts in transferred per vote subsidy (Revenue Sharing) allocations from the central Party. That source of funds is drying up, and the steady flow of EDA`s being de-certified by Elections Canada for failing to file, is about to turn into a flood. In the 8 weeks since I last checked, 4 more Green Party EDA`s have been de-certified, and the impact of losing the subsidy is still to come. It is NOT going to be a good year for the Green Party, as they have long ago forgotten how to support and strengthen EDA`s. What this means is that the Green Party is going to have little or no ground game in place in 90% the ridings in Canada for the next general election. By no ground game, I mean they will not be able to beg the EDA executive to be candidate and financial agent for a make-believe campaign, lol. Everywhere they fail to field a candidate means zero votes counted, so without question, the Green Party vote, such as it is, will collapse in 2015, (with the exception of a number of strong BC Ridings).

Now this is the bit where Elizabeth May has scored a coup, turning a disaster into a triumph. She is undoubtedly aware that the Green Party is going to suffer a drastic reduction in votes in 2015. Obviously the Green Party will be in trouble if they fall to 3% of the vote. How can they preserve their significance? What Elizabeth May has achieved has been 2 parts luck, and 1 part sheer opportunistic cunning. First of all, two out of three November 2012 by-elections were in two relatively strong regions for the Green Party, Calgary, and British Columbia. While the Green Party is spread a mile wide, and an inch deep, they have enough resources in terms of volunteers, and cash to mount a respectable by-election effort pretty well anywhere in Alberta or BC. As a past member, I was bombarded along with the entire mailing list looking for phone bank volunteers for Calgary, and a lesser extent Victoria. The results were good enough to create an impression of strength. I guess I cannot fault most Canadians for not knowing just how fortuitous the chance for two competitive by-elections should occur at the same time. I have spent many hours poring over Green Party membership lists, and canvassing key ridings for various internal GPC Leadership and council elections. Calgary Centre, and Victoria are two of about 25 Electoral Districts where the GPC would be capable of concentrating enough volunteers, money, and identified supporter base to have a credible showing in a by-election.

When the Liberal Party Leadership campaign got under way, Elizabeth May seized her opportunity, and threw whatever support she could to the Candidate who openly supported her plan for electoral co-operation. Joyce was eager to accept, after all, political endorsements from David Suzuki are nothing to sneeze at in BC, or the rest of Canada for that matter, and Elizabeth May and David Suzuki go waay back. It is also fair to say that Joyce, being a regional BC politician should over-estimate the strength of the Green Party. BC has long been a regional `stronghold` for the GPC, with respectable double-digit results in numerous Ridings on EDay. If she had experience outside BC, she would know that the GPC she knows is anomalous in the wider Canadian context.

So with a decent pair of by-elections in her back pocket, and the windfall publicity that the Murray campaign was generating for her co-operation proposal, Elizabeth May immediately ran into a problem. Peter Innashue Penashue (updated Mar24) resigned, and an immediate by-election is looming in Labrador. Now if Victoria, and Calgary are the perfect by-election seats for the Green Party, Labrador is the single worst riding in the entire country! I am not exaggerating here folks, and the reason why can be captured by two words: Seal Hunt. A decade ago, the Green Party of Canada adopted a policy condemning the Seal Hunt in Labrador. It was rescinded shortly thereafter, but the damage had been done. To this day the Green party is synonymous with PETA in Newfoundland and Labrador. The last time I saw GPC data, there were a grand total of 26 past and present members in the entire province of Newfoundland & Labrador. 2 of them are in Labrador. If the Green Party were to run in the Labrador by-election, the result would make the November by-election in Durham Ontario  (4%) look good! Given the context in which Elizabeth May is making decisions, she played her hand marvelously by announcing on the eave of the Liberal Party leadership debate, that the Green party would  co-operate with the Liberals by not running a candidate in Labrador. I read this Gem of a quote in the Winnipeg Free Press article on Elizabeth May`s appeal. `In a news release, Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray claims she orchestrated the bid to elect a Grit, saying she called May and asked her not to run a candidate in the Labrador by-election.` ROFL, methinks somebody got played, and it sure as heck wasn`t Elizabeth May!

So there is Elizabeth May and the Green Party, hanging on by the skin of her teeth, but she is playing her hand out to the last card. I admire her for that, she has proven again that she is a very capable tactician. The real question is, will the Liberal Party take the bait, and breathe some life back into the Green Party in the form of an electoral co-operation deal? If my advice were solicited, I would suggest that the Liberal Party would be better off to let them wither on the vine, because they will not be able to influence the outcome in more than half a dozen ridings in 2015. Give them a free lunch in a couple of BC ridings, and they may survive long enough to start building their party locally again.

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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 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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Chris Tindal for Ward 27! Toronto Greens Unite!

Chris Tindal, Elizabeth May, and Bob Banks (Right to left). Photo Credit: Macleans

Last week I got a very pleasant surprise. The most electable Green I know in Toronto, Chris Tindal, threw his hat in the ring for the race to replace Kyle Rae as city Councillor for Ward 27. Kyle Rae has been a very popular Councillor, but last year he announced that he would not seek re-election.

Lesson number one in Municipal politics is that incumbents get re-elected. There’s really not much more to be said about it. Gnash your teeth all you want, but name recognition, and the concerted efforts of those who stand to see their development plans proceed under the incumbent will trump any and all efforts to unseat said incumbent. This is why this race in Ward 27 will be very hard fought, and will have a whole lot more than the usual crop of self promoters, and people ‘positioning’ themselves. There will be a handful of Candidates who are playing for keeps, and I would have to say that Chris is in a great position to go against the moneyed interests… and win.

The opposition is already shaping up, and at this early date there are already 6 Candidates registered. At this moment, Susan Gapka looks to be the NDP candidate, while Smitherman, the Liberal MPP for Toronto Centre, and Mayoral Candidate has brought along one of his former aides, Ken Chan to run in this Ward for the vacant council slot. It should be obvious to all that Chan will have the backing of those parts of the Toronto Centre Liberal machine loyal to Smitherman, and Chan will almost certainly pin his bid hopes on the coat-tail effect. Take note Chris, this is a wedge that will seperate Chan from parts of his natural constituency. Make him wear his affiliation when it is something he wants to sweep under the carpet. Test his supporters, and split away those who cannot stomach a Liberal. Then there’s Enza Anderson, the relentlessly self promoting candidate who reached a degree of national fame as the would-be Trans-gendered candidate for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party. Don’t dismiss her! She got a quite respectable 15% of the vote against Kyle Rae last time she ran, in 2003 I think? I don’t see Enza winning, but she will play a significant role, and her presence should be accomodated, and planned for.

Lesson number two in municipal politics is that City of Toronto councillors are amongst the most powerful politicians in the country. That’s right, I said the MOST powerful. City councillors make and influence decisions that affect billions of dollars in development, and infrastructure spending. Through their committee positions, they have a direct impact on policy formulation that guides these billions of dollars towards favoured recipients. The local councilor eats, drinks, and breathes local issues. They make or break local businesses, and have enormous political influence at the grass roots level. These are the facts of life, and as you can imagine, when the electorate is asleep, and billions of dollars are at stake, the Liberal Party will be not far behind. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I think that Chan will have some pretty telling resources placed at his disposal by the local Liberal organisations. At a minimum, he’ll have access to very detailed electoral databases of voting intentions, and will be able to very scientifically target his efforts. If Chris Tindal is to win this race, he will need a lot of assistance, which is part of the reason I am writing this blog.

Lesson number three in Municipal politics is that personal direct voter contact is the most effective tool in your’ arsenal. Getting media exposure is nice, and a sea of signs will help out with name recognition too, but NOTHING can replace the Candidates canvas. It happens ‘under the radar’, and it is going to be too late for the Liberals to counter if Chris has locked up a few thousand voters before the Liberal cliques machine kicks into gear for the final 8 weeks. There will be approximately 45,000 electors in Ward 27, and ultimately the candidate who canvasses the most will be the one in the winners circle. If Chris is serious, (and I’m pretty sure he is), then he will be out every single day between now and E-Day meeting another 250 voters. It’s a grind, but it is the magic formula for winning an open seat like this. A retail pitch, one on one, repeated hundreds of times per day. I know that Chris presents himself very well, and will win if he manages to Canvass the Ward three times over. Chris also has a big advantage over the other Candidates. He is very recognisable as the Green Pary candidate from the last two Federal elections, plus one by-election. Provided the Toronto Centre EDA’s, and CA actually canvass their own identified voters with a strong endoresement for Chris, there ought to be about 1,000-1,500 Green voters in the bag for Chris.

Which brings me to the main point of this blog. Please help Chris Tindal to be elected in October. Chris Tindal is the real deal. He lives and works green and Green. He is seeking an extremely important and influential elected office. He has a real chance to win, but he will not succeed without a lot of help and money. I am confident that Chris will campaign on several issues that are dear to the hearts of Greens, and that Toronto Centre will have a great opportunity to start bulking out their supporter database with some issues related voter information. Chris could, and should ‘tag team’ with the Toronto Centre CA/EDA by sharing a communications plan to get local issues on the local agenda, and then capturing the same voters for the Green Party’s at the Federal and Provincial level. It’s a total win-win strategy, and will definitely serve both Chris and the EDA well. I know that there are many thousands of identified GPC supporters in Toronto Centre, and the EDA should really welcome the chance to contact them all, and find out what they think about local issues. The worst case scenario is that they acquire tons of detailed information about their supporters. The best case scenario is that Chris Tindal gets elected, and all of a sudden, there are local political staffers, office space, electoral data, and a sympathetic colleague in City Hall, pulling for the Greens at every opportunity. That’s how the NDP took over parts of Toronto, it’s why the Liberals will fight hard for their candidate,and will probably rally around their chosen one, and it’s why the Greens need to be electing people to these vitally important offices across the land.

So reach into your’ pockets, and take out your’ chequebook. Chris will need about $50,000 for a fully funded campaign, and the developers will be lining up with cheques from themselves, their families, their pet dog etc. to fund the other guys, while Chris will have to rely on those few people who donate for the right reasons. Plan to make a week or two available to Canvas in downtown Toronto this summer. If you’re coming for the GPC Convention, come for an extra few days, and just blast the crap out of Toronto Centre, and Ward 27. Volunteer as a policy researcher, or media relations, or whatever skills you have, that Chris could use. If you blog, then blog about Chris, and help build his name recognition. This is a big deal, and every little bit you can do will count.

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Bad news for Provincial Green Party’s in Canada.

GPNSLogoWhat a depressing story I just read. Apparently, according to the Edmonton Journal,  the Green Party of Alberta is about to get decertified. This comes on top of the recent news from Nova Scotia, where according to the CBC,  the GPNS is purported to be at the brink of decertification.

What the hell is going on here? I can sort of understand the Nova Scotia greens. They have a miniscule membership, and despite the public funding they received last year, are pretty small potato’s. There isn’t much of a Federal organisation to piggy back on, and despite Elizabeth May’s heavily funded Central Nova campaign, there just isn’t much on the ball there. Clearly they don’t have anybody hanging around who can prepare a basic set of financials. While it looks like there’s a chance to avoid de-certification now, it’s still touch and go.

ABGREENS_Logo1Now what about Alberta Greens? In the past, the Alberta Greens have done a lot of things right. The Province has a real wealth of political talent for the Greens, and the Green activists have been as effective as anybody in Canada. The GPC has approximately 1,000 members in the Province, and that is despite a certain level of hostility to Elizabeth May, our current national leader. In Alberta, the need for a credible provincial voice for the environment is really important. The Conservatives have been running the fiefdom on behalf of the Oil patch for several generations now, and with an increasingly diverse population, people need a clear choice on election day to voice their displeasure.

I know that this blog is primarily about the federal Green Party of Canada, but this one-two punch is relevant to the GPC’s fortunes. I have posted often on the importance of organising in between elections. The bare truth though is that the resources available outside an election period are a tiny fraction of what happens during an election. The entire electorate gets galvanized, and starts to actually pay attention to politics. For the GPC, this has meant that many thousands of people come to our website under their own steam, and join, donate, volunteer, take signs, and attend our events. The funds raised, and more importantly, the big spike in membership numbers is a huge fillip to the GPC organisers everywhere.

What is true Federally is also true Provincially. Every Provincial election is an opportunity for the Provincial unit to draw in thousands of new members, volunteers, donors, etc. In Ontario, where I live, the GPC and the GPO have an awful lot of informal attachments. If you look at the websites of the most succesful Riding Associations, you will find that the Federal, and Provincial executives are often mirror images, with roles swapped, but the names being the same. When supporters are identified, then obviously the sister organisation benefits at the same time. Electoral skills are honed by fighting more elections. ID’d supporters lists grow in leaps and bounds with every election, Federal or Provincial. Donor lists can be worked in rotation, depending on when the next election is. Oh, there are all kinds of ways in which they re-inforce each other.

With the loss of Alberta Greens, this mutual re-inforcement is gone in Alberta. It’s not only that, there’s the big loss of credibility with the electorate. All of you GPC activists out there can expect a few embarrasing moments as a result of this news. Expect to be buttonholed at the office by gleeful colleagues asking you about the joke Party you belong to.

I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done. For some reason, the GPC has been a little bit hostile to some of the Provincial Party’s, where they should be recognising the dynamic I have written of here. Certainly the best and strongest EDA’s in the country understand full well what I am saying. It cannot be a surprise to the GPC’s paid organisers that their greatest successes have been where there is a strong Provincial organisation to backstop the GPC organisers. Should not the GPC lend a helping hand?

Well irrespective of whether the GPC should formally help out or not, I encourage all my readers who have contacts in Nova Scotia, or especially in Alberta to get on the phone, or email, or smoke signal, or however you like to communicate, and get in touch with them. This matters to us all, and every bit of pressure we can bring to bear to resolve these farcical issues should be brought to bear. For the Alberta Greens, bury the goddam hatchet for an hour, and file the goddam returns. I have no interest whatsoever in the merits of the dispute, or who did what to whom. The failure to file, and the withholding of statements is inexcusable, and worthy of a kindergarten class, not grown ups.  Resolve the issue, then continue with your bun fight if you still feel so inclined.

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Green Party Candidate nominated for Northumberland Quinte West

I ran my regular Google news search on Green Party of Canada, and apparently there was a candidate nomination contest last week in Northumberland Quinte West. I must confess that I was curious, because one of my Green Party colleagues had attended the meeting, and implied that Stan Grizzle, the new candidate was someone to watch.

Stan Grizzle

Stan Grizzle

According to this Northumberland Today article,  Stan was a liberal in his previous political incarnation, who sought the local liberal nomination in opposition to Paul Macklin, the candidate in the last federal election. I simply do not know how credible Stan’s nomination contest was, but if he was serious, then in all likelihood, he has a local support network to bring to the table for the EDA. I was also pleased to see that the EDA is actively preparing for the next election. At least, the existence of an election readiness commitee, that is meeting later this week implies that they are actually preparing in advance.

According to this NorthumberlandNews article, Stan is also a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Brighton Colour guard, which are both important credentials, as any rural politician can tell you. Here’s a snapshot of the electoral landscape in the riding:

Canadian federal election, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
     Conservative Rick Norlock 27,615 48.7%  
     Liberal Paul Macklin 16,209 28.6%  
     New Democrat Russ Christianson 8,230 14.5%  
     Green Ralph Torrie 4,633 8.2%  
Total valid votes 56,687    
Total rejected ballots 186    
Turnout 56,873  %


Ontario general election, 2007
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
     Liberal Lou Rinaldi 22,288 45.4  
     Progressive Conservative Cathy Galt 15,328 31.2  
     New Democrat Carolyn Blaind 6,481 13.2  
     Green Judy Smith Torrie 5,020 10.2  


As may be seen from the Federal numbers, the GPC Campaign missed a very important milestone, 10% of the vote, missed by a margin of  1,057 votes. This is truly significant, because in the last election, the GPC Campaign actually spent $34,300, which would have entitled them to a $20,580 rebate. I know that money isn’t everything, BUT that’s a lot of hard work put into fundraising, and minding the pennies. It would be nice to think that the next campaign had a $20,000 leg up. The 2008 Campaign was obviously pretty active, given that they received donations from 104 people, which is a pretty good number for a GPC EDA during the course of an election.

My first piece of advice to Stan, and the EDA is to prepare right now to GOTV to the advance polls in the next election. In 2008, the campaign only pulled in 469 out of 7,466 ballots cast at the advanced polls. That represents 6.3%, and is a few hundred votes shy of the % mark set on the general election day.   Never ever forget that the advance polls are your chance to lock down the soft green supporters, as well as ensure that all the committed GPC supporters do actually vote.

In the last election, Brighton delivered 415 votes out of 5,395 ballots cast. I would hope that Stan, being a member of the Brighton Colour Guard can call on friends and allies to really work the area, and pick up another 400+ votes there. Quinte West is another obvious target. It is the largest group of electors in the riding, but the GPC support levels were only 7.6%. Sooner or later the EDA will have to break through there, and  it might be a suitable target for an intensive effort next time. Based upon the Elections Canada tabulated results, and sorting the advanced polls, there is no really concentrated GPC support in the riding. Since there is no substantial strong point, I believe that the campaign might be well served to create one. Don’t forget that in another 19 months or so, there are going to be municipal elections. Look at the small towns where there is likely to be a contested election. Look for mayoral, and council candidates whom you can pull into a strong local team. If, for example, you were able to find a slate of council candidates for Quinte West, and put a mayoral candidate at their head, then you might have the beginnings of an electoral machine. The quid pro quo is simple. Campaign for us, and build our supporter lists, then we’ll campaign for you, and share our lists and infrastructure. Unfortunately, I do not have the local knowledge  to be more explicit in my advice than this. The riding is divided up into smaller townships, so take this fact, and win the district one town at a time. Don’t forget that the Green Party is a very valuable political ‘Brand’. It will work Municipally, and Provincially, as well as Federally, so put it to work for you!

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