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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Bad news for Provincial Green Party’s in Canada.

GPNSLogoWhat a depressing story I just read. Apparently, according to the Edmonton Journal,  the Green Party of Alberta is about to get decertified. This comes on top of the recent news from Nova Scotia, where according to the CBC,  the GPNS is purported to be at the brink of decertification.

What the hell is going on here? I can sort of understand the Nova Scotia greens. They have a miniscule membership, and despite the public funding they received last year, are pretty small potato’s. There isn’t much of a Federal organisation to piggy back on, and despite Elizabeth May’s heavily funded Central Nova campaign, there just isn’t much on the ball there. Clearly they don’t have anybody hanging around who can prepare a basic set of financials. While it looks like there’s a chance to avoid de-certification now, it’s still touch and go.

ABGREENS_Logo1Now what about Alberta Greens? In the past, the Alberta Greens have done a lot of things right. The Province has a real wealth of political talent for the Greens, and the Green activists have been as effective as anybody in Canada. The GPC has approximately 1,000 members in the Province, and that is despite a certain level of hostility to Elizabeth May, our current national leader. In Alberta, the need for a credible provincial voice for the environment is really important. The Conservatives have been running the fiefdom on behalf of the Oil patch for several generations now, and with an increasingly diverse population, people need a clear choice on election day to voice their displeasure.

I know that this blog is primarily about the federal Green Party of Canada, but this one-two punch is relevant to the GPC’s fortunes. I have posted often on the importance of organising in between elections. The bare truth though is that the resources available outside an election period are a tiny fraction of what happens during an election. The entire electorate gets galvanized, and starts to actually pay attention to politics. For the GPC, this has meant that many thousands of people come to our website under their own steam, and join, donate, volunteer, take signs, and attend our events. The funds raised, and more importantly, the big spike in membership numbers is a huge fillip to the GPC organisers everywhere.

What is true Federally is also true Provincially. Every Provincial election is an opportunity for the Provincial unit to draw in thousands of new members, volunteers, donors, etc. In Ontario, where I live, the GPC and the GPO have an awful lot of informal attachments. If you look at the websites of the most succesful Riding Associations, you will find that the Federal, and Provincial executives are often mirror images, with roles swapped, but the names being the same. When supporters are identified, then obviously the sister organisation benefits at the same time. Electoral skills are honed by fighting more elections. ID’d supporters lists grow in leaps and bounds with every election, Federal or Provincial. Donor lists can be worked in rotation, depending on when the next election is. Oh, there are all kinds of ways in which they re-inforce each other.

With the loss of Alberta Greens, this mutual re-inforcement is gone in Alberta. It’s not only that, there’s the big loss of credibility with the electorate. All of you GPC activists out there can expect a few embarrasing moments as a result of this news. Expect to be buttonholed at the office by gleeful colleagues asking you about the joke Party you belong to.

I don’t know if there’s anything that can be done. For some reason, the GPC has been a little bit hostile to some of the Provincial Party’s, where they should be recognising the dynamic I have written of here. Certainly the best and strongest EDA’s in the country understand full well what I am saying. It cannot be a surprise to the GPC’s paid organisers that their greatest successes have been where there is a strong Provincial organisation to backstop the GPC organisers. Should not the GPC lend a helping hand?

Well irrespective of whether the GPC should formally help out or not, I encourage all my readers who have contacts in Nova Scotia, or especially in Alberta to get on the phone, or email, or smoke signal, or however you like to communicate, and get in touch with them. This matters to us all, and every bit of pressure we can bring to bear to resolve these farcical issues should be brought to bear. For the Alberta Greens, bury the goddam hatchet for an hour, and file the goddam returns. I have no interest whatsoever in the merits of the dispute, or who did what to whom. The failure to file, and the withholding of statements is inexcusable, and worthy of a kindergarten class, not grown ups.  Resolve the issue, then continue with your bun fight if you still feel so inclined.

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Green Party Canada 2010 leadership race?

Frank De Jong's Hat in the Ring?

Frank De Jong's Hat in the Ring?

It’s getting pretty obvious now that Frank De Jong, the long time leader of the Green Party of Ontario is thinking about the Leadership slot in the Green Party of Canada. According to Chris Tindal, Frank announced his intention not to run for the GPO leadership again, so there will be a leadership vote at the GPO convention in London in November of 2009. That’s interesting enough in and of  itself, but to cap it all, Frank went on to say, in French, that he would like to be the Leader of the GPC. Sure he backpedalled a little, mouthing that the doesn’t want to take on Elizabeth May, and only if the job is open, blah blah blah. It all adds up to: Frank wants the top job, and he’s got the French that is a pre-requisite.

This is an interesting development, for a whole bunch of reasons. In the

Incumbent Elizabeth May

Incumbent Elizabeth May

couple of months after Elizabeth May won the leadership race against David Chernushenko, she systematically replaced staffers and functionaries with her own loyalists from the Sierra club. She didn’t reach out to her defeated opponent, and as a result of these actions, there was a large out-flux of relatively skilled and experienced Green Party of Canada volunteers. The main beneficiaries of this were the Green Party of Ontario, and the Liberal Party where they were more than welcome. Since then we’ve been in the peculiar position of having the Provincial Party being run more effectively than the federal party, despite

Jim Fannon David chernushenko, and Elizabeth May in televised debate

Jim Fannon David chernushenko, and Elizabeth May in televised debate

the fact that the GPO budget is less than 10% of the federal Party.

The Green Party of Ontario has a much smaller membership base in Ontario than the GPC, but it can safely be assumed that Frank De Jong will retain the loyalty of the majority of the Provincial Party membership. This will be especially true with a Provincial leadership run going all out, as no-one will want to cross Frank under that scenario. In addition, the GPO Leadership bid will take all of those skilled, and hard working GPO types, and train them intensively in contested leadership battles. That is very important, because Frank will need to be recruiting a lot of new members to launch a successful challenge, and will need people around him who know how to recruit and organise.

The timing is very relevant indeed. Frank needed to make his intentions clear right now because he is certain that there are a lot of activists and organizers in Ontario that will be looking for a leadership candidate  to replace Elizabeth May. It’s not only Ontario, Alberta is lock stock and barrel opposed to Elizabeth, and that Province is potentially extremely rich hunting grounds for a bluegreen candidate. British Columbia is pretty ripe as well, and although Adrian Carr is one of the most competent Elizabeth May supporters in Canada, her own influence in BC has declined over the past two years. Frank is probably counting on his early ‘declaration’ to scare off any local contenders from these arenas.

So what are Franks’ odds? I’d have to say that at this moment, they look pretty good. Elizabeth May has enormous name recognition, and the fact is that a large chunk of the existing membership was attracted to HER green party. It is still potential, not on-the-ground facts, but Frank can draw on Alberta and Ontario to win over a strong minority of existing members. British Columbia will be more of an even battle, but there will be a good response to Frank out there. The Maritime, for what it’s worth has been pretty thoroughly coddled by Elizabeth, but there are so few members that I question the value of this. Provided Frank starts organizing immediately, his team can start recruiting new members, and setting up the national infrastructure that will be needed to win in this battle.

There is of course the ten ton elephant in the room, that being the next Federal election. Much will depend upon how well Elizabeth performs in her next outing to the polls. If Elizabeth wins a By-Election, or wins a seat in  the intervening general election, then all bets are off. No-one will be too keen on dumping the leader if she makes history by being the first federally elected Green in Canada. Conversely, if she fails to win a seat, then the knives will come out for sure. In that scenario, Greens will likely decide that they need to renew the Party infrastructure, and that Team Elizabeth is not up to the job. It will be very hard for Elizabeth May to spin anything less than a seat in Parliament into a victory, and she will lose most of the Party establishment that she hasn’t yet alienated.

Then there’s the question of the actual Leadership campaign team. Who is there available to Elizabeth to manage her re-election? Sharon Labchuk again? No offense to Sharon, but she cannot run a campaign. She doesn’t have  the basic skills required. Her team has proved itself unable to recruit large numbers of members during their tenure in charge of the GPC, so why should we think they could do any better during a leadership run? Adrian Carr? Genest in Quebec? Adrian is the obvious choice, but Quebec is a complete write-off for Elizabeth so long as Genest wears the deputy leaders crown.

Whatever way it shakes out, I am really looking forward to a good race. Since the only way to unseat Elizabeth is to out recruit her, I expect that there will be a lot of new members recruited. In all probability, Alberta and Ontario memberships will be revitalised, and drawn back into the Party. This has to be a good thing, and provided Elizabeth doesn’t crap all over her opponents, and actually makes an effort to engage and reconcile in the event of a victory, then these Provinces can contribute loads of talent and skilled partisans for the GPC ongoing. Whichever way it goes, I encourage every one of my readers to renew their memberships, and get involved in the upcoming race. Just please, please, keep your’ cool, and don’t get caught up in mud-slinging like the contestants in the last race. Never forget that today’s opponent is tomorrows ally. Elizabeth’s current predicament is a direct result of castigating her opponent, and if you don’t learn from past mistakes, you will be doomed to repeat them.

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Green Party’s Frank DeJong the news hit today.

Extra! DeJong's in the News.

Extra! DeJong's in the News.

Every couple of days, I hit the google news search with Green Party Canada, just to see if anything interesting crops up. I am sad to report that for the past few months, very little of interest has surfaced. Today I was pretty amused at the outcome.

Frank DeJong, leader of the Green Party of Ontario is taking a swing through Northern Ontario, and he came up at the top of the relevant news. I’ve known Frank for 4 years now, and he has a very pleasant demeanour. He’s a gifted Politician, in the sense that he doesn’t love the sound of his own voice. He listens before he speaks, and he’s very much a consensus builder. What was truly refreshing about his news coverage was the balanced way he criticises the Liberal Government. In the first news link, he actually applauds the positive initiatives of the Ontario Liberals, criticizes what he considers their shortcomings, and then proposes some innovative policy proscriptions. What a breath of fresh air!

Frank DeJong

Frank DeJong

In the second news link, He criticizes the Liberal Government briefly, follows it by proposing the Green Party’s alternate policy prescription, and then reaches out to fiscally conservative disaffected Tories. Now that’s how you grow your’ Party. By explicitly reaching out, and asking people to join. In the third news link, he focuses exclusively on positive policy, without breathing a word about the other Party’s.

Frank is obviously paying attention to the growth in membership, and electoral strength of the Green Party’s North Ontario Constituency Associations. He is touring the North in support of them, and he is presenting a positive message with sincerity and conviction. This is entirely relevant to my Green Party of Canada focus. There was a recent Angus Reid Poll released where, yet again, Ontarians supported the Green Party of Canada at nearly twice the rate of the rest of Canada.

The Green Party of Ontario is chock a block with talented organizers, and strong Riding

Nagy and Jolley. The A-Team

Nagy and Jolley. The A-Team

Association builders. Shane Jolley in Bruce Grey Owen Sound with his team, and Mike Nagy in the company of his heavy hitting Guelph Team have both benefited greatly from the synergy between Provincial and Federal organizations. The fact is that they work hard identifying supporters, and building their organizations at both levels, so the energy, skills, membership, and volunteer base grows with every election, whether Provincial or Federal. These two CA’s are far from alone. The majority of the Province is organized in tandem now, and the lessons of the top performers are being learned across the Province. It seems that when David Chernushenko’s supporters left the Green Party of Canada to Elizabeth May, they didn’t completely disappear. They simply withdrew their talent from the top table at the GPC, and transferred their efforts to their provincial organization.

By the way, the fourth news article was entitled: Green Party Mired in Silence?

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