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

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

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

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

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

Here`s the quote that has me worried:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Justin over Joyce, by a nose: But how they are BOTH winners.

The conventional wisdom has it that Justin Trudeau has the leadership of the Liberals all but in the bag. Well, all I can say is that the conventional wisdom is ill-informed, and I believe that the contest is a whole lot closer than it appears.

First off, Joyce Murray has a lot more supporters than was publicly suspected. According to her campaign, they actually managed to register 45,000 supporters through their third-party recruiting drive. Yes, I said register to vote, not sign up as supporters. As I posted some weeks ago, Joyce Murray was pretty smart when she targeted a massive, well organised, and highly motivated online community in her supporter drive. It did not require a massive labour intensive process to succeed, because the communications tool utilised, (electronic) is basically free, and the motivation of her erstwhile target group is STRONG. That ease of communications, and strong motivation has manifested itself again by the very high rate of conversion of Murray Supporters to registered voters. That does not surprise me in the least, as I blogged here. As a former Green, I know that the Democratic reform advocates are more deeply motivated than most Canadians, and since the means of recruiting them, via email made it very easy to register, it was inevitable that their numbers would be strong. So based upon the raw numbers, Joyce probably has more registered supporters than Trudeau, while Trudeau probably has a big edge in paid up members.

The Trudeau Campaign is in a very different place. Despite all the hoopla about 170,000 Supporters, the Trudeau campaign recruited a large number of them through their phone banks, NOT through email or online campaigns. The down-side of this is that there was a built-in bias AGAINST Trudeau rooted in the means of acquiring those supporters. They reached them, one at a time by telephone, so a great many of them had no email address on file. This meant that given the very short time frame to register to vote, only a fraction of the Trudeau supporters will have ended up being eligible to vote. Trudeau has got to be chewing his fingernails by now, if the conversion rate for supporters to registered voters was so very lame, are his registered supporters sufficiently motivated to actually cast their ballot after all? I have zero information to share on that score, except the general observation that Joyce’s supporters are going to turn out in very large numbers, and Trudeau’s supporter turnout will definitely be lower. On raw vote counts, it will be extremely close, but that does not mean that Trudeau will lose.

You see, there is something to be said for clunky, old-fashioned, slow and expensive phone banks. Every contact can be targeted. While Joyce was racking up big numbers of supporters, she could not control WHERE THEY CAME FROM. Boy, is she gonna ROCK BC! Actually, she is going to just sweep aside everybody else in BC, and there will be a titanic battle in Urban centres across Canada. But superior organisation, and the highly targeted phone campaign by the Trudeau team will still likely tip the balance. The reason is that despite the very low registration rates ‘enjoyed’ by team Trudeau, their conversions are going to yield a very efficient vote. By efficient, I mean that they are going to win maybe 100, maybe more ridings by just a handful of votes. So there it is, I predict that Joyce will be in a dead heat with Trudeau in terms of ballots cast, but unless Trudeau’s turnout is really really pitiful, he shall win it in rural Nova Scotia, and across the Province of Quebec. It is going to be close though, so nobody should loaf around figuring it is in the bag.

So what to do with Joyce once the dust settles? Well, she has proven something very specific and relevant to the Liberals fortunes. Look at this very interesting article on election results based upon polled intentions of the electorate under a preferential ballot system, ( Actually, that is official Liberal Policy for democratic reform). The outcomes are extremely favourable for every party except the Conservative Party. That makes intuitive sense because the Conservatives have pursued a deliberate policy of solidifying support from their issue sensitive base by contrasting it against, and vilifying those who disagree with them. Hmm, not very conducive for being liked by at least some of your opponents. So preferential ballots are good for the Liberal Party. Joyce has proven something else. Democratic reform is a very strong motivator. It is capable of drawing tens of thousands of supporters in from different party’s, and those supporters mean business. While Joyce pulled in maybe 50,000 names, the sheer size of the Leadnow, Fair Vote, etc memberships suggests that there are as many as a million motivated Canadians standing behind electoral reform. So here is some food for thought, Joyce should be offered the job of building up a strongly motivated community of Liberals, dedicated to bringing Preferential ballots, or a Royal Commission on electoral reform to Canadians, just as soon as the Liberals form the next Government. There is plenty of time to turn this issue into a Liberal issue before the next election. Put half a million democratic reform supporters into Liberalist, and there will be an amazing number of pony tailed-activists canvassing in YOUR riding for YOUR candidate in 2015. And the money, Oh La La! Joyce will have plenty of funds to carry the electoral reform message to the electorate. People who really care will respond well to asks for time and money to support their cause. And guess what? If it succeeds, the Liberal Party will have a permanent advantage with the introduction of preferential ballots, because there they are, with a brand that has very broad appeal indeed! And if it doesn’t succeed? Well, the democratic reform advocates have been patient and are used to not succeeding. They will dig in their heels, and organise an even stronger community for the next election.

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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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Liberal Party Supporter woes, And Joyce Murrays turbo booster.

Joyce MurraySo yesterday there was some `bad news` for Liberals in the media, naturally followed by further revelations and commentary today. Well I have news for you, it is not as big a deal as some J Trudeauwould have us think.

As I have repeated many times, the real value of the Supporter category to the Liberal Party is that it makes it very easy for ordinary Canadians to declare an affinity to the Liberal Party, and provide the means to communicate for free, namely their email addresses. How many of them actually vote for the Leadership candidate of their choice, while a pressing issue for the candidates, is nowhere near as important as the bare fact of their entry into Liberalist database, with a few tidbits of data to tell us more about them. The important things for the Liberal Party moving forward will be firstly in finding another good excuse to draw Supporters into the Party now the Leadership recruiting drive is over. Secondly, and at this juncture in time the more pressing thing is to develop processes for engaging all those new contacts more deeply, and turning their declared affinity to the Liberals into a deeper commitment. In my opinion, the best tools for both these purposes are to reach out with policy messages, and calls to action that will engage supporters on a personal level. Ideally, this outreach will provide people with a means to DIALOGUE, perhaps through online policy formulation and discussion forums, or even a series of policy events, speeches etc that can draw the really committed in person. But I will put that off for a future post, as I have some pointed criticisms and observations to make.

Observation number one is that, as far as I am concerned, a Supporter is only a supporter when the means to register, and vote exist. In other words, the entire logic of harvesting supporters for the Liberal Party, and Liberalist, is that with an email address, and the self-declared affinity for the Liberal Party, the Party has a free means of communication. That is groovy, and will pay off in spades every single time a supporter clicks on a link in an email, or at the very least receives and acts on a GOTV email on some future election day. For the Leadership contestant the value of the supporter is as a prospective ballot in the upcoming vote. This is the what provides the incentive for the leadership campaigns to mobilise lots and lots of volunteers, network etc., and sign those supporters up. In past contests, the campaigns were selling memberships, so there was a monetary incentive that was shared by the Party and the leadership campaigns. While I love the supporter category because of it`s ease, simplicity and guaranteed means of cheap communication, there is no question that an actual membership fee, and the increased level of commitment to the Party that comes with it is of significant value to the Party. When I read the Trudeau team has signed up approximately 100,000 `supporters`without an email address, I scratched my head and asked myself`In what way are those supporters any better than a random voter whose vote has been identified in a regular election campaign?` I am afraid that for the candidate, they are far more important, but to the Party, they are no different really. There is absolutely no way that the Liberal Party should be dishing out very large amounts of money to send mail to that many people, solely for the purpose of having them vote in the leadership contest.

It actually bothers me to make that assertion. I spent some time volunteering at the Trudeau office in downtown Toronto, and I really do believe that Trudeau is the best leader for the Liberal Party, due to his ability to attract large numbers of people to swell the Party`s ranks. I am not spilling any secrets when I say that there were a significant number (very surprising actually) of people who did not have email addresses being tagged as supporters at the end of a phone call. Personally, I was very meticulous in securing, and verifying email addresses, but every time some sweet elderly lady from, say, Pictou told me she had never used a computer, I wondered why I was bothering to tag her as a supporter. Really, those contacts should have been asked to purchase a $10 membership, because the logic of the category is defeated when there is no electronic communications possible. Aside from those without email addresses, the volunteers were not always overly meticulous in recording, and verifying email addresses over the phone. As anybody who has worked in or managed a call centre environment can tell you, the data collected over the phone is always liberally sprinkled with errors from mis-hearing, or simple keyboarding errors. You have to ask for email address, then spell out and record it letter by letter, because if you do not, then a significant proportion of contacts will have incorrect email addresses entered into the system. I was pretty taken aback when I read yesterday that the Liberal Party was actually mailing stuff out to supporters to enable them to vote when there was no email address. Snail mail costs real money! There are printing costs, envelopes, and the actual postage to pay for. The time frames are just too short to realise a return in terms of people responding to the call to action, and then the call to action does not include asking for money to pay for the whole exercise! Notice I do not say that mail shots are worthless. They are not, when they are carefully targeted, a message painstakingly crafted, and designed to raise money, they can sometimes be very effective. In this instance though, NONE of those things are in place, so the money will be spent for an un-measurable return to the Liberal Party that is footing the bill.

OK, I have beaten that theme to death. Mail shots are expensive, and have to be carefully managed to yield funds, not consume them. In defence of the Liberal Party, the whole logic of the supporter category is foreign and new to the Liberal Party. It will take some time for the cost-benefit equation to be internalized, so I will not sit here, an armchair critic and hurl brickbats at those who made this error. It will not be the first time mistakes are made, and the experiment with unpaid `membership lite` supporters will inevitably contain many errors and successes to learn from.  That is the key, learn from the errors, and do not repeat them in the future. The lessons to take home so far are: Supporters value = email addresses. Collecting and verifying that address is the most important thing for the Party in populating Liberalist with actionable data.

Now I am going to indulge in some speculation, and draw a surprising conclusion. The Trudeau campaign has just lost the lions share of those 170,000 odd supporters they claimed. Should the Party be footing the bill for mail shots to un-contactable supporters? I guess if that was their promise, then the Trudeau campaign was relying on them to stick to the deal, and the mail should go out. Forget for a moment if that is an error, or whose fault that is, and consider that the entire calculus of the front-runner has been overturned (in my mind anyway). The mail will go out, and based upon my past experience, PERHAPS 10% or 15% of the recipients will answer the call to action in time to secure the right to vote for the candidate of their choice. I doubt it will be that many. The response rate will depend on how well designed the call to action is, and it will depend far more on how many follow-up calls the Trudeau campaign can make between the dates people receive their mailer, and the response needs to be postmarked. Turn your thoughts instead to actual turnouts when the voting starts, and who shall take the crown.

I recently blogged about how effective the supporter category could be moving forward, if prospective supporters were being recruited based upon dearly held beliefs, rather than a vague affinity for a candidate or the Liberal Party. Any such recruit would not only self-identify with the Liberal party, and provide the means of free communications, but they would also provide a richer base of information about themselves. To whit, they would tell us the policy that they joined the Party to support, and it would almost certainly be something much dearer to their hearts than a simple and impulsive affinity. Any call to action directed to people based upon a dearly held belief is going to have a response several orders of magnitude stronger than the response of a generic supporter. I also recently blogged on how Joyce Murray has based her camapign on appealing to Canadians on several policy fronts. Most notably, she has enlisted several electoral reform organisations, that are PRIMARILY BASED ONLINE, those being, Leadnow, Fair Vote Canada, AZAAZ, and I believe other like-minded groups. I can tell you based upon my experience in the Green Party, that Democratic Reformers in Canada are probably the most earnest, zealous, and politically MOTIVATED  people in Canada. They rank up their with the Conservatives abortion nut-clubs for dedication and motivation. (I apologise for the analogy there to all my democratic reform minded friends.) I do not actually know  just how many supporters Joyce recruited from these sources, but she claims `tens of thousands`. The Trudeau Team claims about 70,000 supporters with email addresses, plus 100,000 sitting at home waiting for a letter until they can register. I think you can see where I am going with this.

There are TWO separate calls to action that really matter to the leadership contestants. The first step is to complete the registration to vote, and the second is to actually cast a ballot. As I said above, Joyce Murray has a small army of highly motivated supporters, who signed up as supporters for this express purpose. The response rates of Joyce`s supporters to both of these calls to action is going to be an order of magnitude stronger than that of the Trudeau supporters. Trudeau has a large army of supporters, who like him, some of them a whole lot. But the overwhelming edge I, and most other Canadians thought he enjoyed is actually 100,000 supporters lower than anticipated. Let us hypothesise that Joyce sheds 30% of her supporters from failing to register, and Trudeau sheds 60%. The odds just shortened dramatically. If the same thing happens in actual turnouts, it`s getting pretty damned close. Folks, I think that this contest has just become a real horse race, at least as far as raw numbers are concerned. The task for the Trudeau team is to carefully focus on those people waiting for their letter from the Liberal Party, with all their supporter registration info within. Even with all those phone banks cranking out calls, the Trudeau campaign does not have enough time to contact all 100,000 of them, so they are going to be focusing their efforts on all the ridings where their mail registered supporters equate to a majority of votes. For Joyce`s campaign, they shall be doing the same thing, with the important exception that they can walk their supporters through the registration process over the phone, with `ìnstant gratifcation` when the supporter clicks the last button online. When the ballots are being cast, once again, the ease of communications of a predominantly electronic communications channel will play out in Joyce`s favour. I will be VERY surprised if Trudeau’s supporters actually turn out in numbers exceeding 25% or so. That is not based on evidence I can share,  but I have managed GOTV`s for this type of Leadership contest before when I was Ontario organiser, and ran Elizabeth Mays national canvas and GOTV for the leadership of the Green Party back in the day. I can tell you that hero worshiping acolytes do not vote in the numbers that hardened policy advocates do. That is not dissing Trudeau`s supporters, it is a straight observation of facts. On Balance, I think that the powerful Trudeau organisation will tip the balance by focusing on those mailed registrations in key ridings, but I seriously think that this is not going to be a cakewalk for anyone.

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Trudeau gets it too: Introducing the next Prime Minister.

Justin TrudeauI just followed a link to a Globe & Mail article: “Inside Justin Trudeau’s war room“. I was elated at what I read, because it confirms my belief that the Liberal Party is going to re-write the book on electoral politics in Canada. That is not a shallow conclusion based upon Trudeau partisanship. It is a conclusion arrived at after nearly a decade of close observation of, and occasional close involvement in political organising and electoral politics. There are a range of considerations underlying my conclusion.

I have blogged repeatedly on the significance of the supporter category to the Liberal Party. I start from the simple and obvious premise that electoral politics is no longer about ‘broadcasting’ a one size fits all message through traditional media channels. Broadcast politics is quickly being replaced by ‘narrow-cast’ communications, direct to the voter without the inconvenience of the media filtering, massaging, and altering the message before presenting it to the electorate on the screen or headline.  If this is indeed the case (and the success of the CPC amply proves it is), then the corollary is that no political party can hope to succeed without possessing the means to communicate directly, one on one with masses of people. Enter the Supporter category of membership introduced by the Liberal Party early last year. As I blogged here, and here, by creating a dead nuts simple method to collect the name, email address, and location of people with an affinity for the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party has managed to create a direct channel to literally hundreds of thousands of Canadians.

This first step, of creating the tool, (Liberalist), and populating it with data, (through the leadership contests massive Supporter recruiting drive) is not the end of the road by any stretch. The process is actually pretty dynamic. As the communications tool is utilised, with targeted email communications being directed at Supporters, the responses, and feedback from the recipients of the communications serves to enrich, and broaden the information the Liberal Parry holds about a growing number of Canadians.  To illustrate my point, let us consider a putative email that relates to a specific policy message. The policy message does not matter, but hypothetically, let us assume it is a call to support democratic reform, in the shape of a preferential ballot in future elections. The call to action could readily be to donate a few bucks to fund a policy workshop, and advertising campaign supporting the concept. Every supporter or member who responds to the call to action has now been identified and quantified within Liberalist, as an issue advocate in this policy area. This broadening of the data allows future calls to action in this policy area to be directed specifically towards those Liberals, and Canadians in general who are passionate about the issue, and are most likely to support the principle with their money, volunteer hours, and policy expertise. Multiply this across different policy areas, and you have multi-channel communications medium, direct to the electorate, with simple feedback mechanism continually enriching your data.

At this moment in time, the Liberal Party is re-tracing ground covered by the Conservative Party years ago. That of building direct contact lists of  Canadians complete with enriched data about their political tastes and preferences. The Liberals are able to catch up with, and overtake the Conservatives by virtue of the fact that the Supporter category is free, electronically based, and offers value to subscribers by gifting them with a vote for the next leader. I have argued recently that the ability to build a massive actionable database of supporters is far too important for the Liberal Party to discard once the Leadership race recruiting drive comes to a close. It will in all likelihood be expanded, and continued over the coming years to continue the dynamic process of building and enriching the communications link directly onto the screens of Canadians. The explicit exchange of value currently offered is for Supporters to be rewarded for providing their contact information to Liberalist, by receiving in exchange the right to vote for the next leader of the Liberal Party. An historic opportunity now exists for the Liberal Party to move beyond catching up with a clever twist, and innovate their way into a truly awesome juggernaut.

Trudeau has proposed that the Liberal Party can make a connection with the Canadian public by selecting ALL Candidates through an open and contested nomination process. Well, that is not a bad idea, and I am sure that it would help by mirroring the success of the supporter category in 338 local contests, but IMHO it has serious limitations. To whit, it does NOT create a continuous process of building Liberalist, enriching the data on Canadian voters and engaging the Canadian electorate. It is basically a one-off gimmick, that will come and go the same way the leadership Supporter drive is about to end. It`s a slick, and potentially rewarding tactic, but because of it`s transitory nature, it is empty of strategic significance. What is needed IS a continuous process, that chugs along day and night yielding positive outcomes.

Please indulge me for a moment in fast forwarding to a hypothetical Fall 2014 policy convention. Server after server is coming online as the number of viewers and participants ramps up 100,000 – 200,000 , 350,000. Joyce Murray, the Liberal Party’s Democratic Reform advocate has taken the stage to speak in favour of the preferential ballot election plank. The petition to the policy convention is presented. 217,000 pledges from Proportional Representation Supporters pledging $10 each to support the Prop Rep plank in the 2015 campaign. The tension is palpable, the votes are being counted…. Victory! In an historic moment, the Liberal Party has adopted the preferential ballot plank for their 2015 election campaign! The pledges are being redeemed quicker than they can be counted, and slowly the blurred numbers on the screen are settling down to readable numbers. $3,500,000 raised in 1 hour! Justin Trudeau takes the stage to announce Marc Garneau, the Liberal Party Employment and Jobs strategy advocate speaking in favour of EI reforms to provide skills training for 1.2 million unemployed Canadians… The number of viewers drops by 100,000 then starts to ramp up again, as unemployed Canadians flock to their computers to cast their supporter ballots, and redeem their pledges…

Does this sound far-fetched to you? Well maybe it is unlikely, but it is not a difficult outcome to achieve if the will and leadership is present, and the reason is pretty darned simple. People have an affinity for political brands, but they are well and truly motivated by policy issues that strike closer to home than that. The Liberal Party, under (I presume) Justin Trudeau is going to want to keep building their supporter lists, and in Trudeau’s own words, will be looking for ways and means to reach out to Canadians, and entice them into the Liberal Party fold. To quote yesterdays Globe article:“Organization is key,” Mr. Trudeau says. “To me, it means creating a structure in which every single citizen can connect directly and easily if they want.””. Now that can mean a lot of different things, but it is further re-inforced by a second quote from Gerald Butts, a senior Trudeau strategist: `Mr. Butts says, that the traditional levers of government have become ineffective and the only way to make change is to “develop and maintain a national, grassroots, volunteer movement.”`. I will take them both at their words for now, because enlightened self-interest is going to drive the Liberal Party to extend and expand upon their recent success with the Supporter category, and I cannot think of any stronger motivational tool and process than an explicit bargain to mutually support the Party on the one hand, and the policy aspirations of Canadians on the other. The mechanisms for achieving the kind of outcome I envision are actually pretty simple. Think of Jason Kenney, but spread your mental wings a little and multi-task with an even dozen Liberal policy advocates. Each advocate is going to have to work pretty darned hard networking, and making contact with advocacy and interest groups. They will need to have online tools to foster participation, and the consequent policy development, but the prospective rewards are significant.  The focus, as with Kenney is to build up the Party database with a rich collection of policy preferences of large numbers of Canadians, and with the correct focus, it is entirely possible to leave Kenney and the Conservatives eating Liberal  Party dust.

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Joyce Murray campaign is a FASCINATING example of how the Liberals can win the next election.

I have been preaching the virtues of the ‘new’ supporter category of Liberal Party ‘memberships’ ever since the Liberal Party announced it nearly a year ago. It is such an innocuous seeming innovation, but the implications are profoundly exciting. I am not at all surprised at the turn of events over the course of this Federal Liberal Party leadership race, in fact, I feel vindicated in my predictions of an enormous electoral juggernaut in the making, in the form and shape of Liberalist, the National contact database licensed from the Obama team.

I will quickly re-iterate my past arguments about the importance of a free, and simple way to register support for the Liberal Party, complete with name, email address, and postal code.

The starting point for any political database is the electronic register of all enumerated voters given to every Party, and contestant at the outset of an election campaign. The dataset provided by Elections Canada includes names, addresses, and poll numbers for the entire electorate. Please note that the Privacy act exempts political users of data from the prohibition against sharing personal and private data, so ANY DATA from ANY ELECTION or ( Municipal, Provincial, or Federal), or ANY ‘political purpose’, can be imported into a database like Liberalist. I mention that because, for example, a Municipal candidate in Toronto would also receive the residency status of each voter (Owner, Renter), as well as the School board affiliation where relevant. (Separate school board or Public school board). Someone like, say, Smitherman is perfectly entitled to hand over his database to the Liberal Party, and like magic (well, with a lot of back-end work), Liberalist now has a whole lot more actionable data on every voter in Toronto.

That data is enriched for free over the course of any election, as electronic updates are provided with the names of those who voted at advance polls, and people who register to vote during the writ period. Most political campaigns also dedicate a huge effort to enriching the data through telephone and door to door canvassing the electorate for voting intentions, and to a lesser extent issues of interest, willingness to accept a lawn sign, etc. So, over the course of an election, the database has a large chunk of people identified as voters in the advance polls. There are lists of people who are dedicated enough to take a lawn sign for your Party, (and the opposition). There are hopefully large numbers of people who have expressed the intention to vote for your Party, and a great many people have been identified as supporters for the other party’s as well. This is what I mean when I say the data is enriched. There is a growing level of detail about the electorate, built up for each and every voter.

I have argued that the KEY to winning elections is the ability to communicate directly, one-on-one with the electorate. The reason is that you do not need to rely on the Media to filter your message, and pass on half of what you want to say to every Tom, Dick, and Sally. You can control the timing of what you want to say. You can control the content of what you want to say. You can NARROWCAST a message to those electors most receptive to your message, provided you have sufficient data to segment your contests by relevant criteria. For example, if you have integrated all the free information provided to candidates at all levels in Toronto, you can create a list of Catholic home owners, who live in the polls adjacent to the Conservatives hypothetical new radioactive waste dump. Hmmm, I can think of a few political messages that could be delivered to such a list of people.

But the trick of it is, how do you communicate with those people once you have enough depth of data to segment? There are commercial data vendors who will happily sell the Party every phone number in Canada. It is cheap, and every political party shells out a few bucks to get this info into the database. But telephoning really large numbers of people is expensive, and time-consuming. That is why robo-calling is so popular, because it is a cheap way to reach out to loads and loads of people, even if it is not hugely effective. You can mail stuff to people, but that is pretty expensive too. It is much more effective than robo-calling, so there is definitely a place for the targeted mail-shot, but the major constraint is the availability of $. Then there is the magical, almost free medium of e-mail. That is the perfect political communications tool. It is so cheap as to be nearly free. It is perfectly suited to provide the means (hot links) to generate an IMMEDIATE response to your call to action embedded in an email. It can be adapted for huge mailings, or very small, highly targeted messages. In short, it is the shangri-la of organisers, and political field workers everywhere.

So this brings me to the exchange of value between the Supporter and the Liberal Party. Supporters are enticed to provide their name, email address, and postal code by the promise that they can influence the selection of the next leader by being given a vote. The value to the Liberal Party is that with those three pieces of information, they can match the supporters name to their list of electors, and attach the fact that THIS voter supports the Liberal Party, along with a virtually free means to contact them directly via their email address. Because of the nature of an electronic sign-up, it is also possible to gather a little more information about THIS supporter. When somebody fills out an online form, the page, or link within an email that brought them to the sign-up form can be traced, and attached to the actual data collected from the new supporter. So, for example, if a website that promotes electoral co-operation refers somebody to a Liberal Party supporter sign-up form (called a ‘landing page’), then Liberalist can be coaxed to make note of the fact that THIS supporter frequents electoral co-operation websites. If the referral came from a link in an email sent out by an organisation like, oh, lets say Leadnow, that fact should definitely be tagged in Liberalist. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal to most people, but it is this added DEPTH of data that allows the database to be segmented for targeted communications.

Which brings me to the theme of this post. Joyce Murray is the Liberal Leadership candidate whose main claim to fame (for now), is that she is proposing a controversial measure for the non-Conservative Party’s to co-operate by selecting joint candidates in specific ridings. The intent is to ensure that the anti-Conservatives do not suffer from vote splitting, and get to boot the Conservative candidate to the curb. This electoral co-operation will be consummated when the next (presumably NOT Conservative government) reforms the elections process to mandate preferential ballots be used in Federal elections.

So how is that working out for Joyce? Well, I have no axe to grind, but I think I speak for most Liberals when I say that Joyce was not considered one of the front ranked candidates. That has changed in a hurry though, because she has done the ABSOLUTE BEST JOB of leveraging the supporter category to strengthen her campaign. She has crafted a policy message that resonates with many, many, thousands of Canadians. She has worked the phones hard, and drawn a number of third parties into the fray on her behalf. Leadnow, FairVote Canada, and a number of other electoral reform organisations have been targeting their huge memberships with emails, and communications encouraging them to join the Liberal Party as supporters, so as to support their dearly held beliefs. Last week, she even pulled an endorsement from David Suzuki, encouraging Canadians to join the Liberal Party as supporters. I know a lot of democratic reform

What motivates YOU?

What motivates YOU?

advocates from my Green Party days, and I can categorically state that they are HIGHLY motivated, and the turnout of her voters will embarrass the other candidates come time to count the ballots. ( I expect maybe a 20%-30% turnout of all Supporters in Liberalist, but Joyce will score better than 50%). That is because a general interest and affinity for the Liberal Party which most Supporters will evince comes nowhere near the motivational potential of a deeply held policy interest. I am pretty certain that Justin Trudeau will still win, because his campaign is signing up hundreds of thousands of supporters, but Joyce will probably surprise the hell out of everybody when the ballots are counted.

So that is Joyce Murray, the fascinating example. Now to how this example illustrates the coming Liberal election victory in 2015. The leadership race is fast approaching it’s conclusion, and with that the supporter category will come to an end.., or will it? I will ask a question, is the Liberal Party stupid enough to throw away the most important innovation in Canadian politics since the Conservatives created CIMS? Nope, I submit that the Liberal Party wants to WIN the next election, and they will figure out that they already have the tool in the drawer that will make this happen. The extraordinary results I anticipate for Joyce are a direct result of empowering motivated Canadians to support their policy ideals, within the ranks of the Liberal Party. In order to maintain the momentum created by the Leadership contest, it would take a pretty foolish organiser to ignore the demonstrated potential of a quick, free, and easy recruiting tool. A long time ago, I blogged that the Green Party could leverage the policy aspirations of Canadians, by creating forums, and vehicles for people who shared a common interest to gather together and share their passion under a Green Party umbrella. Well, the Green Party is toast now, but this is a far more viable proposal for the Liberal Party. Civil society in Canada includes a great many advocacy groups, whose values are not incompatible with the Liberal Party. With a little creativity, those advocacy groups, or more specifically THEIR MEMBERSHIP can be enticed into the Liberal fold by an offer to allow the public to help formulate policy for the Liberal Party to carry into the next general election. This is nothing new, but the big difference is that with a supporter category, the Liberal Party can inherit the contact data of advocacy groups, and assume direct access to large numbers of Canadians with an explicit understanding of their primary policy interest. The bargain that will have to be established should be fair. The post leadership Supporters should be granted a genuine opportunity to help shape the next election platform. Provided the sign-up remains free, and that the bargain is fair and open, it is not only possible, but it is likely that the Liberal Party will build the most comprehensive, and readily targeted political database in Canada over the next couple of years. Set a target of 2-3 million Canadian Supporters, and then make it happen. The improvements in money, volunteer hours, the high quality candidates, even the increased voter turnouts will  be significant. The competitive advantage will only happen once, because the Dippers, and Conservatives will follow the Liberal lead pretty darned quickly, but we can worry about winning in 2020 when we get to 2019. It will be a lot easier to contemplate after 4 plus years of a Liberal majority.

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Liberals Supporter category vital. What happens after the leadership race?

Liberal Supporter GraphicI first realised that my old friend, the Liberal Party of Canada was on the path to recovery when they introduced the Supporter category early in 2012. Canadians were invited to formally become a supporter of the Liberal Party, and offered a vote in the leadership contest as an inducement.  As I wrote in June, the idea nagged and teased me. I clarified my thoughts with a post on the potential impact of an easy to use self-identifier that wins an email address and commitment from just about any Canadian willing to call themselves Liberal. It took awhile, but by the time the Leadership contest commenced in earnest, every campaign was grappling with the implications, and more or less successfully gathering supporters as quickly as they could. In December, I was treated to a series of fundraising emails from the Liberal Party. I had signed up as a supporter, and was really interested in seeing HOW the Liberal Party used the contact information I had provided them. According to the information I gleaned from those fundraising emails, the new supporter category was starting to generate many hundreds of new fully paid up memberships, and first time donors to the Liberal Party. I expected it, but it was still very pleasant to see my earlier conclusions about the game changing nature of supporters for Liberals being translated into irrefutable dollars and cents.

According to publicly reported figures, the Liberal Party signed up 55,000 supporters PRIOR to the start date for the Leadership contest. That`s a whole lot of people voluntarily giving over their contact information, and making an internal commitment to support the Liberals. Mind you, these are the supporters came forward before the Leadership campaigns were vigorously recruiting and proselytising. Since that time, we have seen campaigns like George Takach identifying a `key constituency` (online gamers), and delivering his message of a digital bill of rights through the medium of email. I don`t know if this will get him a huge following, but it is smart. He correctly surmised that emails, and linked sign-up pages will be the keys to victory, so he went after a constituency that spends all their free time online. Another entirely predictable outcome of the changed ground rules has been the use of third-party mailing lists, and issue advocates to recruit Supporters for candidates, and the Party. There were recent media reports about the Construction Workers Union emailing their membership lists, and directing them to  Justin Trudeau Supporter sign-up page on Trudeau`s website.  Just have a quick look at that Union sign-up page. It speaks to my earlier posts on enriching the Liberalist database with additional actionable information on supporters and members. Every Union Joe who signs up will be identified as a Construction Worker Union member, who has an affinity for Justin Trudeau. Can you say `targetted communications`? The third example I want to mention is really exciting, because it has enormous potential, and demonstrates just exactly HOW the Liberal Party is going to be able to prepare for, and win the next General Election in 2015.

Wow! Win the next general election? Is bluegreenblogger off his rocker? Well last week there were a number of media reports regarding a huge boost to Joyce Murrays campaign that rocked my socks off. Several electoral co-operation advocacy groups have, more or less under their own steam recognised the potential of the supporter category to advance their POLICY interests with the Liberal Party. Leadnow boasting approximately 225,000 members, Fair Vote Canada, and other electoral co-operation advocates have been urging their `membership`to become supporters of the Liberals. Put this into perspective, during the recent NDP leadership race, Leadnow and Avaaz rounded up over 10,000 members`to support Nathan Cullens leadership bid. Wow! Those are full dues paying memberships, a much tougher sell than asking for email addresses and a little personal information.

Don`t get me wrong. I have not changed my mind about merging the `left`, and I still think it is a non-starter. But I think my point is well illustrated by this example.  My point is that while affinity for the Liberals can certainly draw a whole lot of support (and money) out of the woodwork for the Liberals, issues and policy are really really powerful motivators. With very little effort on the behalf of the Liberal Party, I expect tens of thousands of Canadians are going to respond to an emailed invitation to join the Liberal Party as a Supporter in order to promote Leadnows and Fair Votes objectives. Which leads me to the entire point of this post.

The Supporter category has been an unqualified success in rapidly building up the numbers of contacts and supporters in Liberalist database. The Supporter category has also improved the quality of data (the depth so to speak) on many thousands of Liberals inclinations, policy leanings, and some third-party affiliations. The Supporter category has generated thousands of dollars of donations directly for the Liberal Party. The reason it has been so succesful is because it is very easy to join, there is no up front cost, and a small but tangible benefit (the right to vote for the Leader) is the reward. The problem is that this unqualified success is slated to come to an end next month when membership and supporter sign-ups are closed for leadership race purposes. How can the Liberal Party continue to re-build and re-organise at the current breakneck speed without anything tangible to offer Supporters? The answer is sooo simple it is scary. Open up policy formulation to supporters! Every supporter who signs up to vote for and promote their deeply held beliefs is worth a dozen people with a  more ,or less vague affinity for a leadership candidate. They will be stepping forward with their time as volunteers, with their money as financial supporters, and their expertise for policy formulation, if only we give them the chance. Now is not the time to sit back and cheer about a one-off success. The Liberal Party has a historic opportunity to vault into the pole position for the next Federal General Election. Such a teeny. tiny innovation has the potential to revolutionise the Party, so please Liberals, do not let the opportunity pass.

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Unite the progressives? Not much of a solution.

For several years there has been a scattered sense amongst some so-called `progressives` that the progressive left should merge, or co-operate electorally to keep the Conservative Party out of power.  No less a Liberal luminary than Jean Chretien has called for a formal merger between the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens. During the current Liberal leadership contest, Joyce Murray is arguing strongly that a pact with the Green Party would be the bees knees.

On the NDP side, the idea was championed by Nathan Cullen in the recent leadership contest.

Elizabeth May has sounded of on this theme again in the aftermath of the recent by-elections where the GPC had a pretty good showing in two of the three ridings contested. She said that; `The tight races also reinforce the need for the NDP, Liberals and Greens to “start talking to each other” to avoid vote splitting in future elections…` I laughed when I read that. Of course she did! The Green Party is tottering, and this is about the only way she is going to retain any electoral significance beyond the next General election. Now some people will want to attribute this statement to malice on my part.  After all, did the GPC not just exceed all expectations in both Calgary Centre, and Victoria by-elections? Sure they did. They did it by pulling out all the stops. They have gotten better at coordinating a national virtual phone bank, and they recruited canvassers from coast to coast to coast to support a couple of strong local candidates. There is a real difference between concentrating your resources on a couple of by-elections, and running a National General election campaign.

They spent real money and resources on those by-elections. In fact, I suspect that when the by-election financial returns are made public, we shall find that they spent as much on these two by-election contests as the Central Party spent on the whole of Canada outside the four target ridings in the last general election. And I would posit that this big effort was symptomatic of their very weak position moving forward. Reason number one is that the per vote subsidy for political party’s is being phased out. The GPC shares the funding from this source between the National Party, and the local EDA`s. This fund sharing formula was in existence before Elizabeth May was elected leader, and it has had a perverse impact on the development of the local units of the party, the Electoral District Associations.  Under Jim Harris, there was a strong emphasis on building the local electoral capacity of the EDA`s. There were full-time organisers on staff, whose job was to assist local Greens in forming EDA`s. Their job was to help out with training, and electoral readiness. There was help in recruiting candidates, there were election training tools, seminars, and manuals being produced. There was a strong incentive for the central Party to support the EDA`s, because the per vote subsidy was shared between the local EDA and the Party itself. The central Party was not very good at fundraising, so they were dependant upon good election results to pay the organisers salaries. Winning votes at the local level was important to the EDA also, because their share of the subsidy represented the lions share of the money available to them to contest the next election.

Elizabeth May brought a very different focus to the Green Party. For whatever reason, the Party lost interest in supporting and developing any strength in the local organisations.  There was a Salary for the Leader, and Deputy Leader to be paid. There was the leaders aide to pay, and the basic legal compliance functions to fund, like financial reporting, meeting the expenses of the Federal governing council, etc. It seemed there was little interest, or resources left over for spending money on training, organising, forming or supporting EDA`s. In fact, from what I could observe, there seemed to be a perverse incentive at work. Every EDA that folded up it`s tent and was collapsed, meant that the per vote subsidy previously `diverted`to the local organisation reverted back to the central party, and helped to keep the top-heavy organisation afloat. During the various budgetary crises that the GPC faced, a series of moves were made to secure an increasing share of the subsidy cheque for the central party. For example, at one point the central Party sent out communications telling the EDA`s that they would be `opted out`of the revenue sharing agreement, unless they responded on short notice that they still wanted to receive their share. Then there was the whole Quebec organising fiasco. The central party was pressured by the Quebec EDA`s to hire a very talented young lady as Quebec organiser for the GPC. She was very succesful, as she set up regional meetings, membership started climbing dramatically, and they registered a whole whack of EDA`s in Quebec over the course of a couple of months. The reaction of the Central Party was to sack the organiser, in order to preserve their revenue stream from the per vote subsidy from Quebec voters! You see, the GPC council had decided that the entirety of the Party`s resources had to be dedicated to winning the leaders seat in SGI in the next election. The upshot was the voluntary dissolution of the Quebec EDA`s. The activists and EDA executives all left the Party, and the Quebec wing completely collapsed. As far as I can tell, that is pretty well where things stand in Quebec today.

The picture is a little more complicated across the rest of the country. The same basic fact holds true, that there is no organising support for the EDA`s, but there is still some residual strength left in some of the EDA`s. The majority of the EDA`s still in existence are held together by the ongoing revenue sharing cheques they receive from the central Party. There are still a few local organisations who go beyond filing their annual returns and cashing the revenue sharing cheques, but the bulk of the EDA`s are collapsing one by one, even though they have guaranteed sources of funds if they meet some minimal filing requirements.

Here is a quick table I whipped up based on Elections Canada records:

GPC EDA formation
Year Registrations Deregistrations
2004 96 1
2005 35 5
2006 24 13
2007 56 3
2008 16 5
2009 48 9
2010 4 44
2011 2 19
2012 4 18
2013 0 1
Total: 285 118

As you can see from the table, the Revenue sharing agreement, in conjunction with the central party supporting and assisting in EDA formation succeeded in putting at a minimum a rudimentary local organisation across the country between 2004-2007. There was an upwards blip in 2009 when a whole lot of Quebec EDAs were registered. The recurring financial crisis within the GPC head office contributed to, (or in the case of Quebec was the proximate cause of), the collapse of the EDA`s in 2008-2009, which resulted in the de-registration of all those EDA`s without an executive from that time on. There has been little or no effort to revive the Party organisation at the local level since the momentous decision of the federal Council to concentrate 100% of the GPCs resources on supporting Elizabeth May since 2008-9.

So given these facts, and the history of the GPC, what is going to happen now that the per vote subsidy is being phased out, and there are no easy sources of funds for local EDAs? Well it is clear that the GPC has never shown an  interest in organising at a local level. The local membership is losing the biggest incentive they have to retain the vestiges of an organisation. Even with the ongoing flow of funds from the vote subsidy, about 40% of the EDAs have folded. If the current trend continues, then at BEST there will be about 110-120 EDAs left preserving some resources for the candidates in the 2015 general election. So just how relevant will the GPC actually be in the 2015 general election?

Well the lifeblood of the GPC, the per vote subsidy, will have ceased to exist by 2015. The central party had what should have been a strong incentive to win as many votes as possible across the country in 2010, but they chose to focus all their resources on an effort to secure a seat for Elizabeth May. The impact of failing to run a national Campaign was predictably followed by a substantial decline in their vote share.  How much effort will they expend on recruiting and supporting candidates for the next election? It is safe to assume that those EDAs that still exist will manage to find a candidate for themselves. It is clearly not safe to assume that the party will spend a nickel to recruit candidates where there is no local organisation though. Even if they do field a decent number of candidates, there will be no local organisation to support the candidates. there will be no money in the bank, there will be no candidate training, there will be no resources backing them up, because there is no reason for the national Party to do so. Therefore, it is my contention that the GPC will have lost the capability to influence the course of the general election. Based on past electoral results, a GPC candidate without an EDA, and a minimum of $5,000 behind their campaign will not win more than 2-4% of the vote. The implication is that the GPC will halve their vote share on Eday, if they are lucky.

So having provided some background information, why is it that I would laugh aloud at Elizabeth Mays noble gesture of calling for electoral co-operation before we get to the next election? That is simple. the GPC does not have the resources, the motive, and I suspect the intention to field candidates across the country. When faced with the choice of fading into irrelevance, or cloaking their impotence in an electoral pact, Elizabeth has opted to squeeze the last drop of influence from a Party with some regional strength, but at the end of its rope in most of Canada. If they can run candidates un-opposed in a handful of ridings, they can marshal sufficient resources to pick up a few more seats, but that can only happen if they are gifted that option by both the Liberals and the NDP. They have tried to bolster their bargaining position with an all out effort in the recent by-elections, but they will never have the resources to duplicate this beyond a handful of ridings at a time. My advice to the Liberal Party, and to the NDP, is to smile politely, agree she is a wonderful MP, and ignore her overtures. She has nothing of substance to offer, beyond her own not insignificant abilities as an MP, and policy guru.

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The Liberal Party Supporter category: Takach gets it. Does anybody else?

Yesterday I read a Toronto Star article entitled: How federal Liberals are using leadership race to get back in the game.

The premise of the article is that the new supporter category is a game changer for the Liberal Party, and that this late entry into the data collection business holds the promise of future relevancy for the Liberal Party.

`The Liberals aren’t just conducting a leadership contest. They are also using this race to engage in a massive, data-collection exercise — a catch-up effort. In the last couple of elections, the Conservatives and New Democrats have surged far ahead of the Liberals in this cutting-edge aspect of modern electioneering.` The article goes on to highlight some interesting facts not generally available to the public, for example, there have been over 40,000 supporters signed up by the Liberal Party, and the fact that Liberalist, the centrally managed and maintained database has only got data on approximately 1.3 million Canadians. Well all I can say to that depressing piece of news is that there are another 20 million Canadians to go, so the Liberal Party better get it`s shit together fast, because there are almost 1 million Canadians to contact every month between now and the next election. The sheer scope of the basic task aside, there was one interesting aspect of the article that gives me hope that the Liberal Party can actually build a winning campaign with the time they have in hand, and of all people, it is George Takach who really does seem to get it.

You see, the modern world of electoral politics is no longer about grand themes, and demographic-wide sweeping policy statements that `wow` huge segments of the electorate into voting for a Party. It is about identifying and understanding subsets of the electorate, communicating directly with smaller groups of often highly motivated voters, and winning their support in terms of volunteering, donating money, and proselytising for the Party. I have seen plenty of discussion about the supporter category within Liberal Party ranks. The discussion basically falls into two categories, on the one hand many Liberals seem to think it is a good idea that will draw in `new blood`, and shake things up a little. On the other hand we have the fossils who I would judge feel that it threatens their hard-won positions of influence within the Party. The surface arguments from this camp generally seem to consist of the idea that people can just go ahead and join, which means that there will be undeserving, or even hostile influences on the Liberal Party inherent in the `Trojan Horse`supporters. What I have seen very little of is a serious discussion about WHY it is that the Liberal Party has such a crappy database, and HOW it is that the Liberal Party can actually joint the real world of electoral politics. Seriously, I was having my doubts that the Liberal Party even has a clue about what has happened to them, until I read that what George Takach had to say about his leadership campaign.

Full disclosure, at this point in time, I anticipate casting my supporter ballot for Justin Trudeau, but that surely does not mean that I will be wanting to throw out the baby with the bath water once this Leadership contest is over. The baby in the bath water is George`s idea that he can target a specific community of interest, online gamers. He proposes: “There are a million and a half gamers in this country, most of them between the ages of 18 and 35. Right now they’re apolitical … I’m going to reach out to them. I’m going to show them social acceptance. My agenda about a superfast Internet, a digital bill of rights, will resonate very deeply with them.” Do not get me wrong. I find the idea of riding to power on a wave of suddenly motivated online gamers to be, well, a little `out there`. But while it may not be a practical program for winning the leadership of the Liberal Party, it does go waaay beyond what the Liberal party seems to understand about the supporter category, and it`s implications for retail politics. Whether George actually corrals 100,000 gamers, or only manages to gather in 500 gamers, he will have exploited the one two punch that the Liberal party MUST master if they are to ever win an election again. He has identified a readily approached community of interests. He has created a series of policy prescriptions to appeal to that community of interests, and he is now campaigning to collect actionable data on the individual members of this community, to whit, to sign them up as supporters, donors, and activists. And get this, he is doing all this years ahead of the next general election, so there is plenty of time between now, and then to build on his successes, mitigate his failures, and generally lock up the support, volunteer hours, and chequebooks of his community of interest(s). The data that he is collecting will be permanently preserved within Liberalist. This means that at any time the Liberal Party will have the option of calling on this community with targeted message that speaks to them directly. George himself will have built himself some kind of constituency within Liberal Party supporter ranks, and for so long as he champions their interests, and has the means to make targeted communications to them, he will retain a loyal base of support, both for himself, and the Liberal Party. For those of my readers stifling a yawn right now, I invite you to consider well what the Conservative Party has achieved with, for example, the community of rural long gun owners in Canada, or the Pro-Life lobby in Canada. This is how they have built a permanent campaign machine, the richest stream of donors, and volunteers in Canadian politics. The achieved this by ignoring large-scale demographics, and homing in on politically significant communities of interests buried within the electorate, just like George is doing.

So there it is. A simple idea no? Extrapolate it a little bit, and you have a political party that comes to represent a community of communities. A political party that can count on cash and volunteers motivated by real ideas, not fuzzy vague policies developed in a commitee room at some boring convention, but ideas that have PROVEN their worth by attracting committed volunteers and supporters to the Party. The Liberal Party obviously needs to build a serious electoral database, and get the basic information on the entire Canadian electorate. There is just no way to be a Party with aspirations to govern the country without a comprehensive database of voting intentions. Now it should be (but is not yet) equally obvious that collecting more intensive, and directly actionable data based on issues, and `communities of interests` is a second pre-requisite for governing the country. It will take many millions of dollars MORE than the Liberal Party has been spending in recent elections to just retain the support level the Liberals currently enjoy. It will take thousands of committed volunteers. It will take a serious improvement in the ground game of the Liberals. It has been the CPC that showed the way to find and win the commitment of $$ and volunteer time, but so far there are only a few lonely voices in the Liberal Party that get it, and are actually doing something about it. I take my hat off to George Takach for having the cojones to go out on a limb with his `out there`idea, that is not so very out there after all. I am very curious to see whether or not the Liberal Party can recognise, and take steps to enable more people like George to set their sights on more and different communities of interests, and start building up the depth of their data, in tandem with the pure donkey work of broadening the database by getting 100% of Canadians voting intentions into Liberalist.

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