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.

Global News

OTTAWA – If many hands make light work, Liberals in Atlantic Canada, southern Ontario and parts of Vancouver may have proportionally fewer doors to knock during the 2015 federal election.
But those in Alberta and Quebec could find themselves without backup during the electoral ground war.
As supporters turned out to vote in the leadership convention that saw Justin Trudeau elected Liberal leader, they revealed where the party may find foot soldiers for the next election – and where it will need to do some serious recruiting.
Perhaps not surprisingly, ridings with the fewest Liberal members were also most likely to be held by other parties.
Riding by riding analysis shows the ratio of voters to Liberal Party supporters to voters is highest in Atlantic Canada, the National Capital Region and a smattering of other ridings in Ontario.
Metro Vancouver was also fairly strong, but Vancouver Quadra, represented by leadership…

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

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

Here`s the quote that has me worried:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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