The Green Party demostrating strategic and tactical smarts on Vancouver Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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Liberal Party open contested nominations: Awesome plan, but Pro-Life is the fly in the ointment.

At great risk to life and limb, I am going to open a can of worms that the Liberal Party is just going to HAVE to deal with soon. Over the course of the leadership contest, the bold experiment of opening up the vote for all Canadians through the supporter category of Liberal membership has quite impressive and positive results. In fact it was so succesful, that for a short while, the Liberal Party is going to match the Conservative Party fundraising prowess, by tapping into this new pool of friends for monetary contributions. Justin Trudeau re-inforced the Liberals movement in a more open direction in his acceptance speech. Trudeau categorically stated that ALL nomination contests would be precisely that, an openly contested election of the Liberal Party’s candidate for each riding.

For very practical reasons, and a few philosophical ones, I applauded that iron-clad commitment. Philosophy aside, the biggest practical reason is that the Liberal Party has a long way to go before Liberalist has enough committed and motivated supporters to build the monetary and organisational strength of the Conservative Party. Over the coming 2 years, there will be 338 candidates selected, one for each federal riding across Canada. Whether those candidates are selected by closed membership votes, or Primary style supporter votes as I hope, there are going to be a LOT of new members and/or supporters keyed up and ready to GO in the next General Election. It is not unreasonable to expect anywhere from a few hundred new supporters in smaller weaker ridings up to thousands of supporters in perhaps 100 Liberal hotbeds. When added to the hundreds of supporters already identified, many EDA’s will have literally thousands of formally ‘registered’ supporters to call upon for their votes, for their volunteer hours and skills, and yes, for their money. With this kind of boost to the numbers, I would anticipate great gobs of cash, badly needed to fight the next election. This is the positive aspect of contested nominations, and it is hard to refute its significance.

In another vein, I have watched the leadership of the Conservative Party, and I have always been vitally interested in just which constituencies their prowess, and electoral strength actually comes from. From the early days of the Reform Party, the Alliance iteration, and the final destruction of the vestiges of Progressive Conservatism with the birth of the CPC,  the Pro-Life movement has been front and centre. According to this Angus Reid Poll, “…one-in-twenty respondents (5%) would actually forbid women from having an abortion.” I do not think it will take much convincing for you to agree with me that this 5% is probably one of the best organised issues based group in the country. I mean, seriously, for most of the pro-life movement, they are literally on a mission from GOD. 20 years ago, this was an issue that divided Canadians right across Party lines, and geographical areas. It was treated pretty gingerly by politicians, and was characterised by open votes in Parliament for that very reason. If you CANNOT whip the vote, you better not even try to. Over the ensuing decades, the Reform Party (think Stockwell Day) and the successor party’s managed to turn this issue into what looked like a partisan issue. There is little doubt that Pro-Life movement has come to be associated with the Conservative Party, and that association has been integral to the fundraising, volunteer, and resulting organisational strength of the CPC. You see, it may only motivate 5% of the populace, but that motivation is strong. Strong enough to get thousands of volunteers out of bed early every day during an election, and hit the streets canvassing kits in hand. The long association of the Reformers and Alliance Party with the Pro-Life movement carried those supporters, and the Party they adhered to through to the grail itself. Majority Government!

Now that is where the wheels are starting to come off the bus for the Conservatives. It is not news that abortion is truly a third rail for the Harper Conservatives. Yes, their Party cannot survive in its current form without the organisational muscle the pro-life movement brings to their ranks, but at the same time this is a divisive issue, where passions run high on both sides. The fact is that it is not possible to win a majority from the electorate while openly seeking to re-regulate abortions in Canada. I would go a step further, and say that even a back-door attempt to pass a major pro-life bill would paralyse the Canadian government by mobilising literally millions of pro-choice men and women across the country to take to the streets. So it is perhaps not surprising that Stephen Harper has categorically rejected any and all attempts to introduce legislation, but he is definitely walking a tightrope, with the fiery pits of political oblivion boiling below. The danger for the CPC is pretty clear. The pro-Life movement might well feel an affinity for the Conservative Party after long association, but their primary motivation, their driving force is predominantly the drive to criminalize abortion. By taking away any hope that a majority meant their victory, their motivation has been removed, and THAT makes for a pretty shaky loyalty to the Conservative brand.

Back to the discussion about open contested nominations, and the potential of the supporter category of Liberal membership. I doubt I need to say it by now, but I think that any Liberal with half a brain knows what is likely to happen when the nominations are thrown wide open. If the nomination contests are open to paid Liberal members only, then a significant number of pro-life activists are going to be joining the Liberal Party, and they will bring little in the way of loyalty to the Liberals with them. If the nomination contests are open for the supporter category to vote, I think that Joyce Murray’s Leadership campaign has amply demonstrated that it is easy for people with zero interest in the Liberal brand to sign up on the spot, and they will do so to support pro-life nomination candidates. I would be willing to bet that Rob Anders for example, or his ideological clones will step forward. They will sweep the nominations in a number of ridings, and be standing for Parliament as Liberal Candidates all over the place. It will mean the death of the Conservative Party, but I suggest that it would be the death of Liberal Party hopes for a majority, or even a coalition government anytime soon. The only un-ambiguously pro-choice Party in Canada is the NDP, and I suggest that if the Liberals field a strong and vocal pro-life caucus of candidates, Canada through a plurality of pro-choice electors would engage in an interesting experiment with the first majority NDP government at the Federal level.

So there it is, and a major conundrum it is. The pro-lifers are motivated to bail from the Conservative Party, provided a credible path to criminalize abortion exists elsewhere. The Liberal Party has an awesome opportunity to engage many hundreds of thousands of Canadians in open primary style nomination contests, but it is probable that this will draw in a fifth column of highly motivated social conservatives. Thats the problem with democratic processes isn’t it? Even the folks we do not like get to have their say. What to do, oh what to do? All I can suggest at this time, is do not simply turn away from the idea of open primary style nominations. That is one potential key for a majority Liberal Government in 2015. Lets try to figure out how to have our cake, and eat it too, ok?

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Trudeau’s ‘Call to Action’ needs to focus on building the Riding Associations.

In the very few weeks since Justin Trudeau was elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, there have been some pretty big things going on. I guess the most obvious, and I mean IN YOUR FACE obvious is the launch millions of dollars worth of ‘attack ads’ by the Conservatives, and the launch of a million dollar ‘anti-attack’ ad by the Trudeau Liberals. We have all been treated to a phenomena that we have seen time and again. scads of

It's Off To Work We Go

It’s Off To Work We Go

instant communications ‘experts’ opine on whether one ad or another is ‘working’, and arguing the finer points of negative vs positive. Are the Cons shooting themselves in the foot? Is Trudeau a ‘Mr. Positive’, safely inoculated against negative ads? The yardstick against which the relative merits are judged are voting intentions as revealed by public opinion polls, which in turn unleash lashings of commentary on the accuracy, and relative merits of polling methods and companies. While all of this is, to be sure, very exciting and certainly gives us all fodder for blogs and comments, I cannot recall seeing a single news article on the yardsticks and measures of success that actually matter.

The objective of the Liberal Party of Canada is to win a plurality of voters in a general election expected sometime in the fall of 2015. I think that it is universally acknowledged that the biggest obstacle to overcome is that the Liberal Party does not currently have the ground organisation, or the resources to achieve that objective. Visit the Liberal Party website, and you shall be greeted by a banner stating simply: “HOPE and HARD WORK”. That is a pretty tacit recognition that there is some way to go, else why the word HOPE? I will take a leap of faith, and assume that since Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party recognise they need to rebuild the Party, that they have a Plan to achieve that objective. It is not rocket science, and Trudeau’s team have proven that they know how to plan. It is about setting an objective, acquiring the resources to achieve that objective, and then effectively deploying those resources to achieve the objective.

I do not think there is much doubt that the resource which matter most. The resource from which all good things flow is a base of committed supporters. Money, skills, volunteer hours etc. It follows that building up this asset is the interim objective, and this is the yardstick against which success should be measured. I guess that the rising fortunes of the Liberal Party in opinion polls measuring voting intentions is not a bad thing. What I am having trouble with is in answering the question, ‘How does spending a million dollars on an Ad campaign help to build the supporter base of the Liberal Party?’

I have spent enough time marketing goods and services that I understand the importance of a brand. Basically, all those Mr. Positive adverts are a brand building exercise. But Holy Crap! A million dollars on building the brand? The fundamental issue I have with that is that building the brand does not leave any room for a ‘call to action’ in the ad campaign. It is all sizzle and no steak. You can argue that Trudeau has leveraged the brand building campaign, by twinning it with a call to action to support the exercise with donations. That is certainly a valid point. Over a two-week period, I saw many a call to action in facebook ads, and various keyword based ads online to donate funds to the Liberals for the Mr. Positive ads. The effectiveness of that parallel campaign is proven by the obvious metric. The Liberal Party raised about $1million over a two-week period.  It is less obvious how effectively the Liberal Party has built the supporter base on which future success depends. For all those monetary resources expended, there has been very little in the way of calls to action to join, or Support the Liberal Party. I believe that the Liberals are playing their hand in a very disciplined and systematic way. I am thinking that the primary objective is going to come to the forefront over the coming months, and we shall see communications focused on calls to action that capitalise on the brand building campaign currently underway.

Trudeau is a wizard at gaining earned media. Earned media is at the discretion of journalists, editors, and the media in general. As such, it is very difficult to ensure an effective ‘call to action’ is included in published articles. Consequently, the focus of the earned media campaign is likely to be the continuous building the ‘Mr. Positive’ brand. We can hope, especially in online media channels, that the occasional ‘home run’ will be earned with links directly to Liberal, or Trudeau ‘landing pages’ intended to harvest supporter, donor, and volunteer names and email addresses. Those instances will be few and far between though. So earned media will probably focus on creating a positive environment for the ‘Hard work and Hope’ to take place in. Where the true objective will be achieved is on the paid media, and field organising fronts.

On the paid media side of things, the focus needs to be far more directly related to garnering the key resource, to whit recruiting supporters, voters, and building the volunteer base to make our EDA’s competitive. The reason is simple. Paid media is 100% at the discretion of the buyer. Connecting the message to the call to action is normally the entire purpose of a paid ad. This is the reason that I am bothered by the current $1million ad campaign. Delivering calls to action is EXPENSIVE, and every dollar spent on Mr. Positive ads, is one less dollar asking someone to join the Party, attend an EDA building event, sign a petition, or any of a myriad of useful and effective calls to action. Since future revenue streams are dependant upon a growing and ever more dedicated supporter base, the focus of the paid media campaign must shift to effective calls to action. That will directly grow the capacity of both the central Party campaign apparatus, and the local EDA supporter base.

On the field organising front, Justin Trudeau is a one man organising machine! I follow the news regularly, so every time I read a comment about Justin Trudeau missing in action in the House of Commons, a muted ‘Bwah ha ah’ rises from deep within. You see, rather than hanging out in the HOC standing in a futile exercise of voting against Government motions that will pass, Justin is out in the field stuffing the coffers and recruiting scads of supporters one EDA at a time. The Parliamentary reporters can fret away the days until Justin returns, which guarantees that his infrequent appearances on the Hill will be well attended. The result being solid national media coverage on themes more or less of his choosing (see ‘earned media wizard’ comment above).  In the past week, Justin spent time in Labrador addressing and motivating supporters in the by-election contest currently underway. He showed up in Edmonton, meeting with Edmonton area EDA’s, and drawing hundreds of new supporters into the local Edmonton organisations. Then he moved on to Winnipeg, where he glad handed his way through the food court of a local mall, once again addressing crowds and drawing more people into the Liberal Party’s arms. The guy makes the Energiser Bunny look like a freakin dilettante! I am starting to believe that Trudeau can practically rebuild the Party all by his lonesome, but I am thinking that the Liberals have to do better than that. This is where you and I come into the picture. ‘HOPE and HARD WORK’ means exactly that. When Justin moves on to the next EDA, what he is leaving behind has to be organised, and welded into a campaign capable group that can win the next election. Liberalist is being steadily populated with new supporters across the nation. It is pretty important that there is a local connection for all those new supporters. Engaging with them and soliciting their time, money, and effort needs to be happening in every EDA, or the opportunity Trudeau has presented the Liberals will be lost. There is probably a two-year time frame in which we have to act. If we are to overcome the CPC, and growing NDP organisations, then Justin is absolutely bang on the money. From a basis of HOPE, it is up to you and I to put in the HARD WORK, and put the puck in the net in 338 ridings in 2015!

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Liberal Party Organising: Integrating Facebook with Voter contact lists means GAME OVER for the Conservatives

I have blogged repeatedly on the Importance to the Liberal Party of ‘building the database’ and populating Liberalist with as many Liberal Party supporters as possible. That is step one of the critical three-step of Building the database, Engaging supporters more deeply, and effective Calls to action. Until about an hour ago, I thought that using social media like Facebook was a side-show. Basically, as far as I knew, you could do events, spread messages, and do a bunch of nifty things, but that it was a completely different data silo that was basically useless to the main task of enriching Liberalist with data about what truly motivates individual electors and supporters. BOY WAS I WRONG!

I was going to post about how I tracked back this fundraising email 10000 donors Apr26, addressed from Katie Telford, Co-Chair of the Trudeau Campaign. The email was an effective ask for $$, but it did not have any clickable html links to share with friends, to network, and help the Liberal Party to build the contact database. That was missing a great opportunity. Surely their email service providers could have provided these services for them? I wanted to learn more about the email servers, and back-end data management of the Trudeau Campaign, and by extension, what we can expect from the Liberal Party as the Trudeau Campaign spreads its influence at head office. With a little help from Google and GMAIL, I found myself on this website for NGP VAN, which is a Progressive / Democrat Party affiliated data and communications management firm based in the States.

As so often happens in the information age, following a lead put me squarely in front of something related, but un-expected. You see, I have been overly dismissive of the uses of social media for campaign purposes. Facebook is a great way to spread a message, invite people to events, and a myriad of vitally important campaign related stuff. Until about 1 hour ago, I thought that there was a fundamental problem that the data about social media contacts are isolated within a world effectively controlled by third party data vendors. In plain English, Facebook controls their users data. I did not see how all that wonderful data about the preferences, causes, friends of each individual supporter and contact could be linked directly to Liberalist. As I have posted repeatedly, engaging Canadians more deeply, and building an ever more detailed picture of what motivates our supporters allows us to target our communications, way more effectively. It is going to be an integral part of rebuilding the ground game of the Liberal Party by building up donor and volunteer lists at the National and EDA level.

So now I get to the point. NGP VAN has a social organising component that integrates Facebook friends and contacts with compatible Contact Databases! I figuratively drooled all over my keyboard as I watched the promotional video embedded below. If you are a Liberal Organiser, you need to ENSURE that your EDA has a nice Facebook page, because every like, every friend of every supporter can be quickly and seamlessly integrated into Liberalist utilising this tool. HOLY CRAP! The Liberal Party is going to freaking BURY the Conservatives in 2015! Imagine what will happen when 75% of Liberal voters are magically profiled and accessible to the local field organisers in the year leading up to a general election? The Conservatives have spent literally tens of $millions building a partial and spotty database on supporters and donors. The Liberal Party can acquire a much richer dataset in one tenth of the time. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below, and get to work with that Facebook page!

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It is time for the Liberal party to start ‘Doing’ policy.

Attack ads, counter attack ads. Lots of earned media so far, and with some actual media buys happening, I am sure there is going to be some movement in opinion polls, and very early voting intentions, but seriously, what does it mean 2 years out from the next general election? Lets take stock of what the practical results of the first two weeks of Trudeau’s leadership are. The most obvious practical outcome is the incredible success of the Supporter category of membership in the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party raised a nifty half a million dollars in the first 7 days after the leadership race ended. I suspect that by the end of this weekend, the total will be approaching a cool $million. Not too shabby for the third place Party, two years away from a general election! And how did the Party do it? Well two words encapsulate it: Trudeau & Supporter. Here is a copy of one of Trudeau’s ‘asks’ that tells us there were 7,000 donors last week.

First Look at our Ad

When Justin Trudeau was faced by an immediate barrage of attack ads, the Liberal Party was able to send out mass emails to an enormous number of recipients, largely because the supporter category had added somewhere around a quarter million names to Liberalist. I am sure that the social media networking drove more than a few donors into Trudeau’s arms, but the lions share had to be in the form of click-throughs from the emailed communications.  I am thinking that the skeptics about supporter category are taking a sober second look at the concept right about now, as I do not think that the Liberals have ever really seen anything like this. But here’s the thing. People are motivated right now. There is a lot of excitement still in the air over the recent Trudeau win, but those Conservative attack ads are going to start to have an impact. It will not be long until the existing lists start to suffer from donor fatigue. (Not to mention bumping up against contribution limits). Without something more concrete than excitement and enthusiasm for Justin, the edge will come off. The need to replenish Liberalist with fresh contacts, and the need to motivate and engage people who have not yet contributed will become an ever more pressing concern.

I will never stop believing that a great event is nowhere near as good as an effective PROCESS. I know it sounds ridiculous to say that the Leadership race, and this huge fundraising boom is not the best thing that could happen, but that is exactly what I believe to be true. To put this most excellent fundraising week into perspective, the Liberal Party blew the doors off, and raised $500,000. At an annualised rate, this would yield $26 million, assuming the same level of excitement and engagement were sustainable year round.  The Conservative Party raises between $17 million in 2009 and 2010, up to a high of $22 million in 2011 from about 100,000 donors. They do this dependably, reliably, and repeatedly because they have systematized their fundraising and outreach efforts. They tap into people motivated by specific policy prescriptions, or ideas, and that is why their donors dig deep into their pockets again and again.

So how do you go about building a reliable process to recruit, and engage new donors? Well the answer is to appeal to people based upon something more reliable than excitement and pizzazz. That something is, and always will be to appeal to deeply held beliefs, which means policy. In a sense, the Conservative attack ads are highlighting this fact for us. They are absolutely correct that without any policy substance, the Liberal party is not going to forge any kind of real relationship with the electorate. I think that Justin Trudeau is also correct, that policy that is delivered from on high is not the best way of forging that relationship, and engaging more Canadians. The Trudeau campaign has actually started a process of soliciting policy input from Canadians, utilising a tool called soapbox. The website is ok I guess. It definitely has been envisioned as both an idea factory, and a tool for harvesting resources, but there is something missing from it. To my jaundiced eye, there is a proliferation of disconnected ideas, and no real way to pull the threads together into common themes, and ultimately serious policy prescriptions. I am not an expert in website design, or social networks/forums, but to my mind, what is missing is a stronger guidance and structure, so that people can actually assemble online clustered about policy themes and statements. For example, The Liberal Party has several prominent advocates, and scholars of democratic reform in our ranks. I am thinking Stephane Dion, and latterly Joyce Murray. If they were invited to build an online community addressing electoral reform, then we could be assured that there would be some solid policy prescriptions being presented for debate, and a tool like soapbox can form the meeting place where Canadian proponents of electoral reform could engage ever more deeply with the issue that moves their hearts and minds. With a few thousand dollars of seed money, plus a plethora of social networking tools, I can pretty well guarantee they could build a community of many many thousands of Canadians around this issue. And naturally, there are many policy fields that could engage large and small groups of proponents, each with a few prominent Liberals providing the steady guiding hand. Periodically, they could be asked to contribute funds to an advertising campaign to promote their policy prescriptions to all Canadians, thus drawing in new participants, donors, volunteers, and members, whilst forever banishing the public perception that Trudeau, and the Liberal Party is bereft of ideas.

As I said earlier, I am not an expert in forums or social networking, but I guarantee that Liberals exist who ARE. I can also guarantee that without processes to draw in, and ever more deeply engage Canadians with the Liberal party, it is ony a matter of time before the Conservatives, and the NDP stomp the Liberal Party. Because the fact is that the Liberal Party IS at a policy crossroad. And both of out opponents are ideologically driven, with ideas and policy at the heart of  their party’s. My ideas along these lines may be fatally flawed, but it is definitely time to start the hard work of building the Party, and policy formulation has to be front and centre in this effort.

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The Liberal Party should stand FOURSQUARE behind the Unions on Temp workers

Where is the Crimson Permanent Assurance when you need it?

Where is the Crimson Permanent Assurance when you need it?

I just popped over to National Newswatch, and I read a CBC article there about the Royal Bank eliminating the jobs of an entire department, and replacing those employees with Temporary Foreign workers imported from India. To add insult to injury, the employees being replaced are spending the last few weeks of their banking careers training the foreign workers that are replacing them.  In British Columbia, there has been a long running battle between the Unions and a Chinese owned Coal mining company. The mining company does not want to pay wages and benefits consistent with Canadian employment standards for this dangerous and dirty work, so they fiddled their hiring requirements to make fluency in Mandarin a job qualification, and brought in hundreds of ‘Temporary Foreign Workers’ from China for minimum wage. Actually, according to some reports, those temporary foreign workers purchase their jobs in China from ’employment agencies’. If there is any truth to the assertions that they pay BIG fees to their employers, they are actually earning a LOT less than minimum wage, to perform work that thousands of unemployed Canadians are fully qualified to do.

I very seldom post about issues, except as they pertain to building and growing the capacity to fight elections. It is definitely NOT because I do not care about any issues, it is because there is no shortage of people blogging or publishing about political issues of the day. Now these specific cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The terms and conditions between employees and employers are being dramatically altered in Canada, at a very fundamental level. There is an ideological war going on, where the mantra of  ‘efficiency ‘ and ‘economic growth’ is being abused to force working Canadians into a weaker and weaker bargaining position with their employers, right across the entire labour market. I simply cannot enumerate all the measures being enacted by the Conservative Government that will have significant impacts on the labour market, but here are a few of the fundamental shifts under way:

Employment Insurance ‘reforms’: How much really needs to be said about these reforms? If I had to characterise them, I would say that the intent is to reduce the bargaining power of job seekers. Recently un-employed Canadians are normally in a financial pickle. They have lost their weekly pay cheque, but they cannot discard their family and personal obligations so easily. Every measure that reduces their cash flows while job searching, and compresses the time they have to secure employment before their stop-gap EI cheques run out is designed to pressure them into accepting employment on worse terms than they otherwise might have been able to secure. A growing pool of desperate people has a fundamental and broad impact on employment conditions for ALL working Canadians. It isn’t complicated. If you have a good job, but there is an army of desperate un-employed people lined up to replace you, just exactly how will you respond when your employer informs you that they are taking away your pension benefits? Do you feel any pressure to surrender your pension so as to keep the paychecks coming in?

Temporary Foreign Worker programs: Well, what do you call a program that pretends that it is about securing skilled employees from overseas, but then allows the employer to pay minimum wages for those supposedly

But its Good for Business!

But its Good for Business!

highly skilled employees? I once hired a skilled worker from Hughes Aerospace in California. That employee had skills that were absolutely unique in the whole world. I paid a fortune in re-location costs, legal fees, and the Salary was oh-la-la. But that was OK, I got a unique skill set that allowed me to manufacture products for the space industry. THAT is the good that can come out of hiring skilled foreign workers. But the current Foreign Temporary worker program does not do anything like that. It opens up a floodgate for very cheap labour market entrants, whose terms of employment are restrictive at best, and approach indentured labour standards at their worst. The Federal Government has claimed numbers as low as 250,000 temp foreign workers are in Canada right now. Other credible sources claim as many as 500,000. It would be nice if we could believe our own Governments statistics, but the days of truthful statistics from the Federal Government are long gone, and Canadians are reduced to guessing whose lies are the most truthful in this day and age. Suffice it to say that over a quarter million positions have been sliced off the supply of jobs for Canadians. What is the impact? See my discussion about EI reforms above. More and more pressure on Canadian wage and salary earners. Fewer and fewer options to earn a buck while searching for a better job, because the quick and dirty jobs that can ease you through a rough patch are all in the hands of indentured workers. More downwards wage and benefits pressure, boy those clever Conservatives are really fixing the employment market aren`t they?

Right to Work legislation: Once upon a time, industrial and clerical workers were abused, and squeezed into inequitable employment conditions. Labour laws were wide open, job security non-existent, and large and small employers alike could dictate whatever they pleased to their employees. Then something happened that shifted the balance in favour of workers everywhere. The Trade union movement responded to those bound by the worst practices, and predatory employers. Without going into the history of the labour movement in Canada, there was a continual pressure applied to employers to improve the terms and conditions of employment. Those who failed to respond found themselves facing a Union drive, and the mere possibility of unionised workforces obliged the not so dumb organisations to pre-empt a union with ever improving labour standards. The existence of Unions in about 10% of the workforce acted as a spur, and pay scales and benefits came close to parity between unionised, and non-unionised shops. These improved working conditions led to the longest sustained economic boom in history. Ordinary working stiffs took on mortgages and bought homes of their own. Ordinary Canadians saved their pennies, and sent their children to Universities, which truly opened the doors to ALL the opportunities that this great country had to offer. Canadians have forgotten about just WHY those unions are an important part of our working lives. Any egregious prick who is skinning his or her employees could eventually expect Union organisers standing outside their doors, signing up members and showing them there IS something they can do about it. This last and final refuge for abused employees is under attack at this very moment. The so-called `right to work`legislation that the Conservative Government is itching to saddle us with, is designed to drive the last nail into the coffins of working Canadians everywhere. While Foreign Temporary workers, and restrictive EI benefits are direct manipulations of the labour market, Union busting is on a whole other plane of existence. It is all about eliminating recourse, and directly intervening in the underpinnings of our labour market by taking away the right of workers to say `no`to their employers. This is not just an assault on organised labour. Oh no, the worst afflicted will be those people who face intolerable conditions, and are no longer entitled to respond with a Union drive. The impact will not be subtle. Over time, workers WILL face more danger for less pay, less benefits, and far fewer opportunities for themselves and their children.

Canadas Temporary Foreign Worker program

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program

So you want to know what I think the Liberal Party should do about all this? I think they should grasp the nettle, publicly support the Union movement in support of a Union Registration drive on the Royal Bank. If the reports are true, then the Royal felt entitled to ignore labour law provisions, and replace skilled and well paid Canadians with imported workers that have minimal rights as employees. I mean, this stuff is really really fundamental to all of us. The equality of opportunity espoused by Liberals everywhere is being subsumed by an ideological hate-on for working and middle class Canadians. As much as the Unions are parochial, and self-centered, they have, without question, been integral to the rich and glorious way of life we all enjoy. When a truly massive employer such as the Royal Bank blatantly and conspicuously breaks the law, and employment standards to replace entire departments with indentured workers, something is seriously screwed up.

God, I can hardly believe what I am writing! Here am I, a fully fledged capitalist, red of tooth and claw urging union rights on my fellow Canadians! But you know something, I have children, as do my neighbours, and fellow citizens everywhere. A capitalist I may be, but I do NOT want to indenture my employees. I want employees who are proud of themselves, and proud of the good work they do. I want to bargain fairly with them, and I believe that their children should be educated to the limits of their abilities. I want them to be productive, and co-operate with me in delivering superior goods and services to our customers. I do not want serfs or drones, I want them to be PROUD CANADIANS. How can I possibly do this when all my competitors are paying minimum wage to deliver shoddy services, but for half the price? Not the Canada that I signed up for, and that is for damned sure. I am pretty sure that there are millions of Canadians like me. Canadians who are not enamoured of Union workplaces, but would defend the rights of workers to hold out for fair working conditions, and a decent standard of living. Surely there is room in the Liberal Party for ordinary Canadians who want nothing more than some security for themselves and their families?

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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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