I recently read an article by an articulate, and thoughtful Green Party activist, Kevin Colton. There has long been debate in the Green Party of Canada choosing between two strategic and organizing imperatives. Because Kevin put the argument so very well for the so-called rising tide strategy, I thought I should refer to it when arguing the contrary.
The first of two schools of thought is that the Green Party should build infrastructure on the regional and national level. Any success in an individual riding is short lived, and illusory because these beachhead efforts always fall short of actually winning the seat. Kevin argues, very well, that a little effort goes a long way in an area that has no infrastructure, and no organizational depth. By nurturing humble beginnings, it is possible to achieve critical mass, and move on to bigger and better things.
The counter arguments are that the Green Party would enjoy an enormous boost as soon as the first candidates are elected. Once the GPC takes it’s place in Parliament, the added visibility will make it much more credible, and therefore more attractive to quality candidates, and the electorate.
I would argue that this is a false choice. There is a certain minimal level of support that will help inexperienced Riding executives to nurture their volunteer base, fundraising skills, and basic campaigning know-how. All EDA’s should get a basic helping hand. Throwing additional monetary resources at a basic EDA that has a minimal volunteer base, a mediocre candidate, little campaign experience, and no reasonable prospect of ever electing a Candidate is not a wise use of scarce resources though.
Since the GPC is constituted as a Political Party, with the stated objective of electing candidates to Parliament, GPC strategy should be focused on achieving this objective as quickly as possible. There are a number of ridings across the country which are likely to become a GPC beachhead riding. Those ridings where the electorate is fairly evenly split between 3 or more party’s have demonstrable potential to be swayed by alternate messages, or Party loyalties. Ultimate electoral success in any riding will depend upon the quality of candidates above all, followed by the numbers of volunteers, and an identified base of historical GPC voters. In these split ridings in particular, the GPC should be pouring the maximum resources available in every subsequent election. I only need point to Bruce Grey Owen Sound, or Guelph, or Saanich, etc. to bring forth examples of ridings that have grown in organizational depth, and all the skills and resources required to ‘put the puck in the net’. The fact that Bruce Grey Owen Sound is not readily winnable because of the pre-eminence of the Conservatives is beside the point. (No 3 way split present). If you were to graft their organization, and super candidate onto any of the 20 I have identified elsewhere, we would have elected our first sitting member in 2008.
Bruce Grey Owen Sound is a great case study for the beachhead strategy. In the 2003 – 2004 Provincial, and Federal elections, the riding was fairly typical, with a share of the vote of 1.7% provincially, and just over 4% Federally.
In the 2006 Federal Election, a strong local candidate, Shane Jolley stepped forward, and after significant organizational improvements Shane brought the results up by 8.74% Federally, to a total of 12.91%. (copy edit thanks to correction by Shane Jolley).In the 2007 Provincial Election, the riding was identified as a beachhead riding, and significant resources were put into the race. Shane finished with a strong second place with 33% of the popular vote. Despite a local mini-scandal whereby Shane was replaced as candidate by the popular Dick Hibma, in the 2008 Federal election the Greens retained the lions share of their voters, while scoring 27.2% of the popular vote. I think this establishes pretty clearly that strong candidates, plus adequate resources can bring a low popular standing a very long way over a few short years. If this type of success can be transplanted to the 20 beachhead ridings I have identified elsewhere, then it is probable that several ridings will return an elected MP anytime from 2010 on.
In conclusion I will opine that the GPC should give basic assistance plus a little to every riding that proves capable of helping itself. For those where the future electoral prospects look solid, no effort should be spared in recruiting star candidates, focused membership drives, and providing logistical support.
Filed under: 2008 Election, election readiness, Organizing, Ridings to Watch | Tagged: 2008 Election, Canadian Election, election readiness, election results, election win, green party canada, Green Party of Canada | 12 Comments »