The relentless collapse of the Green Party of Canada’s grassroots.

Back in May I laid out the evidence to support my contention that the Green Party of Canada is suffering a sustained collapse at the grass-roots level. To summarise my arguments, the local Electoral District associations were largely formed to capitalise on the Revenue Sharing agreements between the Green Party`s head office, and the local electoral units. Any local riding that met the basic criteria of maintaining a local organisation would receive a significant share of the per vote subsidy then on offer under the elections finance act. The central party had a perverse incentive inasmuch as their own revenues would decline every time a new local organisation was formed to take advantage of this revenue sharing deal, so perhaps it ought not surprise us that zero resources were allocated to local organising of grass-roots Green Party riding associations. On the part of the Electoral District Associations, virtually all local ridings that had more than 3 or 4 active members had already formed their EDA before Elizabeth May was elected leader of the GPC. Most of them coasted along under the Revenue sharing agreement, accumulating a small stream of cash for the next general election.

Now that the per vote subsidy is being phased out, the logic that drove the process of EDA formation has disappeared. There will no longer be any free lunches in terms of a guaranteed revenue stream, so the rewards for putting in the minimal effort to maintain an existing association in good standing are non-existent. As a consequence, my expectation that the majority of the Electoral District Associations would collapse is being borne out by the fact that an even 100 Electoral District associations have been de-registered by Elections Canada since 2010. This was not an inevitable outcome. While the EDA`s no longer have an overwhelming incentive to organise locally, the central party will no longer be losing revenues to local organisations horning in on the subsidy cash after the next election. It is very much in Elizabeth May`s interest to start organising locally, and re-building the electoral capacity of the GPC. I will go out on a (short) limb here and guess that the current leadership does not know how to organise nationally, and will not re-evaluate their resource allocation at this late date.

Here is a wee table charting the decline of the GPC grassroots:

GPC EDA formation
Year Registrations Deregistrations
2004 96 1
2005 35 5
2006 24 13
2007 56 3
2008 16 5
2009 48 9
2010 4 44
2011 2 19
2012 4 18
2013 2 19
Total: 287 136

I am not writing these posts documenting the decline and fall of the Green Party out of malice, or partisan glee. My intent is to demonstrate an electoral opportunity to the Liberal Party, and anticipate the strategy and tactics that the Liberal Party ought to adopt to capitalise on what is happening across Canada. In past elections, the Green Party sought to maximise revenues by ensuring a candidate was registered in all 308 ridings in Canada. With the loss of so many local EDA`s, and with the loss of the per vote subsidy, that will never happen again. In past elections, approximately 10% of the electorate were prepared to pledge their vote to the GPC. The GPC did not do any meaningful getting out the vote activities, so unsurprisingly, only about 60% of their voters actually showed up at the polls, and the GPC garnered about 6% of the national vote. In the 2015 general election, there will be a lot of ridings across Canada where the Green Party will either have no candidate, or will have zero resources to campaign. Provided the Liberal Party is prepared with a few well conceived policy prescriptions to appeal to Green Party supporters, then they could easily garner half or more of the Green Party vote in most of the ridings across Canada. Since that will represent the margin of victory in many local contests, it should be one of the keys to a majority Liberal government in 2015.

I do not get into policy questions very often, or very deeply. However, it may be useful to suggest a couple of areas in which the Green Party could be vulnerable. The most significant policy area for many GPC supporters is in the area of democratic reform. I think that most Liberals would recognise that Joyce Murray illustrated the potential of voting reform during the Liberal Leadership contest. A credible policy to introduce PR, or Preferential ballots will definitely set the stage to win the votes of a large proportion of Green Party voters. A second policy area that is less significant, but still meaningful is the legalisation (or decriminalization) of Marijuana. A policy offering covering both these bases will make a dramatic difference to Liberal fortunes in British Columbia, and will have a significant effect across the country. These are by no means the only issues which can turn Greens towards the Liberals, but combining both areas, and working them hard will go a long way towards replacing the GPC as the Party of choice for GPC voters left without a candidate in their riding.

Anyway, for reasons outlined above, the ongoing collapse of the GPC grassroots is probably going to accelerate dramatically next year, and 2015 will be the Götterdämmerung, with the residual organisations slipping away. I expect that there will be about 50 EDA`s that survive on the strength of local organising efforts, and the GPC will remain a national party in name only. The ways and means of capturing their electorate will undoubtedly need more refining, but I hope that the Liberal Party, and the Liberal EDA`s are not asleep at the switch, and will be giving due consideration to this one piece of the majority winning electoral puzzle.

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Green Party grass-roots haemorrhage: Liberals and Dippers be advised.

Well here we are, the Elections Canada filing deadline for Electoral District associations has come and gone, (June 1) so I thought I would update which GPC Electoral Districts are still alive and kicking. A little more than a month ago, I blogged on the slow motion collapse of the Green Party`s Electoral District Associations. In the past 5 weeks, there have been 2 more EDA`s de-certified by Elections Canada, and no new EDA`s formed. That leaves a grand total of 160 EDA`s technically still in existence. I have updated this table accordingly:

GPC EDA formation
Year Registrations Deregistrations
2004 96 1
2005 35 5
2006 24 13
2007 56 3
2008 16 5
2009 48 9
2010 4 44
2011 2 19
2012 4 18
2013 0 8
Total: 285 125

I have attached an Excel spreadsheet with detailed financial statements for the EDA`s that have filed returns for this year here. There are two things to note immediately, firstly, only 142 EDA`s submitted a return at all. That implies that 18 more EDA`s are at risk of de-certification by Elections Canada. Please note that there may be valid reasons for a few of them to be filing late, as the deadline was only two weeks ago, but the majority of those non-filing EDA`s are probably going to be de-certified over the course of 2013. The second interesting thing to note is that 13 EDA`s are reporting either null, or zero assets. Some of them look like they are transferring, or spending the last pennies in their accounts, which looks and smells like preparing to shutter the windows. So between EDA`s failing to file, and EDA`s closing their bank accounts, it is looking like 2013 shall see the demise of something like 31 Electoral District Associations. I will take that with a wee grain of salt though, as I noted Guelph EDA was conspicuously absent from EC filings. I just cannot credit that Rob Routeledge and the Guelph Greens are folding up their tent, so this total will need revision later on in the year. Wow, I feel like I am writing an obituary for the grassroots of the GPC. From 285 local organisations down to 129.

From the financial returns, we can see that there are 99 EDAs that have over $2000 in cash. I mention this fact because assuming those EDA`s survive until 2015, those are the ridings where we can expect a local Candidate to step forward with sufficient resources to capture roughly 4% or more of the popular vote. Out of those 99 ridings, there are about 20 that currently have $10,000 or more. I mention that because these are the ridings where the Candidate will have a fair chance of exceeding 10% of the vote, and earning their deposit back. ( Campaigns that exceed 10% of the vote receive a rebate of 60% of their election expenses from Elections Canada). Only 44 ridings managed to raise a single penny from donors! Out of those 44 who actually raised some money, only 20 raised $1000 or more. Hmm, I think the point I made previously that the existence of the local EDA`s is dependent on the per vote subsidy is amply demonstrated by that simple fact.

So are there any meaningful conclusions for Liberals, Dippers, and Conservatives to draw from the slow motion collapse of the Green Party local units? If I am correct, and the Green Party does not actively recruit candidates across Canada, then it is safe to assume that less than half of the ridings in Canada will even have a GPC candidate to split the vote. That may not seem like a big deal, but about 3% – 5% of the electorate in those ridings will be voting for somebody other than the Green Party. Those votes are up for grabs. For those 20 or so ridings where the EDA is relatively well-financed, there will continue to be a GPC vote that will be large enough to influence the outcome. For the Conservative Party, there is no real upside from the collapse of the GPC.  It will be unequivocably bad for them, and will cost them a dozen of more seats in 2015. For the Liberals and NDP, there is obviously an advantage. Depending upon how well they each appeal to the Green Party voters, they will tip the balance in a handful of ridings each. Even in those ridings where the local EDA is strong, and the bank account is robust, there is a good opportunity to simply hammer the Greens, and bury them as an electoral factor. That is not very nice language I know, but seriously, the Leader of the Green Party has been harping on the same message since her first General Election. That message is that voting for the Greens is splitting the progressive vote, and allowing the Conservatives to get elected. It is no wonder whatsoever that her acolytes, and the EDA`s are voluntarily closing the curtains and putting out the lights. Anything else would be the heights (or depths) of cynicism, and the electorate deserves to be reminded of this fact come 2015.

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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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Whither the Green Party? Probable Strategy for 2015

I just took a gander at the Elections Canada databases to see the current state of the Green Party EDA`s. Like them or not, the Green Party remains a factor, and their 2015 campaign will play a role in determining the outcome of the 2015 election. I have a couple of general observations to make, and I have to say that the Green Party has some very impressive strengths, and some very telling weaknesses. It will sound like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth, but I will demonstrate why I expect that the GPC will have a very successful 2015 election, while at the same time they will have a greatly reduced impact on the outcome of the next general election. Be patient with me, and I will amply prove both points.

Back in January, I posted on the cynicism of Elizabeth Mays offers and entreaties for electoral co-operation with the Dippers and Liberals. The crux of my argument was that the Green Party will have a much smaller impact in 2015 because they will probably not be running a full slate of candidates. Every electoral district that they fail to field a candidate in will not have a single ballot cast for the Greens, so their impact in those ridings will be limited to a small number of disappointed Greens who fail to vote at all, while the balance of their voters cast a ballot for their second choice party. For those ridings where they do field a candidate, they will not have anywhere near the kinds of resources that they have had in the two or three past elections. That is primarily due to the loss of the per vote subsidy, which represented the lions share of the money accumulated in local Electoral District Associations coffers. (The Green Party used a fund sharing formula which forwarded a generous chunk of the subsidy funds to the EDA in which the underlying votes were earned). In fact, I can tell you with certainty that the majority of Canada’s GPC EDA`s were only incorporated for the purpose of receiving those per vote subsidies in the first place. The loss of the subsidy will result in folding up the EDA in a great many instances.

A second significant loss of resources was that a great many EDA`s spent relatively big money on the last general election, but then failed to achieve the 10% threshold to receive a 60% rebate of their electoral expenses. This had a dis-proportionate effect on the financial resources of some of the strongest EDA`s in the country. That impact will show up in the next general election in the form of weak campaigns in many places where  the GPC was once strong. These dozen or two ridings will deserve special attention by the Liberal Party and the NDP because there will be approximately 5%-6% of the electorate up for grabs there. In my books, that big of a shift in that many ridings has national significance.

The third factor to take into account is the lack of field organising infrastructure within the GPC, and the related lack of incentive to expend resources on recruiting and assisting a full slate of Candidates in 2015. Elizabeth May has done many good and effective things at the GPC. The greatest failing of her version of the GPC is the total lack of interest in building local infrastructure. I will not go into the facts that underly this conclusion, you can search the archives of this blog if you want names, dates, and details on the lack of field organising. Suffice it to say that I was intimately aware of the circumstances, and this conclusion is not idle. The main reason why the GPC has run a full slate of candidates in the past was to earn the per vote subsidy that came along with every vote. That is why there were so many `ghost`candidates, whose names appeared on the ballot, but who spent $200, and canvassed a few people at their favourite coffee shop, while calling it a campaign. The loss of the per vote subsidy eliminates the incentive for the Green Party to field a full slate of candidates, and the loss of the subsidy removes the incentive to even have a local EDA. I seriously doubt that the Party will create a field organising team, and dedicate real resources to run a full slate minus the incentive of the subsidy.

There is one piece of  objective evidence that my contentions are true. The number of registered Electoral District Associations has been in a steady decline since the last actual real field organiser was fired back in 2009. (She did her job TOO WELL! She actually formed a lot of EDA`s and the head office wanted to keep the per vote subsidy in their coffers, not flowing to Quebec EDA`s). I have updated the table below to reflect the 5 Electoral District Associations that have been de-certified by Elections Canada so far in 2013. Believe me, the trickle is going to turn into a flood by the end of this year. Please note that there have been a grand total of 10 EDA`s formed since 2009. That is pretty serious evidence that there is zero field organising capacity at the GPC, given the hundreds of ridings with no organisation at all.

  GPC EDA formation
Year Registrations Deregistrations
2004 96 1
2005 35 5
2006 24 13
2007 56 3
2008 16 5
2009 48 9
2010 4 44
2011 2 19
2012 4 18
2013 0 6
Total: 285 123

So that summarises my case that the GPC will have a greatly reduced impact on the outcome of the 2015 general election. Now I shall move on te the case that the GPC will have a very succesful 2015 election result.

The Green Party has had an internal conflict between the centre, (The HUB), and the peripheries, (The EDA`s) just about forever. The conflict was over general election strategies. One side arguing that the Beachhead strategy which should be to focus resources on a small number of key ridings, and actually getting a member of Parliament elected there. The other side argued for a `rising tide`strategy, which supported building electoral capacity in EDA`s across the country. This strategy anticipated ever stronger EDA`s with ever-increasing financial, and volunteer capacity to fight future elections. A key argument in favour of field organising,a nd building the EDA`s was that the per vote subsidy could be leveraged by collecting as much low hanging fruit as possible across the whole nation. It was easily proven that spending $1000 in a small riding would win more votes than adding an extra $1000 to the campaign budget in a strong riding. Well this argument is over, done, dead. beachhead wins hands down, so the GPC strategy for the 2015 election is as predictable as the rising of the sun.

Starting 4-1/2 years ago, the Green Party adopted the sole and over-riding objective of getting Elizabeth May elected to Parliament. These were not empty words. they did something radical (for the Greens) and actually spent some resources polling, and investigating target ridings. They then started throwing money, big money into opening multiple offices, and hiring staff located in Saanich Gulf Islands in BC. They spent well over $1million in the pre-writ period. They put the finishing touches on a database application that allows volunteers from across the country to telephone canvas into a specific riding. The 2010 election proved that ground game plus money talks, and Elizabeth may quite convincingly won the seat.

The recent by-elections in Calgary, and Victoria demonstrated the Green party has gotten pretty darned good at focusing a widely distributed National volunteer base on a specific riding. I am still on their mailing lists, so I received a lot of emails asking supporters to participate in the National Phone bank, canvassing Calgary, and Victoria in an ID-GOTV campaign. Having run such campaigns in the past, I can tell you that telephone canvass is the perfect way to ID the vote on the cheap. Volunteers are free, and the cost of long distance telephoning is pretty damned cheap too. Focusing hundreds, maybe even thousands of volunteers on a handful of ridings during a general election will instantly make the GPC competitive locally.

Elizabeth May has a very impressive network of environmental activists in her Rolodex. While local candidates are not as important as Party affiliation, and the Leadership factor in electoral outcomes, the difference between a Candidate with a nationally (or internationally) recognised name, and a 19-year-old student in a coffee shop is pretty obvious. Elizabeth May can personally recruit a handful of high quality candidates for carefully selected target ridings in 2015.

The formula for winning in SGI is not a fluke. It is a predictable outcome from having a high credibility candidate, and pouring huge money and boots on the ground into a small riding campaign. The most important criterion is the availability of money. Despite the loss of the per vote subsidy, the Green Party is growing their fundraising capacity in a very impressive manner. I blogged about it a few weeks ago, and what impresses me the most is that the increased cash flows are coming from a very systematic and disciplined fundraising process. Process is important, because it is not subject to vague fluctuations. What they are doing guarantees that they shall continue to raise ever-increasing quantities of the mother’s milk of politics, namely ca$h. They no longer need to pay the Salaries of Elizabeth May, and Adrian Carr, both of whom have salaries courtesy of their elected positions. Even local office expenses, and personal staff for those two people are being borne by taxpayers, so there is a chunky 6 figure annual savings for the GPC. Remember that the GPC does not spend money of field organising outside their target ridings, so a large chunk of the money they raise can be devoted to pre-writ spending in target ridings. Then there is the likelihood af raining a substantial loan for the next general election. Any ridings that they target with significant writ period spending will definitely exceed the 10% threshold for getting 60% of the campaign expenses back. They can borrow quite a chunk of dough, provided they can demonstrate a steady and dependable cash flow from fundraising, and they can pay much of those loans off using the proceeds of the electoral expenses rebates.

So put all these factors together, and the strategy of the GPC in 2015 becomes as clear as this mornings blue skies. They will focus on a small number of winnable ridings. Based on past history, I would bet folding money that the ridings they target will be currently held by Conservatives, and will disproportionately be located in BC, and Alberta, the GPC `strongholds`. I would guess that they will shoot for official party status in the house, but they may just rein in their ambitions a little and go for 4 or 5 certain seats as opposed to 10 maybes. With maybe a quarter $million or more in pre-writ spending per riding, a National campaign that focusses resources regionally, plus fully funded local campaigns, they will win in a number of ridings. If they limit their ambitions, there is no reason why they could not slam 5 ridings. If they want to roll the dice, they could possibly break through and achieve the coveted official party status in the H.O.C.

To wrap up this post, I will draw conclusions for the Liberal Party, and what all this means for them. When the GPC makes their target clear, (and they will long before the election), evaluate their chances carefully. If it is a smaller number of targets, then sit down and talk co-operation with the Greens. We cannot stop them from winning if they are prepared to spend millions on a small number of targets. Deal with the reality of it, and squeeze an advantage. The advantage on offer will be an endorsement of numerous Liberal Candidates by Elizabeth May and the GPC. It is true that the GPC will probably not run very many candidates outside their target ridings, for the reasons outlined above. The problem for the Liberals is that the abandoned GPC voters are more likely to vote NDP than Liberal wherever there is no GPC candidate. Elizabeth May does not like the NDP, so her instinct is going to be to cut a deal that favours the Liberals. Her endorsement could be a significant factor in attracting the lions share of the stranded GPC votes to the local Liberal rather than the local Dipper. Then of course, the post-election Parliament will hold the promise of a biddable coalition partner in the GPC. That could be critical if the Liberals achieve a strong minority, or even if they want a buffer of a few extra members to support a bare majority. If the GPC over-reaches themselves with too many targets, then the Liberal Party should think about it first. The targets will almost certainly be Conservative held ridings, so if the Liberals believe that the targets are winnable for the Liberals, then they should consider contesting them. Altogether though, I suspect that Elizabeth May is going to engineer an electoral coup in 2015, and make some form of electoral cooperation between the GPC and the Liberals a fact. And what makes this doubly impressive is that she will achieve this outcome whether she gets cooperation or not, and it will happen despite the significant reduction in the overall number of votes won by the GPC.

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Green Party Canada: Week 2 of the 2011 Election

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

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

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

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

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

Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu

Erich Jacoby Hawkins

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

Lt. Col (RET) Sylvie Lemieux

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

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Election Objectives for Green Party of Canada

Green Party Election objectives

What's the Objective?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Green Party Canada and Ontario call to arms: Ottawa West-Nepean By-Election.

Mark MacKenzie: GPO By-Election Candidate

There`s no vague purpose to this post. Some friends and allies are in the midst of a great Ontario by-election down in Ottawa West-Nepean. Mark Mackenzie is best described (by me) as the quintessential bluegreen. He is a powerful advocate for market oriented policy prescriptions. When I read the policy page on Mark`s campaign site, it`s not fleshed out fully, but these are the reasons I joined the Green Party in 2004. Preventative health programs, private sector incentives to promote private provision of environmental `goods`, etc. etc. These are good and effective policies, but without powerful political sponsors. That`s why Canada, and Ontario needs a Green Party. Because good policy often won`t get off the ground because it offends too many established interests.

Mark is clearly running a well funded campaign, but money is the mother`s milk of politics. Phone banks, flyer drops, rent, heat and lights for the Campaign office, etc. If you`ve got some Provincial donation money looking for a home, I really encourage you to donate something here. With your`rebate, it will cost you $50 to make a $200 contribution. I`m sure you`ve heard all the pitches before, but if you would like to see a bluegreen perspective srengthened within the Green Party`s, then it`s important that we demonstrate that we know how to run superior campaigns. Please just take the plunge, and for the cost of a case of (Imported) beer, you can cover the cost of delivering 2,000 flyers. There`s a little impulse tugging at you now. It`s the same impulse that tugs at you when you see that $10 trifle in the line-up at the video rental store. If you`ve ever gratified an impulse before, then I hope you are consumed with guilt if you fail to donate a few bucks to this best of worthy causes, so here`s the link again.

If you don`t want to, or cannot afford to, then donating your time is just as important. I just spoke with Chris Alders, a very professional Campaign Manager who is heading up Mark’s Campaign team, and there is a phone canvas campaign running on Grimes. No matter where you are in Canada, if you can give a few hours of your time, then either contact Jeanie Warnock, volunteer co-ordinator at: 613-224-0050 , or you can volunteer online here. There is a strong foot canvas going on as I write. Many Ottawa area Greens are rallying to the cause, and are out canvassing. There is a great deal of optimism amongst the canvassers, and here’s a paraphrased quote from one of them:

One BIG Sign!

‘On an aside, I was in the Bayshore area today.  It truly warmed my political heart to see Mark’s LARGE sign at Carling and Acres Road.  Other than the Liberal signs, Green was the only other party I saw.’ And it’s true—there really are only Green and Liberal signs in the riding—a few Conservatives going up now and a few NDP lawn signs stuck-in pathetically at intersections but that’s it.’

So you see, there is real momentum on Mark’s side, but as we have all (hopefully) learned by now, it needs to be capitalised on by an awful lot of

Jeannie Warnock, Vol. Co-Ord: 613-224-0050

one-on-one converstaions. Foot canvassing is far and away the most effective canvas. It has weaknesses though, like the fact that it takes a lot of time, and the majority of residents on any given street aren’t in, or answering their door when the canvassers come and knock. The phone canvas is vital for filling in the pieces missed by the foot canvas. The phone call can be made when it’s cold and dark outside. You can try somebody at different times, without running back and forth from one end of the poll to the other. When you have identified strong polls, then you really have to run the phones in tandem with the shoe-leather. For this reason, I again encourage my readers to give a little of their time. If you haven’t used Grimes before, then it’s incumbent on YOU to test drive it. It is a tool that you should be employing on your own campaigns, and you cannot get a feel for it’s strengths and limitations until you’ve spent a couple of hours with it. Why not test drive Grimes this week? If you have your’ EDA’s email list, then send out an email inviting your’ members to put in a few hours as a training tool. You cannot lose if they take you up on it, and the  Ottawa West-Nepean By-Election could easily be an extremely newsworthy and positive event for all Greens in Ontario if Mark places a strong second.

If you can help with the phone canvas, here’s the Campaign sign-up form. Alternately, you may phone the campaign, and ask for Jeannie Warnock, the volunteer co-ordinator. She’ll be more than happy to get you set up with Grimes, and get you started with phone canvassing. Happy Canvassing!

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