Trudeau just SKEWERED all his critics in one fell swoop!

In a desperate attempt to take Justin Trudeau down a peg or two, the NDP and Conservatives have been crafting a narrative around Trudeau’s public speaking business, and his accepting fees to speak for charities. On my part, I do not think that Trudeau did anything wrong. He put his name on a roster for a speaking agency, and that agency came to him periodically with a deal to speak for fees from various clients. It is a far cry from seeking out charities to prey upon. Various groups intent on raising funds, or enhancing attendance at their conferences or fundraising dinners went to an agency, and fixed upon a high-profile and popular speaker to help them raise a whack of dough. Unfortunately, while some of those organisation that hired Trudeau raked in a windfall, some of them were incompetent, and in the case of the Grace foundation, were incapable of selling tickets for the event. Nine months later, the charity penned a letter to Trudeau claiming that the event bombed, and they would like him to refund the fees and expenses paid to him. Hmmm, well you cannot blame them for trying I guess, but to then publicise that letter as a political attack on Trudeau? Despicable behaviour. Yet this is what the charity proceeded to do, and the Prime Ministers Office, and various gutter dwellers like Brad Wall piled on gleefully thinking’ Aha! NOW we have him!”

In a sense, Trudeau is the author of his own (mis)fortune. Shortly after announcing his intention to seek the leadership of the Liberal Party, Trudeau did something totally unprecedented for a Federal politician in Canada. He voluntarily made a complete and public disclosure of every detail of his personal finances. He revealed the sources of his income, including a tidy sum earned from his public speaking career. He revealed that his ‘princely inheritance’ actually amounted to a quite modest fortune of $1.2 million, invested with a fund manager based in Montreal generating a little over $20,000 in cash per annum. He had sold his $million plus home, and moved into  <$700,000 home (with a mortgage) when he was elected as an MP. All in all, it seems that Trudeau has a comparable ‘fortune’ and lifestyle to say a General Practitioner (medical doctor) or perhaps a middle-aged Electrician.  Trudeau had sought, and received confirmation that there was no conflict of interest between his role as MP, and the continuance of his public speaking business. This truly was a voluntary disclosure of every little nitty-gritty detail of his finances, that is unique amongst Federal Politicians today. Was this some kind of Crazy idealism at work? Crazy like a fox says I.

Now the attempt to cast Trudeau as a double dipping scheming money grubber preying on the taxpayers and poor charities was a very dangerous tactic for his political foes to employ. The reason is simple, there are a great many Conservative, and NDP members of Parliament, and Senators who are drawing in HUGE stipends as public speakers, corporate directors, Lawyers, Doctors, Authors, oh the lists are as endless as the fields of human endeavours. Many, if not most MP`s had careers before politics, and a great many of them have substantial income from outside the house. And guess what? Most of these people have not publicly disclosed the full gory details of how much they get from where. I can guarantee that there are going to be some real stinkers hidden out of public sight. Not necessarily illegal or unethical things. Just things that look much worse than speaking for fees at a charitable event. So the danger for Trudeau’s detractors was that their accusations of Trudeau exposed them to similar accusations, and since NOBODY likes a hypocrite, any truly damning charity looting double dipping Conservatives or Dippers would be in a pretty tight corner. I guess they figured it was worth the risk though. The narrative of Trudeau as a charity gouging so-and-so seemed to resonate, and there is nothing more important than besmirching Trudeau’s name NOW, and stopping the resurgence of the Liberal Party in its tracks.

This morning, something utterly unthinkable happened. I mean, OH MY GOD that is brilliant! unthinkable.

To quote this article : `Liberal leader Justin Trudeau says he is willing to make amends with any charitable organizations that have paid him to speak, but didn’t feel they got their money’s worth.

“I am going to sit down with every single one of them and make this right,” Trudeau told CTV’s Question Period Sunday, addressing an issue first raised in reports about his work with The Grace Foundation.`

Holy Crap! I mean, how could any of those Conservative types have ever anticipated this response. The thought would not ever cross their minds for a second that Trudeau would be willing to hand back money that he did not owe. After all, is that not the entire purpose of being in politics, to line your pockets? Trudeau will now be able to publicly meet with charities galore. One by one, worthy charities will repeat:`Wow, we made so MUCH money from your event, all we can say is that charity X would not THINK of asking for the money back, you helped so many needy folks, etc.` Even better than that, some few charities that have no shame will say `Well now that you mention it…`, and Trudeau, to much fanfare will offer his services for free, and speak at one of the best publicised charity speaking engagements of all time.  I guess that the Grace Foundation is probably going to be raising about a billion dollars at a Trudeau managed event sometime quite soon. And every single time that Trudeau stands at a podium he can enquire: `So When exactly are the Conservatives and Dippers going to be making all their wealth and incomes public like I did?`

Well played Mr. Trudeau, very well-played indeed!

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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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Robocalls Case: If the CPC did not do it, then someone stole the data. Call in the RCMP please.

I am not too happy that Elections Canada is getting nowhere with their robocalls investigation. Back on the EDay in question, I too received a robocall informing me that my polling place had changed. At the time I shrugged it off as Elections Canada incompetence, because I had already voted at the normal place. I am 100% certain that personal data about myself is in the possession of the Conservative Party. The investigation into electoral fraud has been conducted by a relatively toothless Elections Canada. Marc Mayrand, the head of Elections Canada testified before a Parliamentary committee that the Conservative Party has been stonewalling, and delaying EC’s investigations. This does not surprise me, as EC does not have the power to compel anybody to answer questions. Well that sucks, and I am wondering if I am entitled to have a real genuine investigation of what happened to my personal data back in the 2011 General Election period (and since then for that matter)?

On May 23, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley ruled on the lawsuit seeking to dismiss election results in 6 ridings. Here is the complete text of the ruling. I read here that: “Judge Richard Mosley ruled unequivocally that fraud did take place and his judgment linked that fraud directly to the Conservative party’s internal database — but found no evidence that any Conservative candidate or official was involved.” So if I have all this straight, the Conservative Party has claimed it was not they who made the calls. The Judge has ruled that it was in fact data from their CIMS database that was used to make those calls. If it was not the Conservatives, and the usage was not permitted, then somebody stole that data. That data includes my name, phone number, possibly huge swathes of personal data about me, including what my voting intentions were. Now it is true that an elections offense is investigated by Elections Canada. It is also true that  data used ‘for political purposes’ is exempt from many of the provisions of the privacy act. But if the Conservative contention that the data was stolen is true, then that is no longer an elections offense is it? If the personal data on potentially millions of Canadians was accessible to data thieves, then it is no longer ‘political purposes’ the data is being put to, is it? So I guess the privacy act exemptions on political use should no longer apply? So why is elections Canada investigating a case of data theft? Why is Elections Canada investigating a breach of the Privacy act? Should there not be a real police force investigating this crime ( or crimes)? A police force with the resources to conduct a forensic analysis of the Conservative Party’s database, retrieve my personal data from criminal hands, and bring this case to prosecution?

I am not a Lawyer, which is why there are so damned many question marks in the previous paragraph. What I am, is a Citizen of Canada, and I have just discovered that very, very, personal data about myself has fallen into criminal hands. I believe there is something like 13,000,000 individual records in CIMS. This is, in fact, the biggest, most comprehensive case of data theft ever to occur in Canada. All kinds of personal data is stored in CIMS, not just who everybody wants to vote for, but people who signed petitions, people who emailed their MP’s, and what they were emailing about. Credit card information for hundreds of thousands of political donors. The types of data are endless, and range from picayune to potentially devastating. Is there a lawyer reading this post who can answer some of those question marks above? I want somebody to get to the bottom of this, and Elections Canada is probably not the appropriate investigative body.

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Campaigns really DO Matter: Robocalls, Polling and the electoral impact of Big Data

Two weeks ago, British Columbians were preparing to cast their ballots in an election that was widely expected to be  the NDP’s to lose. You see, public opinion polls on voting intentions had been published showing an almost insurmountable gap between the NDP and the second place Liberals. The polls were mostly properly conducted, they reflected the stated intentions of representative, and sizeable samples of the BC Electorate. The condidtions for accurate polling were in place, but lo and behold, when the votes were counted, the Liberals had achieved a bare majority, apparently snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. This was not the first time that publicly released polls of voting intentions missed the boat big time. In the Alberta Provincial election, the Wildrose Party went from top of the polls, to a pretty sorry second place at the finish line. In the last Quebec election, the Liberals evaded a much ballyhooed oblivion with a strong last-minute finish. There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth over the ‘failure’ of the publicly released polls to accurately predict an election, and untold column inches spilled over analysis of how to compensate for turnouts, and what sampling methodology is failing and what is working. Well in my opinion, the answer is as simple as the headline from this (absolutely correct) CBC Article: “B.C. election proved campaigns matter more than ever

It is worth noting that in all three Provincial Elections with surprising results, it was the incumbent, Governing Party that defied the odds. Is that a coincidence? IMHO, that is not coincidental. You see, it is the premise of this post that we are living in a New World of Electoral Politics. This world is where big databases are parsed and segmented according to tastes, preferences, affinities, and location. This is the world where elections are won or lost by closely targeting very specific groups of voters, crafting, testing, and verifying the message that can sway these micro-groups. Delivering that message effectively ON TARGET and building the support of a bare plurality, one riding at a time is the primary objective. This world is highly dynamic. It focuses on electors who are undecided, or relatively uncertain of their first choice in voting intentions. In such a world, it is incredibly important to understand what motivates small, select, and distinct groups of the electorate. A little appreciated fact of life in Canada is that Governments have nearly infinite resources for opinion polling, focus groups, and acquiring sophisticated datasets about target groups. It is not surprising to me that the results of untold millions of dollars worth of Government funded opinion research are considered a  State secret. In  nutshell, the incumbent will always have a massive advantage in any election, inasmuch as they can easily assemble a complete picture of who can be motivated by which message long before the writ is dropped, and the electorate is in play.

So what do Robocalls have to do with this post? Robocalls are a big data communications tool. As has been illustrated by the recent finding in the robocalls law suit, it is easy to abstract list of contacts based upon any number of variables (Like which Party they support). The mechanics of targeting and launching a robocall campaign, whether large or small is as simple as falling out of bed. And the cost of robocalling is so damned cheap, that virtually any political party that possesses a robust electoral database can flood the phone lines with negative messages for pennies a pop. It is not just robocalls. Robocalls are mildly irritating to the recipients, so their best use is to sway the OTHER sides voters with them. They are tailor-made for vote suppression tactics, like pointing out the opponents failings to his or her supporters. Email communications are an even more versatile tool, because they are even cheaper than robocalls, and they are good for positive, vote winning communications with reams of people on short notice. Then there are more conventional message delivery media, like direct mail, admail, live telephone calling, door to door foot canvas, and at the broadest level of all, targeted print and broadcast media buys. These all have one thing in common, that their efficacy improves dramatically when they are targeted based on issues research, and solid information on large numbers of electors.

Campaigns are dynamic events, and they DO matter. When the media commissions a voting intention poll, they are basically paying for a snapshot, at a moment in time, and the snapshot they are taking is intended to reflect an amalgam of the entire electorate. The individual campaigns couldn`t really care less about what the entire electorate is thinking. They are focusing on small subsets of the electorate, and directly influencing them to vote one way or another, or even not to vote at all. The effective campaigns have access to hard data on what messages will work with what segment of the electorate, and there are multiple campaigns each working on influencing small numbers of voters to tip one way or another. There is just no way for low-budget media bought voting intention polls to keep up, and accurately predict what is actually going to happen, because the decisions and actions that will determine the election result are happening under their radar. All this campaigning is happening in real-time, and it can be extremely effective. Campaigns are each working simultaneously on different population segments, so polling for, and capturing the significant movements is kind of like trying to model next weeks weather. There are just too many variables interacting to draw any useful conclusions. The media polls are not focused on the groups that are actually in play, and there is no way that a polling company can predict just what kind of voter suppression, and voter conversion campaigns are happening, and how effective they are. This is perfectly illustrated by a quote from this CBC Article interviewing the BC Liberals internal pollster, Dimitri Pantazopoulos:   `”At the end of the day the more important thing is understanding what motivates people to vote, and how to actually communicate with people and what are the underlying factors that will turn the undecideds one way or another.” And you know something? Dimitri was the one measuring the effectiveness of the BC Liberal Campaign, so I am perfectly willing to take his word for it.

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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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BC Liberals Advertising for the Greens in Victoria!

Vote Green! Brought to you by the BC Liberals

Vote Green! Brought to you by the BC Liberals

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

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

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

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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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