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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Some Good news for the Green Party of Canada!

At last I can put aside my griping and complaints, and tell you all that there is some very good news around the corner. This August, here in Toronto, the Green Party will be voting on a motion to honour our constitution, and hold a leadership race to finally clear the air for the Green Party of Canada. I know, I know, it seems very strange that we have to hold a vote to agree to follow the rules. For those of you who could bear to watch it, the last year has been like a slow motion Constitutional train wreck. Turn back the clock 12 months, and across the country, hundreds of activists were quietly preparing the ground for the mandated Leadership contest. Ambitous and thoughtful politicians were quietly buying memberships, and groups were forming to prepare the grounds for a contest of ideas. You see, the Green Party of Canada has long held the belief that we do politics differently. Leadership races were constitutionally mandated to happen every two years, so that there would be an opportunity to engage the party membership, and to decide on the future direction of the Party through the medium of a hotly contested leadership race. There has never been any fear that the contest would lack for contestants! Oh, no…Not in the Green Party. Like any other Party, there are many competing people, ideas, and visions within our ranks. The sometimes messy process of resolving our differences is guaranteed to bring contestants, and the ideas that they champion out into full and open view for the membership to pass judgement on. Frankly, in the absence of a mandated race, the Green Party of Canada would probably be captured by a governing clique that writes the rules in their favour, and could never be budged from their positions by any legitimate process. There would be no other mechanisms within the Party to channel disaffection into, and the Party would fracture and melt away, one isolated and vilified member at a time….

Some History for you to contemplate:

In the same year that Elizabeth may was elected leader, the Party membership decided to adapt the two year term to match the new elections law that mandated a general election every 4 years. and we revised our Constitution to hold a madatory Leadership contest every 4 years instead of every two. This was a delightful windfall for Elizabeth May, as it enabled her to write an employment contract with a full salary for 4 years, ending this August, instead of the two years she had campaigned for, and won. Was this a mistake? Did we really intend that a ruling clique should be formed, dispensing employment contracts, and spending 4 years cementing their position in charge of the purse strings? I don’t think so, but with the guarantee that the members would have the ultimate authority, we would have the opportunity to correct any mistakes made on this score.

The Context of the current leadership race:

Our constitution is very clear and concise. There shall be a leadership contest in 2010. Period. Council is entrusted with setting the terms and conditions under which the contest shall be held. For this reason, a Leadership Election committee was struck last year by Federal Council, and tasked with drafting the rules of a contest to be presented to, and endorsed by the council in general session. Problem is, that this committee was made up from the ranks of sitting council members. Remember that over a 4 year period, there have been a number of council members (including ex-officio members), with full time salaries dependant upon maintaining the status quo. I cannot say if there was any undue influence exerted, after all, who can say what was said between these 5 or 6 councillors in the convoluted world of Green Party council politics? What I CAN say, is that the committee never held a substantive meeting, and has not put forward a plan of action, should the constitutionally mandated race actually come to pass. With the passage of time, and for subsequent council meetings, varying arguments were put forward that a leadership race would be problematic. After all, a general election was always imminent, and practical considerations trumped any legal niceties like observing the history, and traditional governing mechanisms of our Party. The governing clique decided to channel all of the resources of the party into an effort to get the leader elected, through the medium of our new, unelected governing body, the ‘Campaign Committee’. A plan was hatched to eliminate the Leadership race, by changing it into a review mechanism, and all efforts were turned towards eliminating any formal contest for the forseeable future. For this purpose, council drafted a motion to be presented at the upcoming BGM in Toronto in August that mandated a periodic Leadership Review, instead of an actual contest. The Leadership clique has done their homework well. The

Frank De Jong

lessons of the Green Party of Ontario were there for all to see. There are two reasons why Frank De Jong of the Green Party of Ontario was the longest serving leader of any Green Party in the World. Reason one is that he did not face a Leadership challenge, he faced a periodic review, with miniscule turnouts, which allowed him the comfort of choosing his own fate. Reason two is that Frank is personable, and genial. He just never did anything nasty enough to motivate large numbers of people to organise a massive campaign twice. Once to mobilise the GPO membership for a review vote, and the second time to organise an actual leadership campaign to replace Frank. It was only when Frank decided, under enormous pressure in the backrooms of the GPO to resign and seek the Leadership of the Green Party of Canada that an actual, well a one man contest for a new leader took place in the GPO. If the review motion passes at the BGM, then this is to be the future of the GPC. No more vigorous debate, and open contests. No more airing of our differences, and a decision rendered by the membership. Instead we shall face secretive committees, and very parochial interests setting the terms and conditions of their continued employment, well out of public view.

The Leadership race is publicly ON.

On June 29, an email publicly launching Elizabeth May’s bid to retain the leadership, without an actual contest was sent on Green party letterhead to the mailing list of the Green Party of Canada. A Note from Elizabeth May, and I quote Elizabeth May from the letter:

” This time there is no misunderstanding how fundamental the issues are. Some resolutions would cause an immediate leadership race, forcing me to
resign — even before the next election.”

Wow! Sounds like a coup d’Etat doesn’t it? The resolution which she claims will force her to resign, is quite simply a resolution to enforce the current, and legally binding constitution of the Green Party of Canada. She knew when she was elected leader that she had 2 years at the helm. By a fortuitous turn of events, she was granted an additionlal 2 years employment by the extension the leadership term. She has had not one, but TWO elections, including the London North Centre by-election fiasco. And now malcontents, and trouble makers dare to put resolutions forward that would limit her freedom of action? I agree with Elizabeth May, this time there IS NO MISUNDERSTANDING how fundamental the issues are. Either we are governed by our Constitution, or at the convenience of the entrenched leadership clique. And kindly tell me why the Green party of Canada is handing over the membership lists, and sending emails on behalf of a presumed candidate for the Leadership? Am I the only one to take umbrage with this misuse of party resources? Yes, we are definitely in the throes of, and I guess I will have to coin the phrase, a PRE-leadership race, and this email is misleading, and inappropriately dirty politics. Enough on that, I had the firm intention of focussing on the positive in this post, and just look where my temper is taking me.

On the other hand, there is in fact a resolution to enforce the current constitution on the table at the BGM. It is sponsored by Sylvie Lemieux, and as an aside, I would say that she will make an excellent manager, and leader

Sylvie Lemieux: The next Leader?

of the Green Party of Canada, provided we can ensure an actual race happens. Hey don’t take my word for it, check out this youtube video, and be sure to visit her site and volunteer! So you can understand more fully why a positive re-affirmation is needed to enforce our constitution, you need only consider what I have written above. Every effort has been expended by the current leadership to avoid a race. Council has refused to execute their constitutionally mandated duties, and prepare the Party for a race. There can be no argument that a race was impossible, and impractical if there is a positive re-affirmatiion by the membership. You see what our party is reduced to? Having to play at politics to ensure that there is no escape hatch for an embattled leadership, should they actually have to do the unthinkable, and surrender their positions in a fair and open contest. Yes, exactly, LET THERE BE NO MISUNDERSTANDINGS! Federal council is now forced to plan for the contingency that the constitution may be enforced. They will face legal sanctions if they fail to plan now, and no sympathy for the argument that a leadership race was impossible.

Why YOU should vote for a Leadership race:

For all of us old Party hands, the reasons why a Leadership race is an incredible boon for the Green Party of Canada are blatantly obvious.  For those of my readers who have never been involved in a political Party, I will re-iterate them here.

1) A leadership race draws a plethora of Party activists out of the woodwork. It is a rare opportunity for real honest to goodness contact between the wider membership. The membership lists are thrown open to the candidates teams, and these people are actually willing and able to reach out to the members, and engage them in political work and debate. If you are a member, ask yourself when was the last time that somebody from head office called you to actually ask you what you thought of the issues of the day, and actively encourage your input and energy? How often do you make contact with Greens outside your own narrow circles, and actually discuss what direction YOU would like to see the party moving in? A leadership race engages, and motivates the membership to participate, and to remember that it isn’t for some faction or other to decide behind closed doors, it is for YOU the members to decide the question: Where are we going?

2) A Leadership race creates a big surge in memberships. And to put it bluntly, the Party needs that more than ever right now.  The number of active members is significantly lower today than at any time since the last leadership race. We are in a financial tailspin, and the root cause is that membership is losing its appeal. I will not get into pointing fingers, or laying the blame for it. The time is long past for criticism like that. What we really need is a choice of strong positive visions for where we should be going. We need to reach out to ALL Canadians who share our ideas, ask them to join our Party, and help us to make our shared visions a reality! We need to generate the excitement, and interest that comes with vigorous debate, grow our membership lists, and get about the business of preparing on the ground for the next election.

3) The media loves nothing like a leadership race. For years now, the Green party of Canada has been synonomous with Elizabeth May in the broadcast medias eyes. It is time to remind the electorate, through the media that there is far more to the Green party than a leadership cult. Assuming all the teams that have been organising for a year or more actually field their candidates, there will be a gratifying choice of competing visions to tempt the electorate with.  Men and Women, Francophone, and Anglophones. Representing Eastern, Western, and Central canada. Surely a great opportunity to spread our positive mesages to all Canadians, irrespective of their gender, or regional bias.

On July 13, all paid up members received an email with online voting instructions. Please go dig up the email right now, and go and vote on this resolution (note: You must be a member to access the members zone) to hold a leadership race, and go to this resolution and vote AGAINST a leadership review. Please do not be deceived that you are throwing Elizabeth May out. She will have exactly the same opportunities that all the other candidates will have. To face the membership, and convince you that she is the best choice for the Green Party. If you want to vote for her, by all means! Just do not give up your chance to make that choice in the first place. It may be a very long time before you get another chance to make your opinions, and ideas known.

I guess I should come clean here too, I am not disinterested in the outcome of this race. (Surprise surprise!) A year ago I even expected to play an important part in the upcoming contest, but now I have found my personal commitments, and the pressures of a new business enterprise will not leave me with sufficient time to play the role I had envisioned. It won’t stop me from cheering from the sidelines though, and while I have a favoured Candidate, there are at last count three very engaging candidates in the wings, and I will happily pledge my loyalty to whichever of them emerges as the winner.

And in conclusion, I have a plea to make to our Leader. Set aside your fear of facing a contest, and do the right thing for the Party. It will not be the end of the world if you have to face the membership, and really start organising for a national campaign. You have complained of having to give up your salary for the 6 or 8 week duration of a race, but you weren’t promised a job for life. The Party does not owe you a living, it owes you a fair chance, and an open contest. Why can you not simply bite the bullet and put your best foot forward?

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