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 Canada: Advance Polls and the Youth Vote.

Green Advanced Polls

Green Advanced Polls

This post addresses two seperate themes. The local SGI campaign to elect Elizabeth May to Parliament, and the National Campaign’s progress. Over the last week or so, I have been pleasantly surprised by some potentially effective campaign initiatives being implemented by the National Campaign. Somebody in Ottawa actually knows what they are about, and are getting stuff done that is going to get out the vote for the Green Party of Canada.

The Green Party of Canada is actually campaigning on two fronts. The first, and publicly stated ‘overarching’ objective is to get Elizabeth May elected to Parliament in SGI. I blogged on the decision to run in SGI waaay back in July 2009. It is clear that in order to win in SGI a significant chunk of voters, (3,000 votes minimum) will need to be poached directly from Gary Lunn’s Conservative support. In order for this to happen, the SGI campaign will need to broadcast a Conservative friendly message, and the National air war (media coverage) will need to reinforce these specific themes. The other side of the coin is that the Conservative vote in SGI will need to be suppressed a bit, and die-hard Conservative voters will need to be persuaded to stay at home on E-Day. Since a large proportion of people vote by Party affiliation, and their loyalties, (especially Conservative voters) are fixed, the easiest way to keep them at home is to convince them that the Candidate is not worthy of their vote. That means directly attacking the record, and character of Gary Lunn.

So why am I pleasantly surprised? First off, the GPC platform is once again promoting fiscally conservative policies. That is a given, and for people who actually read Party platforms, it will continue to shake peoples pre-conceived notion that the Greens are a left wing Party. The National camaign has been issueing media releases that speak to conservative voters. What do I mean?, well here’s some examples like a sort-of endorsement by Joe Clarke, Paul Martin, and Brian Mulroney.

Then there is the ‘Dark Side’, with media events like the joint Linda Keen/Elizabeth May press conference setting the stage to slag the incumbent, Gary Lunn’s handling of Nuclear Safety, and his subsequent demotion. It is ‘revalations’ like this that establish, and build on public perception of the Incumbent that will get some of those die-hard Tory voters to stay at home.

There are numerous sprinklings of very SGI specific media releases coming out of the National Office, which is a real bonus for any local Campaign. After all, people expect to read about the local Candidates and issues in the local village rag, but when the Globe and Mail, or CTV are talking about their issues, with Elizabeth May’s name attached, it packs about a million times the punch.

Then there is something unprecedented that popped into my inbox last week. I received an email from the National Campaign, which I can only assume was recieved by the entire contact lists. The email encouraged me to join a national effort to ID the vote in SGI through the virtual phone bank. It is unprecedented during a national election, because normally one would expect Green Party members and supporters to be working diligently on their local campaign. Since there is a decided lack of effective local Campaigns, why not serve the primary objective and put hundreds of people to work building the E-Day database for SGI?

Now I do not know how effectively the SGI campaign is using these tools. I do not believe they will win, because it was such an uphill battle, but IF they are re-canvassing the undecideds right now, making conversion pitches with targetted electors, and highlighting negative aspects of Gary Lunn’s record, they will be on track to pull off an upset. I am pretty solidly on the record in opposing this single minded focus on Elizabeth May, but there is still the possibility that she may retrieve her career as leader of the Green Party, and put the puck in the net on eday.

Now the second reason I am encouraged has implications for the other  303 campaigns. (The Party came up short on the full slate). Back in July 2009, I blogged on the youth vote, and the importance of maximising turnouts amongst the demographic most inclined to vote Green. I wasn’t joking when I said it would be very difficult, but I still believe that my analysis was spot on. Collecting contact information, and then associating the act of voting with FUN is a good starting point. Since younger voters primarily get their information online, end-running the traditional broadcast and print media is critical to presenting any effective message whatsoever to the under 25 set. I have also posted repeatedly on the under used opportunity of the Advance Polls, and just how important it is to get the GPC vote in the bag before the big drop off in support in the final week of the campaign.

There has been a consistent attempt to enhance the online presence of the GPC, and some pretty nifty looking tools are being rolled out. For a couple of weeks at the beginning of the campaign, every time I googled a topic related to the election, there was a GPC adwords advertisement presented. Very good targetting in my opinion. I do not know how much the GPC is paying for the clickthrough, but it is obvious that drawing people to the website, and collecting information about them is critical to the short term electoral goal of getting out more voters. The GPC should NOT be wasting money broadcasting impressions to the general population. You have to pay for every broadcast impression, and too few of the general population are prospective supporters. IF you are paying to reach out, then only paying when you actually connect, (adword clickthroughs), or targetting the message at a more recpetive audience, (Radio and direct marketing) are a much better use of scarce resources.

Last week, the GPC unveiled a new iphones app to help Greens connect. Now I do not think it took fire virally or anything, but this is an interesting tool for getting out the vote, and it will have a dis-proportionate impact on youthful voters. I imagine this was expected to support the big GOTV push for getting out the under 25’s. We have all seen and heard about Vote Mobs on Campus, well it is no surprise that the organisation and execution of these fun and engaging events was helped by the Green Party campus organisations. The National Campaign has also made a genuine effort to get out the vote to the advance polls. When I saw this video prominently featured on the home page of the GPC site, what I saw was a message that purports to make voting fun. It will be very difficult to push it out into the public space, because there are so few activists campaigning locally, but the direction, and intent are very sound indeed. Call this the test, and the next election will hold the opportunity to learn from WHY it did not work as hoped, and make the improvements that will make it work in the future.

And then, to cap it off, I was actually robo-dialled with an advance poll GOTV message from Elizabeth May this morning. It may not seem like rocket science that in the total absence of a volunteer base in most of the country, the National Campaign should be taking such measures to get out the vote. You must believe me though, this is unprecedented for the National Party. I remember well the scorn I recieved when I used robo-diallers to GOTV for Elizabeth May’s by-election campaign in London North Centre. Well it appears that the disdain from on high has been overcome, and a useful little direct communications tool has been incorporated into the National Campaign arsenal. Not only that, but the fact that any resources whatsoever were dedicated to GOTV for the advance polls indicates that a realisation of the significance of the classic GPC death spiral in the last week of a campaign, and the need to counteract it has taken root somewhere at a decision making level.

So there it is, and here we are. I still think that the Leadership of the Green Party has failed the Party by ignoring the need to organise, recruit, and build more and more effective local campaigns. I do not think that the type of issues research that allows really effective campaign messages to be crafted has been undertaken, so the messaging is pretty unsophisticated, and hit and miss. But given the strategic direction that the Leadership has decided to take, of electing Elizabeth May at any cost, the National Campaign team has done pretty well given the limitations that poor organisation have imposed. Will it succeed? We will find out in a little more than a week.

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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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Green Party Canada: Week 1 of the 2011 Election Campaign

Demand democratic debates!

Today marks the end of the first week of the 2011 Election Campaign, and I must say it has gone pretty well as expected for the Green Party. The national campaign has been lowering expectations for the GPC nationally by publicising the focus on getting Elizabeth May elected in SGI. If  the level of GPC popular support drops across the country, then we will be thankful that we have this fig leaf to hide behind. A future leader will be able to argue that the Green Party’s drop in the polls was attributable to this policy. It will be a pretty thin fig leaf, but hey, better than saying, ‘The people have spoken, we will do a better job…’As far as the actual campaign in SGI goes, who knows how it is doing?

I blogged some time ago on the choice of SGI as Elizabeth May’s target riding. The post is not rigourously supported with data, but it is directionally sound, and outlines the type of campaign needed and the consequences for the other 307 campaigns. What it boils down to is that there is a significant block of senior citizens, who have reliably voted for Gary Lunn in the past. They are dominant in SGI, and have to be seperated from the CPC by fair means or foul. The only possibility for Elizabeth to eke out a win in SGI is to convert a significant chunk of these votes to GPC votes, or to get twice as many of them to stay at home on Eday. This week, the first nationally visible attemp to suppress Lunns support was executed, with the joint press conference featuring Elizabeth May, and Linda Keen, the former Nuclear watchdog clumsily fired by Lunn. Given the topicality of nuclear safety, highlighting Lunns bungling of the Chalk River shutdown is a job well done. It will have some legs locally, as it resulted in the demotion of Lunn from the Natural Resources portfolio to Minister for Sport. Granted, it doesn’t give anybody a reason to vote Green, but it does speak to an issue on which the GPC has some credibility. There was a fair bit of local, and national press coverage, so I can guarantee you that it was discussed this weekend at many a dining table in SGI. Doubt has been planted, and a smidgin of Lunn support has been killed off. We can expect that there will be something similar every week until Eday. True to form, the press conference had nothing of value for the other 307 campaigns, but hey, our sole objective is to win in SGI, so who can complain?

As expected, the Green Party was excluded from the Nationally Televised leaders debate. If this were an election issue, I would be 95% satisfied with the Green Party’s performance. Problem is it is not an election issue. Let me clarify, it is an issue, and we are in an election, but it has not been framed in any way shape or form to win actual votes for the GPC. On the plus side, the GPC was at least somewhat prepared for it. It was easy enough to dust off the petitions, webpages, and do what worked two short years ago. The GPC got more publicity from it than could possibly be earned from our election platform, or any number of policy announcements. There have been literally thousands of articles, panels, blogs, and elder statesmen weighing in on it. The Green Party base has been mobilised, and a lot of Greens sent emails, publicised the issue on Facebook, etc. The petition site has harvested well over 100,000 contact names, and that number can be relied on to grow until the minute the televised debate starts. I have read a few journalists arguing that taking the issue to court on Monday is a waste of money, cause we won’t win. Well duh! The purpose of the legal challenge is to keep the issue alive and well in the press. The GPC has made a series of emailed fundraising asks, to pay for a newspaper advertising campaign supporting the Green Party’s inclusion in the debate. They weren’t badly couched either, and as a result, we are going to be treated to  some full page newspaper ads shortly. The asks were obviously influenced a teensy bit by Trippi, although there was zero interactive element at the other end of the links. I think that the GPC is on track to see some solid publicity from this issue until the day after the dabates, when all the pundits are saying too bad Elizabeth May wasn’t there.

So this brings me to the negatives. This issue does nothing but generate publicity, and name recognition. The GPC is frothing with outrage, and they are frothing very nicely indeed, but the calls to action do not do anything much to support the broader campaign objective of winning votes for the GPC, and building the Party. Make no mistake, it will be a major victory if the campaign succeeds in it’s stated objective of getting the GPC into the debate again, but the potential payoff from hundreds of thousands of people volunteering their contact information on the petition forms, and actually clicking a link to come and see us is more valuable in the long run than debate participation. Firstly, the landing page should be far more vibrant, and should be followed by a LOT more content than just the form and this issue in isolation. Once the data is harvested, the thanks and share page should have forums visible, and a democratic values election plank visible. Actually, I don’t much care WHAT election plank is promoted there, so long as it is topical, and relevant to all those relative strangers visting a GPC site for the first time, and gives them reasons to VOTE Green, Join the Party etc. The GPC has had two years to analyse the signatories of the last campaigns petitions, and should have shelled out some money to profile, and find out more about what will motivate petition signatories to do more, like volunteer, donate, and vote Green. Inviting people to share their opinions and participate in an open forum discussion would engage far more people than a static form. Don’t take my word for it, go back to e-electioneering kindergarten, and re-read Trippi’s The Revolution will not be Televised’ if you are not sure how it is supposed to work.

So tomorrow morning, the issue will recieve another breath of life when the application is made to the courts to hear a challenge. Tomorrow, a number, ( about $40,000 worth) of full page newspaper ads will start appearing promoting the issue, and inviting petition signatories to come forward. Certainly, by the end of the week, there will be a much bigger media splash when the court accepts/rejects the application. Sometime before the actual debate, there will be a court ruling, and that is the moment to be prepared for. If by some strange twist the GPC gains admittance, well David slaying Goliath is absolutely great coverage, and the free publicity from the debate will be  huge bonus. If, as seems more likely Goliath slays David, then David needs to be ready to win big time anyway. Have the outrage canned and ready to hit the airwaves. Relate it to Green Party policy, and start campainging for VOTES, instead of soft support. Guaranteed, there will be a much larger number of petition respondents coming forward this week, so there is not a whole lot of time to get something more effective and compelling together to start winning these visitors over in a substantive way. Play it right, and the GPC can fund those full page newspaper ad buys for the rest of the campaign, build an email list of 1,000,000 Candians interested in democratic values, and ‘fair play’, and have an extremely potent tool for future Party building. Not to mention the fact that sending out 1,000,000 GOTV email messages for the ADVANCE POLLS could have a strong impact on our electoral showing in this, the 41’st general election. I know that there is nothing much in the way of resources for a National Campaign. It is very likely that the GPC staffers are going nuts trying to keep up with the demands of the Campaign, but it is time to take a few smart people out of the fray, and task them with raising a million dollars, 100,000 votes, and 10,000 new members from the petition drive campaign.

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Green Party Moment: Is it Time for Real debate on Nuclear Power?

Linda Keen

Linda Keen former Nuclear Watchdog

So I was at the Green Party website, (actually, it’s more of an Elizabeth May site now.), and there was a media release with Elizabeth May’s schedule for the day. Lo and behold, amongst the local campaign type stops, is a notice of a joint press conference with EMay, and Linda Keen, the former Nuclear Watchdog sacked by the Harper Conservatives for, well, being a public watchdog and sounding the alarm.

This is clearly relevant to the local SGI campaign, as then Minister for Natural Resources was, you guessed it, Gary Lunn. I know that there was a lot of bad feeling betweeen Lunn and Keen way back then, so I can pretty well guarantee that Keen will have some damaging things to say about Lunn. I am also crossing my fingers that Elizabeth May will relax her determination to focus 100% on getting elected in SGI, and work this issue Nationally.

While Lunn should be held accountable for his heavy handed actions at that time, the topicality of Nuclear Safety issues is potentially an enormous gift to the Green Party in this current election. I don’t need to remind everybody that a terrible disaster is unfolding in Japan.  The nuclear debate has been continually clouded by mis-direction, and outright misinformation by parties on all sides of the argument. A geat many people ignore the fact that nuclear is horrendously expensive, and brush over the risks to the public by pointing to the very stringent safety standards the Nuclear industry operates to. What Japan has taught us is that you do not have to be incompetents, (Chernobyl), to poison your neighbourhood. Fact is that every nuclear reactor has the potential to become a major disaster. Folks, that includes huge swathes of Ontario, and with a number of Provinces mulling over their nuclear options, in the future could include more and more Provinces of Canada.

I am personally not a wild eyed hater of nuclear power. Some Greens are, and some Greens actually support nuclear power due to the lack of airborne emmissions. Nuclear power is relatively clean, and is unquestionably a stable source of electricity. For me, the problems are that it is overly expensive especially once power transmission costs are taken into account. The expense of de-commissioning reactors, and storing the wastes in perpetuity is completely ignored, but we all know that the public purse WILL end up footing the bill… and for generations to come. Then there is the potential for mis-use of spent nuclear fuel. Then there is the added potential, which is impossible to cost, of a nuclear accident that can kill millions of people. Just how the heck do you account for that risk when cost-justifying nuclear reactors? On balance, a great many Canadians would agree that the risks far and away outweigh the benefits, and the proof is fresh in the minds of all Canadians. The opportunity exists for the Green Party to justify it’s existence, and give this issue the airing that it needs.  The opportunity exists for all 308 Green Party campaigns to talk about the risks in an intelligent way, and actually perform a public service, while putting a whack of votes in the bank. So how about it Elizabeth? Will you attack Lunn with his shortcomings, or jump start an intelligent debate on the costs and benefits of nuclear power?

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Smoking Gun on yet another potential CPC breach of the Elections Finance Act.

Nearly broke a major story

I really really enjoy reading the Hill Times. It is informative, and I have learned much about how Parliament, and indeed politics works in Canada through their site. I just read an article there about some very aggressive Conservative Party activities, which I believe may constitute a breach of the Elections Act, and should be investigated.

The crux of the story is about how a number of very rich Conservative Party EDA’s (Electoral District Associations), channelled significant resources towards swing ridings in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. So far so good. There’s nothing wrong with transferring a pot of money to a ‘poor relation’. It makes a lot of sense for the CPC to ensure that every EDA where they have a chance gets every penny they can legally spend, and then go about spening it to win their local contest. The money gets properly recorded by the recipient, whose financial agent carefully records and reports the spending, and the spending limit is approached, but not quite exceeded. The really meaty bit of the story wasn`t picked up on by Tim Naumetz, the author. I feel kind of sorry for him, because he could have had a really great story here. It`s not too late for him though.

So here`s the smoking gun:

“Prime Minister Harper’s (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) riding association, along with those of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.) and Conservative MP Rob Anders (Calgary West, Alta.) in Calgary, also set up massive phone banks with hundreds of volunteers in an attempt to sway voters in swing ridings in central Canada, Mr. Anders and his former riding association president say.”

Do you respond, ‘Big Deal’? Well, it almost certainly IS a big deal if the facts line up the way I suspect. First off, these massive phone banks, with hundreds of volunteers cost money to set up. Actually, quite a lot of money. Even if every volunteer is on a crappy old computer, with VOIP service, the computer has to be recorded on the campaign books at the cost to purchase it. Then there’s the costs per call. Then there’s the proportion of campaign office expenses dedicated to NON-LOCAL election expenses. I had the opportunity to study Accounting as part of my MBA program. I’ve also been a businessman for several decades, so basic accounting principles are not strange turf to me. Based on the principle of materiality, if some casual calls were made, that amounted to a few dollars being spent in the wrong place, because the amount is insignificant, no true breach of anything has occurred. That’s why, if you expense a cup of coffee that wasn’t actually business related, you aren’t guilty of anything inappropriate. You are only guilty of something if you systematically went about expensing thousands of cups of coffee, because at some point the error becomes a material breach. Do you see where I am going here yet?

I see at least 3 potential breaches of the act that will require investigation by EC auditors.

First problem: Did Rob Anders, Steven Harper, and Jason Kenney file for, and recieve a 60% rebate on these local election expenses? If so, they should give the damned money back, at a minimum, because these were clearly NOT local election expenses, and thus do not qualify. This is the flip side of the in-and-out scheme wherby the CPC appeared to bilk taxpayers out of large sums of money. The CPC allegedly took advantage of poor language in the act to create local expenses in ridings where the spending limit would not be reached by the local campaign. That way, the Party could spend money above and beyond the legally mandated national elections expense limit, and the local EDA’s that participated would receive a 60% bonus on the backs of the taxpayers. Based on Rob Anders quote, the very purpose of these phone banks was to direct resources at other electoral districts, and I am betting that the $ amounts were non-trivial.

Second Problem: In which of the ridings targetted in this way did the local campaign spend right up to the legally mandated maximum? Let us make a guess, and say that $40,000 worth of phone bank was equally divided up between 10 out-of-riding campaigns. That works out to $4,000 per recipient riding. I will guess that this would put at least half of the recipients over their legal spending limit. What, I wonder, are the penalties for buying an election?

Third Problem: The spending was either authorised by the Financial Agent for the recipient campaign, or it was illegal. That’s it, plain and simple. If the recipient were unwitting, which is theoretically possible, then the offense was committed by the donor campaign. Hey, wait a minute! That was our beloved Prime Minister’s campaign wasn’t it? Third Party advertising rules could apply if the donor wasn’t a political campaign, but the donors were, so that’s not much of an escape hatch. The Financial Agents for the donor campaign may already be on the hook for claiming the rebate, but there are a bunch of counterparties to be called to account too.

I know that many would say it`s too hard to quantify, and that allocating the funds will be impossible. Well, I`m happy to say that any CA, or CMA can easily conduct the audits that will NAIL the contributors to the wall. Whether the phone banks were voip, or landlines, or whatever, there will be electronic records of exactly which phone calls were made to where. Once it`s established how much of the office spaces, and expense were dedicated to these non-local campaigns, it will be a simple matter to allocate the spending proportionally to the recipients. They will argue like hell in the courts, over a few hundreds of dollars, but the basic facts will be inescapable.

There are many twists and turns that add interest to this story. There is the fact that EC ‘lost’ their chief the last time EC tried to challenge this kind of sleazy shafting of the taxpayer, and manipulation of the Elctions Act. (In-and-Out scandal, appropriately so named because the appearance that the taxpayers were screwed). There is the fact that the CPC so very loudly screamed and hollered about the clear and transparent per vote subsidy, whilst at the same time they manipulated and schemed to screw the taxpayers wholesale with these kind of sleight of hand tricks. And then there’s the interesting fact that even when caught overspending, nobody ever seems to lose their seat over it. I mean, w.t.f. is the point of spending limits, and a finance act if Rob Anders can publicly crow about it? Has the culture of corruption spread so far, and so quickly that the CPC believes they are immune to the law?

Anyhow, I suggest that, like myself, you get on the phone to elections Canada, and ask them if they are going to dare to beard their Tory masters? I feel sorry for EC if they actually attempt to enforce the law. They are legally bound to try, but oh the consequences! More careers will be abruptly terminated, and obviously the CPC will immediately sue them. Still, we must use the tools at our disposal, or else the contempt of our political masters for the law will remain unchecked, and these kinds of sleazy practices will continue to be rewarded by electoral success.

Authors note: I just made a few judicious edits. A little heavy on the hyperbole, as I was all steamed up. Sorry if it morphed into something a little softer.

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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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