Election Post Mortem: Green Party Canada 2008

Having come through another Federal election with mixed results, the Green Party of Canada needs to do a formal Post Mortem of their national Campaign. Elizabeth May took a stab at it, with a blog on the GPC site, but I sincerely hope that this is the beginning, not the end of the analysis. As she noted herself, several times, the organization, and ‘readiness’ was pretty bad. Honestly, there’s nothing surprising there. If you take 250 campaign rubes, and tell them, go run a campaign, then don’t expect much of them without very damn good direction. I’ll start with a critique of what I consider to be the strong point of the Campaign, communications.

Vote Green and Vote Often!

Vote Green and Vote Often!

Part 1 – Communications Critique

Elizabeth May is no slouch when it comes to communications, and gaining earned media coverage. The GPC generally responded to events fairly quickly, given the human resources at their disposal. I believe that the communications team should establish a War Room for the next election, with good searchable databases, and prepared response templates for various contingencies. You need to come back within 45 minutes with a newsworthy response as events unfold. Your quick response also needs to steer the conversation back to where you want it to be. If you’ve made a bad choice about what you want the message to be, then it doesn’t matter so much, does it?

On messaging, it was clear that the GPC’s central message was; ‘Down with the dastardly Conservatives.’ I’m sorry, but that is not a good enough reason for a voter to split with habit, and vote GPC. If you have an impact, then on balance you’ve won more votes for the Liberals, or NDP than for the Green Party. It is important to differentiate ourselves from ‘the competition’ in the ideas marketplace. According to the Strategic Counsel Poll from the end of August, 2008, The three most important issues to the electorate leading into the election were 1) The Economy 2) The Environment 3) Health Care. In my opinion, the GPC’s health message is strong, and really differentiated from the crowd. Yes, we need to cover all the bases in our platform. Being the only Party talking strongly about health care would have really set us apart, and would definitely have helped us on election day. I don’t claim to be omnipotent, but I do know that there needs to be a strong focus on a single theme to make an impact with the electorate. I am equally sure that we need to be differentiated, and that our main theme should emphasize that Canadians need to vote for us for a positive reason, that resonates with them, and sets us apart.

UPDATE: Dec.12,2008 Just came across this Ipsos Poll on Health Care.

Printed material: We really moved backwards in time. There should have been a selection of campaign flier, and conversion piece templates. Most EDA’s were without experienced Campaigners, so they should have been hold how, and where to use printed materials. How do the campaigns know what the theme is, or what their talking points should be? Communications from the War Room, and National Campaign headquarters, that’s how.

Bullseye Communications

Bullseye Communications

Narrowcasting: I know I said we have to have a single theme above, BUT there is a case to be made to tailor the message to narrower segments of the electorate, where and when you have a chance to speak to a defined group apart from the mainstream. For example, in ethnic language presentations, you may focus on a different part of our platform, in a manner that flatters our party in the eyes of the targeted electors, whether by faith, language, ethnicity, age, or virtually any identifiable group, with identifiable tastes and preferences, that are distinct from the ‘normal, (In the statistical sense), population. I did not receive any communications targetted to me, other than a few appeals for dough by email. This should be an ongoing element of building our Party, but perhaps we should crawl before we walk, or run.

I’ll have plenty more to say about poor organization in tomorrows post.

If you, the reader would like to put YOUR skills to work building this wonderful Party for the next election, then please Join the Green Party Today!

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Green Party 2008 Election Results. Win or Loss?

Green Party win or loss?

Green Party win or loss?

I just picked up the validated results from the Elections Canada Website. I didn’t bother sorting out the judicial recounts etc. but the total Green Party vote was 937,643 ballots from a total of 13,719,113 ballots cast. That adds up to 6.83% of the vote.

I guess that looks like a win compared to the 2006 election, because the vote count went up from 664,068, and 4.5%. The GPC funding moves from about $1.3 million to around $1.8 million per annum, plus when the next election hits the GPC will get the same amount to fund the next election, as soon as the writ is dropped. Given the past financial straits of the party, (they were essentially broke when Elizabeth May took over), this shot in the arm, when married to the newfound fundraising prowess means they should be solvent. Solvency will depend on retiring their debts, and prudent budgetting, but lets just assume they’ll manage that OK?

The loss part is based upon the hard and pointy fact that expectations were raised to an unreasonable level. The public was repeatedly informed that the GPC would win seats. There was a whack of media attention, the debate participation, public statements by the leader, and spokespersons. There was no obvious plan to actually make seat wins happen though.

It was more than conceivable that seats could be won. Recruiting a few excellent candidates for potentially winnable ridings would have been a starting point. Follow that by pre-election organising in said potentially winnable ridings. Hire some real campaign managers, and communications people, lend staffers to the breakthrough targets, and ensure full funding and it might have come true. At least may have come close.

It was not to be. Now the political credibility of Elizabeth has been largely spent. The sense of fair play in the country will be inclined to say, ‘we gave them their chance, they got the debate spot they have been demanding, and they couldn’t even get their leader elected’.

On balance, the bad news outweighs the good. If the GPC cannot score a by-election win soon, then they will suffer big time in the 2009 – 2010 election. It pains me to say it, but the failure was in managing expectations. Promise seats + don’t deliver = you are a failure.

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