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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The Green Party demostrating strategic and tactical smarts on Vancouver Island

The Greens are running a tight ship on Vancouver Island these days. In the wake of Andrew Weavers win in Oak Bay Gordon Head on behalf of the BC Green Party, I decided to have a closer look at the BC Provincial election results in the Victoria area.

Knowing so little about BC Politics, I trotted off to find the Provincial riding maps, and past Provincial election results in the area. From that point it was a quick and simple matter to visually contrast the Provincial riding maps and compare them to the Federal ridings. You see, the typical Green supporter does not really differentiate between the Provincial and Federal Green Party’s in their area. A Federal Green voter is extremely likely to vote Green Provincially, so it would be reasonable to expect that the $million plus that the Green Party of Canada has sunk into Saanich Gulf Islands would be reflected in the Provincial results. The bulk of that money has been spent over the past 4 years in staffing offices in SGI, and systematically building supporter lists in the district.

In November 2012, Donald Galloway representing the Green Party of Canada ran a hotly contested campaign to win the Federal riding of Victoria, which is immediately adjacent to SGI. As I have posted before, the Greens have become extremely good at mobilizing volunteers from across the country to work virtual phone banks for a targeted canvas. In essence, they bombard their supporter lists with emailed invitations to volunteer to telephone canvas from their homes. It is very easy for volunteers, basically they get an emailed link to log in to the canvassing database. They log in, a name and phone number pops onto their screen, alongside a simple script, and they start dialling and recording voting intentions. Whether they work for 10 minutes, or 10 hours, all the data they collect is automatically preserved, and has gotten the campaign that much closer to identifying all their prospective supporters in the area. It takes literally tens of thousands of volunteer hours to fully canvas a riding. The biggest stumbling block for building up identified voters lists is the sheer volume of work involved in actually knocking on all those doors, or dialling all those phone numbers. By calling on hundreds of volunteers from all across the country, the local GP campaign can focus on key objectives, while the donkey work of identifying, and subsequently getting out the vote can be handled by volunteers from far and wide. Well the Green ID and GOTV virtual phone bank was firing on all cylinders on behalf of both Galloway in Victoria, and Turner in Calgary Centre by-elections. Galloway ran a strong campaign, in the riding adjacent to Elizabeth May’s stronghold of SGI. He was able to call on hundreds of local volunteers, and the Federal Party infrastructure of paid staffers and offices just across the riding boundary. The upshot of all those resources being mobilized to support a strong candidate, and a strong EDA was a pretty close second place finish with over 34% of the popular vote in Victoria.

So fast forward to the BC Provincial election 6 months later, and you can see the strategy of building an Island stronghold being implemented. At this point I wish I knew how to create poll level maps, and a geo coded database of vote results. But I don’t, so I will have to support my argument with fuzzier information and generalized conclusions. Have no fear, a poll by poll analysis will bear me out, but I am both too lazy, and insufficiently skilled to actually do all that work.

First of all, in BC, the Provincial riding boundaries are not really related to the Federal boundaries. The Federal Electoral Districts have 2-3 times the population as a Provincial riding.  As a result, the Federal Saanich Gulf Islands for example incorporates the entirety of one Provincial riding, and pokes into significant corners of  two more. The same holds true for the federal Victoria riding. So between SGI, and Victoria, there are larger, or smaller overlaps with 5 Provincial ridings. The Green Party of BC put their strongest candidates into ridings where the Greens had thoroughly canvassed, and identified large numbers of supporters federally through GPC campaigns.

Adam Olsen, who is a well recognised 2 term city councillor in Central Saanich ran for the BC Greens in Saanich North and the Islands. This riding is completely within the boundaries of SGI federally. Jane Sterk, Leader of the BC Greens ran in Victoria Beacon Hill, which is completely within the boundaries of Victoria federally. Andrew Weaver, a very well known Professor at U Vic ran in Oak Bay Gordon Head, which is split between Victoria and SGI Federally, while the relatively weak candidate in Victoria Swan Lake was Spencer Malthouse (my apologies Spencer), in a riding that overlaps with Victoria Federally.

The results are laid out in the table below. Please note the growth in Green Party of BC votes were exceptionally strong where the riding boundaries overlapped with SGI, and a lesser extent where the overlaps were with Victoria.

 

BC Green Party LIBERAL NDP
2009 2013 2009 2013 2009 2013
Federal Overlaps with: Provincial Riding Votes % Votes % GROWTH Votes Votes Votes Votes
SGI & Victoria Oak Bay Gordon Head 2152 8.91% 9602 40.09% 346.19% 11266 7124 10736 6772
SGI Saanich North & Islands 3016 10.91% 9294 31.86% 208.16% 12513 9629 12118 9681
Esquimault-Juan de Fuca & SGI Saanich South 1551 6.56% 3612 15.16% 132.88% 10728 8473 11141 10824
Victoria Victoria Beacon Hill 3768 16.64% 7852 33.72% 108.39% 5998 3981 12591 11335
Esquimault-Juan de Fuca Juan de Fuca 1645 8.53% 3253 15.46% 97.75% 6624 6513 11008 11272
Victoria Victoria Swan Lake 2459 12.01% 4502 22.62% 83.08% 5456 4509 12389 10891
Nanaimo-Cowichan Cowichan Valley 2807 11.64% 4662 18.79% 66.08% 8734 8786 11575 9923
Nanaimo-Alberni & Nanaimo Cowichan Nanaimo North Cowichan 2004 8.96% 3043 13.41% 51.85% 7956 6984 12159 10538
Vancouver Island North Comox Valley 2338 8.56% 3292 11.48% 40.80% 13016 12817 11593 11024
Esquimault-Juan de Fuca Esquimalt Royal Roads 3370 16.71% 4486 21.61% 33.12% 6098 5959 10705 9997
Nanaimo-Alberni & Nanaimo Cowichan Nanaimo 1852 8.96% 2198 10.53% 18.68% 7497 7812 11057 9548
Vancouver island North North Island 1561 7.25% 0 0.00% -100.00% 8411 8862 11232 10595
Nanaimo-Alberni & Nanaimo Cowichan Alberni Pacific Rim 1250 7.41% 0 0.00% -100.00% 5373 5981 10007 9829
Nanaimo-Alberni Parksville Qualicum 2465 9.57% 0 0.00% -100.00% 13265 13405 9803 9899

 

As you can see, over a 4 year period, the Green vote grew appreciably in every riding on the Island. If you look at the raw vote counts though, you will see that the truly impressive growth was happening in ridings where the Greens were strongest to begin with. In short, the possession of a strong ground game, access to extensive supporter and voter lists, and the mobilization of a nationwide virtual phone bank in support of a campaign is sufficient to propel the Greens within striking distance of winning in select ridings.

The implications for the next General election in 2015 are twofold. Locally, on the island itself, we can expect to see a concerted effort to continue to build on past successes. Provincial, Federal, and Municipal Greens will be co-ordinating and sharing resources in an un-precedented way. SGI will be an easy win for Elizabeth May, and Victoria and Esquimault-Juan de Fuca will be squarely in the GPC`s sights. I fully expect that there will be stronger campaigns in ALL the Vancouver Island ridings, and the process of building a regional stronghold will continue.

The wider implications are that the Greens will be paying a LOT more attention to Federal By-Elections. I would expect that Calgary Centre will have a well funded and organized campaign in 2015, based upon their excellent showing in the November By-Election. I doubt very much that the GPC will spend a nickel on the upcoming Bourassa by-election in Quebec, but they will be weighing their future chances in any riding where a by-election is going to be called. With a few months heads up, they are now fully capable of pledging the monetary support to entice a strong local Candidate. With the proven ability to mobilize a seriously massive volunteer phone canvas, they can strategically use a by-election build the local electoral database in preparation for the general election in 2015. In this respect, the Green Party is incrementally creating the conditions to win in a handful of ridings come 2015. I for one will be following their efforts with interest.

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Whither the Green Party? Probable Strategy for 2015

I just took a gander at the Elections Canada databases to see the current state of the Green Party EDA`s. Like them or not, the Green Party remains a factor, and their 2015 campaign will play a role in determining the outcome of the 2015 election. I have a couple of general observations to make, and I have to say that the Green Party has some very impressive strengths, and some very telling weaknesses. It will sound like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth, but I will demonstrate why I expect that the GPC will have a very successful 2015 election, while at the same time they will have a greatly reduced impact on the outcome of the next general election. Be patient with me, and I will amply prove both points.

Back in January, I posted on the cynicism of Elizabeth Mays offers and entreaties for electoral co-operation with the Dippers and Liberals. The crux of my argument was that the Green Party will have a much smaller impact in 2015 because they will probably not be running a full slate of candidates. Every electoral district that they fail to field a candidate in will not have a single ballot cast for the Greens, so their impact in those ridings will be limited to a small number of disappointed Greens who fail to vote at all, while the balance of their voters cast a ballot for their second choice party. For those ridings where they do field a candidate, they will not have anywhere near the kinds of resources that they have had in the two or three past elections. That is primarily due to the loss of the per vote subsidy, which represented the lions share of the money accumulated in local Electoral District Associations coffers. (The Green Party used a fund sharing formula which forwarded a generous chunk of the subsidy funds to the EDA in which the underlying votes were earned). In fact, I can tell you with certainty that the majority of Canada’s GPC EDA`s were only incorporated for the purpose of receiving those per vote subsidies in the first place. The loss of the subsidy will result in folding up the EDA in a great many instances.

A second significant loss of resources was that a great many EDA`s spent relatively big money on the last general election, but then failed to achieve the 10% threshold to receive a 60% rebate of their electoral expenses. This had a dis-proportionate effect on the financial resources of some of the strongest EDA`s in the country. That impact will show up in the next general election in the form of weak campaigns in many places where  the GPC was once strong. These dozen or two ridings will deserve special attention by the Liberal Party and the NDP because there will be approximately 5%-6% of the electorate up for grabs there. In my books, that big of a shift in that many ridings has national significance.

The third factor to take into account is the lack of field organising infrastructure within the GPC, and the related lack of incentive to expend resources on recruiting and assisting a full slate of Candidates in 2015. Elizabeth May has done many good and effective things at the GPC. The greatest failing of her version of the GPC is the total lack of interest in building local infrastructure. I will not go into the facts that underly this conclusion, you can search the archives of this blog if you want names, dates, and details on the lack of field organising. Suffice it to say that I was intimately aware of the circumstances, and this conclusion is not idle. The main reason why the GPC has run a full slate of candidates in the past was to earn the per vote subsidy that came along with every vote. That is why there were so many `ghost`candidates, whose names appeared on the ballot, but who spent $200, and canvassed a few people at their favourite coffee shop, while calling it a campaign. The loss of the per vote subsidy eliminates the incentive for the Green Party to field a full slate of candidates, and the loss of the subsidy removes the incentive to even have a local EDA. I seriously doubt that the Party will create a field organising team, and dedicate real resources to run a full slate minus the incentive of the subsidy.

There is one piece of  objective evidence that my contentions are true. The number of registered Electoral District Associations has been in a steady decline since the last actual real field organiser was fired back in 2009. (She did her job TOO WELL! She actually formed a lot of EDA`s and the head office wanted to keep the per vote subsidy in their coffers, not flowing to Quebec EDA`s). I have updated the table below to reflect the 5 Electoral District Associations that have been de-certified by Elections Canada so far in 2013. Believe me, the trickle is going to turn into a flood by the end of this year. Please note that there have been a grand total of 10 EDA`s formed since 2009. That is pretty serious evidence that there is zero field organising capacity at the GPC, given the hundreds of ridings with no organisation at all.

  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 0 6
Total: 285 123

So that summarises my case that the GPC will have a greatly reduced impact on the outcome of the 2015 general election. Now I shall move on te the case that the GPC will have a very succesful 2015 election result.

The Green Party has had an internal conflict between the centre, (The HUB), and the peripheries, (The EDA`s) just about forever. The conflict was over general election strategies. One side arguing that the Beachhead strategy which should be to focus resources on a small number of key ridings, and actually getting a member of Parliament elected there. The other side argued for a `rising tide`strategy, which supported building electoral capacity in EDA`s across the country. This strategy anticipated ever stronger EDA`s with ever-increasing financial, and volunteer capacity to fight future elections. A key argument in favour of field organising,a nd building the EDA`s was that the per vote subsidy could be leveraged by collecting as much low hanging fruit as possible across the whole nation. It was easily proven that spending $1000 in a small riding would win more votes than adding an extra $1000 to the campaign budget in a strong riding. Well this argument is over, done, dead. beachhead wins hands down, so the GPC strategy for the 2015 election is as predictable as the rising of the sun.

Starting 4-1/2 years ago, the Green Party adopted the sole and over-riding objective of getting Elizabeth May elected to Parliament. These were not empty words. they did something radical (for the Greens) and actually spent some resources polling, and investigating target ridings. They then started throwing money, big money into opening multiple offices, and hiring staff located in Saanich Gulf Islands in BC. They spent well over $1million in the pre-writ period. They put the finishing touches on a database application that allows volunteers from across the country to telephone canvas into a specific riding. The 2010 election proved that ground game plus money talks, and Elizabeth may quite convincingly won the seat.

The recent by-elections in Calgary, and Victoria demonstrated the Green party has gotten pretty darned good at focusing a widely distributed National volunteer base on a specific riding. I am still on their mailing lists, so I received a lot of emails asking supporters to participate in the National Phone bank, canvassing Calgary, and Victoria in an ID-GOTV campaign. Having run such campaigns in the past, I can tell you that telephone canvass is the perfect way to ID the vote on the cheap. Volunteers are free, and the cost of long distance telephoning is pretty damned cheap too. Focusing hundreds, maybe even thousands of volunteers on a handful of ridings during a general election will instantly make the GPC competitive locally.

Elizabeth May has a very impressive network of environmental activists in her Rolodex. While local candidates are not as important as Party affiliation, and the Leadership factor in electoral outcomes, the difference between a Candidate with a nationally (or internationally) recognised name, and a 19-year-old student in a coffee shop is pretty obvious. Elizabeth May can personally recruit a handful of high quality candidates for carefully selected target ridings in 2015.

The formula for winning in SGI is not a fluke. It is a predictable outcome from having a high credibility candidate, and pouring huge money and boots on the ground into a small riding campaign. The most important criterion is the availability of money. Despite the loss of the per vote subsidy, the Green Party is growing their fundraising capacity in a very impressive manner. I blogged about it a few weeks ago, and what impresses me the most is that the increased cash flows are coming from a very systematic and disciplined fundraising process. Process is important, because it is not subject to vague fluctuations. What they are doing guarantees that they shall continue to raise ever-increasing quantities of the mother’s milk of politics, namely ca$h. They no longer need to pay the Salaries of Elizabeth May, and Adrian Carr, both of whom have salaries courtesy of their elected positions. Even local office expenses, and personal staff for those two people are being borne by taxpayers, so there is a chunky 6 figure annual savings for the GPC. Remember that the GPC does not spend money of field organising outside their target ridings, so a large chunk of the money they raise can be devoted to pre-writ spending in target ridings. Then there is the likelihood af raining a substantial loan for the next general election. Any ridings that they target with significant writ period spending will definitely exceed the 10% threshold for getting 60% of the campaign expenses back. They can borrow quite a chunk of dough, provided they can demonstrate a steady and dependable cash flow from fundraising, and they can pay much of those loans off using the proceeds of the electoral expenses rebates.

So put all these factors together, and the strategy of the GPC in 2015 becomes as clear as this mornings blue skies. They will focus on a small number of winnable ridings. Based on past history, I would bet folding money that the ridings they target will be currently held by Conservatives, and will disproportionately be located in BC, and Alberta, the GPC `strongholds`. I would guess that they will shoot for official party status in the house, but they may just rein in their ambitions a little and go for 4 or 5 certain seats as opposed to 10 maybes. With maybe a quarter $million or more in pre-writ spending per riding, a National campaign that focusses resources regionally, plus fully funded local campaigns, they will win in a number of ridings. If they limit their ambitions, there is no reason why they could not slam 5 ridings. If they want to roll the dice, they could possibly break through and achieve the coveted official party status in the H.O.C.

To wrap up this post, I will draw conclusions for the Liberal Party, and what all this means for them. When the GPC makes their target clear, (and they will long before the election), evaluate their chances carefully. If it is a smaller number of targets, then sit down and talk co-operation with the Greens. We cannot stop them from winning if they are prepared to spend millions on a small number of targets. Deal with the reality of it, and squeeze an advantage. The advantage on offer will be an endorsement of numerous Liberal Candidates by Elizabeth May and the GPC. It is true that the GPC will probably not run very many candidates outside their target ridings, for the reasons outlined above. The problem for the Liberals is that the abandoned GPC voters are more likely to vote NDP than Liberal wherever there is no GPC candidate. Elizabeth May does not like the NDP, so her instinct is going to be to cut a deal that favours the Liberals. Her endorsement could be a significant factor in attracting the lions share of the stranded GPC votes to the local Liberal rather than the local Dipper. Then of course, the post-election Parliament will hold the promise of a biddable coalition partner in the GPC. That could be critical if the Liberals achieve a strong minority, or even if they want a buffer of a few extra members to support a bare majority. If the GPC over-reaches themselves with too many targets, then the Liberal Party should think about it first. The targets will almost certainly be Conservative held ridings, so if the Liberals believe that the targets are winnable for the Liberals, then they should consider contesting them. Altogether though, I suspect that Elizabeth May is going to engineer an electoral coup in 2015, and make some form of electoral cooperation between the GPC and the Liberals a fact. And what makes this doubly impressive is that she will achieve this outcome whether she gets cooperation or not, and it will happen despite the significant reduction in the overall number of votes won by the GPC.

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It’s Official, the Green Party of Canada Membership will decide on Leadership.

Before I start, I just checked my visitor stats, and it’s at 30,008! That’s 10,000 visitors in 3 months and 3 days. Wow, there were a LOT of people very interested in what’s happening with the GPC leadership contest!

It didn’t make sense to have a post with a shelf life of 1 day hanging around on the front page, so I’m bumping it with a post on the outcome of Sunday’s Green Party council debate on the leadership race. I am happy to say that my plea for reason, and my desperate last ditch attempt to ensure that no illegal motions were passed was successful. Council has voted to draft a motion to amend the Part by-laws regarding a leadership race to submit to the membership at the August BGM in Toronto. In the interim, the Leadership race fairness committee has been tasked to prepare the terms and conditions of the race. These terms and conditions will be predicated on the terms and conditions of the last race. For those interested, Steve Kisby chairs that committee, and I’ll publish the names and email addresses of all the members in an upcoming post.

The reason that the race terms and conditions have to be updated is because the council motion acknowledges that if the By-Law amendment fails, nominations for the leadership race will commence immediately, and a new leader will be elected before the year end. So now, the die is cast, and the leadership contenders have a sense of the rulebook, and a timeline to plan for.

I have recieved a number of emails with condolences about the outcome of Sundays vote. As I read them, I realised that there is something I simply haven’t made clear, and I’d like to clarify it now. I have NOT advocated an immediate race because I hate Elizabeth May, and want her out at any cost. What I have been argueing for is a consistent application of the rules, and for the clearly expressed intention of the membership, as is written into our By-Laws and constitution, to be respected. It was intolerable to me that the rules should be tinkered with, and disrespected by our governing council. This would be severely unhealthy for our Party, and would store up trouble for the future. The very fact that the membership will be consulted at the BGM, and that their intentions and will are NOT being pre-supposed and manipulated contents me completely. The practical needs of the competing leadership contenders have been partly addressed, and the commitment to flesh out the rulebook allows for the small tweaks that will deliver a great contest. The next Leader of the GPC will be decided by an open, and vigorous contest, that will allow for an airing of our differences, a contest for the hearts and minds of the membership, and a reconciliation of our differences at the conclusion of the race.  Provided the manipulation is over, win or lose, I AM CONTENT.

The paragraph above does not go far enough though. The characterisation that I increasingly see that I am  hater of Elizabeth is not true whatsoever. Elizabeth May has brought a great many benefits to the Green Party. She is an extraordinarily articulate, and intelligent woman. She is a quick thinker, and has a grasp of the effects and impacts of environmental policy second to NO-ONE in Canada, or even anywhere in the world! She IS our star candidate, and has more electoral potential in her pinky than 90% of our candidates in a general election. After this leadership race is over, I will move heaven and earth to help her get elected to Parliament.

Huh! That surprised everybody didn’t it? Well let me make clear the rational basis of my criticisms of the Leadership of the GPC, and WHY I believe it could only be rectified by a leadership race. Unlike any other Party in Canada, the Green Party has no formally elected Chief Administrative, or Chief Executive officer. (Often called the Party President) In theory, the Party machinery is managed by a hired Executive Director, while some various functions are handled by appointed sub committees of council, and the council elected Chair. Well, this really sucks, because the impact is that informal mechanisms actually trump the formal structure. The Leader, whom we all pretend is being elected as the chief communicator, in fact has great moral suasion, and by default, ends up shall we say, strongly influencing hiring, organising principles and structure, budget processes, campaign planning, and who has to clean the teacups after an in-person council meeting. She is not really accountable for failures in this area, because those failures aren’t officially her fault. As for an accountable council, well in practice it isn’t. Council members come and go through a revolving door. When accountability means you may lose a council election, and be spared feeling guilty for not reading all the memorada, and motions before the meetings, and not have to attend a monthly bun-fight, it’s hardly a meaningful sanction for mis-behaviour now, is it? So in effect, there is no accountability for councillors. These are also the reasons for the revolving door to the top staff positions. THEY are accountable for what they don’t control.

While Elizabeth has universally acknowledged skills, and attributes, I do not believe that these skills stretch to all places, and all things. She simply does not have the professional experience in managing processes, budgets, and multi-layered objectives that are essential to the operations of a successful political Party. No one person contains the full skill set, so that’s not a nasty attack. It’s a recitation of facts. When she found herself elected leader of a political party 4 years ago, she didn’t know anybody there very well. She saw levers of power, and she saw staff positions which needed filling. She looked amongst her closest trusted advisors, and allies from the Sierra Club, and from her personal life, and she filled those positions, and she pulled those levers of power. I know full well how many people were jockeying for influence with her at that time, because I was at the heart of her campaign team. Can I blame her for taking the steps she did? Not really, because she didn’t KNOW in her bones that political Party’s are pluralistic, that campaigns happen on multiple levels, and good politics requires good accomodation, and conciliation skills. So in a nutshell, that’s how the bunker mentality started. Our leader had the campaign team needed, but she didn’t have the management team to ‘close the deal’.

So now we’re going to have a leadership race, and the roots of our governance problems will be right out there on the table. I am working on behalf of a process oriented candidate who is a truly superior manager, trainer, and facilitator. She has a successful career, to which she will return after the job is done of facilitating the renewal of our Party’s governance and operations is completed, or at least well started. She will work to raise the profile of shadow cabinet, and put the media relations tools of the Party at the disposal of our up and coming personalities. She will work to ensure the National Party co-ordinates growth, message, and both strategic and tactical objectives with the EDA’s, and regional organising teams. She will work to ensure that we research effective messages, and systematically grow our support in a TARGETED and deliberate manner. Then she will retire from the position, and happily be our much beloved elder stateswoman, at the side of Elizabeth, and Jim Harris. Elizabeth has made a great contribution, and I really hope she will stay on to continue her career in the Green Party, but we must use the existing processes, and the moral suasion of the leaders position to recraft the operating and management structure of the Green Party.

So I sincerely hope this post will put to bed the silly comments, and half baked characterisations of myself, BGB as a hater of Elizabeth. It’s simply not a worthy criticism, especially now that we have a really serious contest in place for the hearts and MINDS of the Green Party of Canada’s membership. Now have at it with your’ comments! (6 weeks to meet the next 10,00 site visitors?)

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Toronto City Elections analysis: Where should the Greens Target their Efforts?

Toronto Election

As my regular readers will know, I have long been a proponent of mixing Green Party politics with municipal electoral politics. If we are going to make progress on building livable, and sustainable communities, not surprisingly, gaining political control, and/or influence over the local elected offices is of extreme practical value. There’s also the more pragmatic, and hard nosed aspects of organising an effective local ‘ground war’ for the next Federal, or Provincial election. Having friends and allies on the local council is very nice indeed when you’re gearing up to contest your riding in a National Election.

I will state categorically that I am pretty clueless about municipal politics outside the boundaries of Toronto. I will also state that I am NOT clueless about Toronto municipal electoral politics. I will apologise if some of the assumption that I abstract from my experience in Toronto don’t actually apply to your local municipal scene. Sorry, but there still could be some nuggets to glean from this post.

1) Local elections have low turnouts: Issues actually matter locally. Why? Because the turnout is abbysmal, many, or most people won’t bother, unless they either really really care, or are really really pissed about an issue. The key to local electoral success is less about converting electors into supporters, and more about simply motivating those supporters to get out and vote. Having significant numbers of motivated supporters identified, and ready to tap into is of utmost importance.

2) Incumbents almost always win: Every incumbent has a portfolio of projects, and local initiatives that they champion. The fact is that the counterparties to these initiatives don’t want to roll the dice with a new councillor. They want their incumbent re-elected so (s)he will fulfil their promises. That motivates a lot of people on a piecemeal basis. Then there’s the other half of the voting municipal electorate, who will do their civic duty and vote, but don’t have a clue who to vote for until a familiar name appears on the ballot in front of them. ‘Better the devil I know’ syndrome kicks in for a nano-second, and another possibly worthless incumbent is returned to power.

3) It takes volunteers to win locally: To win locally, you have to canvas hard. It takes face to face opportunities to win over a doubting electorate, and that means volunteers wearing out shoe leather.

While every EDA should take the opportunity to gather resources, lists, and data, a careful analysis of your 2 municipal Wards will determine if you’re going all out for municipal victory, or if you’re simply being opportunistic. If you have a large concentration of  identified GPC supporters in either one of the two Wards, you have a significant political asset. If you have a large volunteer base in your’ EDA, and they’re up to fighting a municipal campaign, then you have a significant political asset. If the incumbent is not running again, then you have a significant asset. If two of the three are true, then you need to start your candidate search now. If you have all three, then your’ EDA is the odds on favourite to be annointing the next City councilor in that Ward.

So let’s take a look at the public record, and see which Toronto Green EDAs are sitting in a pretty position. The most useful information available right now pertains to which Incumbent is not running again. I trotted off to the Toronto Votes site, and reviewed the list of registered candidates. There are a total of 17 councillors who have not yet registered their candidacy for re-election, and XXX of them have made announcements that they have other fish to fry. Some are still ‘maybe’s’, like Rob Ford, who claims he is considering a run for Mayor. ( Yes, he’s the lout who was shouting drunken obscenities at a Leaf’s game, and then tried to pretend it never happened. All I can say is, please do humiliate yourself by running for Mayor)

Incumbents not yet registered:

Rob Ford, Ward 2. ED: Etobicoke North. Considering a run for Mayor.

Doug Holyday,  Ward 3. ED: Etobicoke Centre. Vague Rumours about running for Mayor.

Gloria Lindsay Luby, Ward 4. ED: Etobicoke Centre. This article implies she is running again.

Mark Grimes, Ward 6. ED: Etobicoke Lakeshore. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Giorgio Mammoliti, Ward 7. ED: York West. Running for Mayor.

Maria Augimeri, Ward 9. ED: York Centre. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Mike Feldman, Ward 10. ED: York Centre. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Frank Di Giorgio, Ward 12, ED: York South-Weston. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Adam Giambrioni, Ward 18, ED: Davenport. Running for Mayor.

Joe Pantalone, Ward 19. ED: Trinity Spadina. Running for Mayor.

Michael Walker, Ward 22. ED: St. Paul’s. Relatively high profile challenger, but will Walker run again?

David Shiner. Ward 24. ED: Willowdale. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Kyle Rae, Ward 27. ED: Toronto Centre. Retiring, Run Chris Run!

Case Ootes, Ward 29. ED: Toronto Danforth. Retiring, Pitfield running though.

Sandra Bussin, Ward 32. ED: Beaches East York. Nothing reported on Google, or the news.

Denzil Minnan-Wong, Ward 34. ED: Don Valley East. Maybe Running for Mayor?

Many of those not yet registered are right wingers, hoping to carry the knuckle draggers flag for the Mayoral race. The quasi suburban ring around Toronto proper is not very fertile ground for the GPC, or for progressive`s in general. That could, and should be changed, but I would suggest that sucking oxygen from the city centre candidates, in order to run a Quixote campaign would not be a good use of scarce resources, at this moment in time.

Criteria 2 for a good target is that there should be no incumbency effect. There are 5 Federal electoral districts so far where this criteria is met. Toronto Danforth, Toronto Centre, Trinity Spadina, Davenport, and York West. I should caution you though. There is every probability that Mammoliti for example, will discover that his Mayoral bid is a total lost cause, and will pull out of the Mayoral, and register for his current Ward’s council race. A little tarnished perhaps, but still the odds on favourite by a chunky margin. Given that York West is not particularly fertile ground for the GPC, or GPO, that’s not the best place to pin our hopes.

Criteria 1 and 3 kind of go hand in hand. Those Electoral districts that have a good corp of dedicated volunteers, also tend to have big lists of identified supporters. I wouldn’t want to divulge any actual numbers publicly, but Toronto Centre, Toronto Danforth, Davenport, and Trinity Spadina are all heavy hitting Electoral districts. I would put them all in the top twenty Green Party EDA`s in all Canada.

Chris Tindal from Toronto Centre has already declared for Ward 27, and with real support he will be elected in October. That’s not a joke, it’s for real, so spread the word.

Trinity Spadina contains University of Toronto, and some of the grooviest neighbourhoods in Toronto. It will also be hosting the Green Party’s BGM, and possibly the Leadership vote for the Green Party in August. Guess what? That’s right when the Municipal Campaign will be getting hot, and Toronto news coverage will be very hard to get for municipal candidates. It won’t be so hard to get for Green Party municipal candidates though, so hopefully the team organising the BGM will take note, and build this into the schedule. An extra hook to flood the convention with Toronto media, no?  The Toronto Greens would be well advised to craft a media plan to take advantage of the fact that they will be newsworthy, right when it counts the most. Trinity Spadina needs a high quality municipal Candidate for Ward 19.

Toronto Danforth has a very well organised, and active EDA. I will bet that somebody is out canvassing as I write. They have a number of members who would make good candidates. They have the ID’d supporters base, and more importantly, Allies, and issues based data to work with. They might not be a shoo in like Chris over in Toronto Centre, but they should grab the bull by the horns, and go for it. I don`t know if Adrianna Mugnatto-Hamu can afford to run municipally, as she is the nominated candidate federally, and there may be a federal general election intervening, but she should be weighing her options.

Davenport is interestingly enough the home riding of Frank DeJong, long-time leader of the GPO, probable leadership candidate for the GPC, and presumably well known in his home turf. I will talk about anecdotes and rumours for a second. Frank is rumoured to be very hesitant to run for GPC Leader against Elizabeth May. Since it`s entirely possible that Elizabeth May will run for the leadership of the GPC again, especially if the leadership race preceeds a federal election, maybe Frank should consider a run for an office that brings real power with it. As a sitting councilor, he would have a lot more heft in a GPC leadership race, and it might give him the edge he`ll need to beat my preferred candidate. Or maybe he`ll decide that it`s nice to earn some sort of decent money, have free admission to city facilities, and a good shot at a very generous pension.

So there’s my two cents worth. Davenport, Toronto Danforth, Trinity Spadina, and the big one, Toronto Centre are all a great focus for Toronto Greens looking for an election to wage this summer. Don’t despair if you’re in a different EDA. You should still be speaking with candidates, inviting them to speak at your events, and winning them over as electoral allies. If you find a local candidate that you can comfortably get behind, join their campaign, and start learning about really local local issues. I guarantee that you will make friends and allies that will stand you in good stead in future elections.

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Green Party Riding Executives: What do you think of revising the Revenue Sharing Agreement?

Follow the Money...

I just read a blog post over at Dave Baglers’ blog. Given that of late, Dave has been unashamedly defending the Central Party status quo against all comers, I have drawn the conclusion that this is a trial balloon being floated by centralising forces, (read: The current Leadership), at the hollowed out Ottawa head office. Dave, if it ain’t so, then by all means respond in the comments.

Here’s a copy of the RSA as enacted. (Thanks Dave): Revenue_Sharing_Implementation_Plan_as_adopted_Nov-20-2005_formatted

I’ll get to my meat and potatoes argument about the viability of the RSA in a minute, but first a little background. The Green Party of Canada is in a financial pickle. In my humble opinion, this is a self-inflicted wound. The GPC has extremely predictable revenues. There is the federal per-vote subsidy, which is shared with Electoral Districts, and Provincial Divisions according to a predictable formulae. There are pretty stable revenues from the central Party’s fundraising. (yes, I’m referring to those emails you get once or twice per month). There are election expense refunds, which are one time shots to re-imburse funds after a general election. That’s it on the Revenue side. On the expenses side of the equation, there are payrolls, rent heat and lights, Insurance, some travel for council purposes, and a plethora of other, predictable period expenses. Then there’s discretionary spending.

A well managed organisation would look at an extremely predictable revenue flow, and then allocate their resources according to a priotised list of things-to-do-that-cost-money. Mandatory processes, like reporting and compliance would be top priority. Why? Because they are legal obligations. Other totally predictable obligations would be funded in descending order of priority. Council would be there to argue with staff over priorities, and to make sure that priorities like team building trips to the Bahama’s don’t get off the ground. Once you get to the point in your list where the money has all been allocated, you have a budget. When you want to argue about additional priorities, you either craft a plan to enhance your’ resources, or you bump something off the list to make way for the new priority.

This process isn’t rocket science. It’s something that the Prussian Civil Service excelled in back in the 1600’s, and it’s called budgeting. The Prussians did it well, which is why they rose from obscurity, and became a Great Power. Now if you fail to follow a process something like this, it doesn’t change the resources you have to dispose of. It doesn’t change the obligitory expenses either. By itself, what it does do is ensure that you don’t have many unexpected surprises.

Last month, the Green Party membership was surprised to discover that there was a fiscal emergency. Organisers had to be sacked, Catherine Johansen ‘resigned’ from the Election Readiness Committee, and a whole bunch of panic started in the Ottawa office. All of a sudden, the election debt had to be retired, and as if by magic, there just isn’t enough money in the darned bank. Now the terms and conditions of the election loans were clear and explicit. The payroll costs were 100% predictable. The discretionary spending? A total grab bag of unprioritised spending. Jobs for friends in Nova Scotia. Toss a whack of money to Adrian Carr’s Provincial Division in BC. Let’s toss $50 grand to the SGI Campaign for Elizabeth. Yes, I know that the last item was supposedly the top priority for the Party, but where were the cuts to the budget to accomodate it? Did council even consider that this brand new top priority meant that organisers had to be fired? Were YOU aware that you were going to lose your’ Provincial organiser because of it?

Remember folks, within ten minutes of the electoral returns being publicised, our Leader and her council knew within 5% what their resources would be. If they knew what one was, they could have created a Schedule of Receipts and Disbursements that nailed cash flows by date, within a very narrow band. Did they do so? NO. Did they prioritise and exercise their fiduciary duty to the membership? NO. This so-called crisis was created by our Federal Council, and it was created by Elizabeth May, plain and simple. Now some will accuse me of a biased, and unbalanced attack, because I have posted this blog. That is untrue. I would lambaste anybody who mismanaged my Party’s operations so badly. Some people would encourage me to refrain from public criticism, because it may spoil the electoral chances of Elizabeth May in SGI. My response is, don’t shoot the messenger. Our finances are pretty public, and there are opposition researchers eagerly awaiting our next public accounting. Better a trickle of negative reporting now to turn it into yesterdays news that much quicker. If we wait until the ‘AHA!’ moment when the finances are public, then timing is outside our control.

So what’s this got to do with the title of this post? By now that’s becoming obvious, no? If council is truly planning to revoke the ‘Sharing’ part of the Revenue Sharing Agreement, then I would like to be on the record before the bunfight begins. Revoking the RSA will be promoted as an ‘Emergency Measure’. The emergency was a product of fiscal incompetence. I would personally prefer to revoke council, and the Leadership, and I suspect that, were the truth known, a substantial portion of the Green Party membership would be upset enough to share this opinion. The root cause of the problem is that our Leadership is not competent to manage our money. The RSA was created out of a huge bruhaha back in the day. It was argued over, negotiated, brokered, debated by the membership, work-shopped, voted on by the membership at large, and finally, grudgingly enacted by Council. Dumping it to grab some more resources will not fix the incompetence in Ottawa. It will simply paper over the cracks. It’s absolutely guaranteed that the Leadership will continue to fritter, and fail to set priorities, so we’ll be back in the hole again immediately. In the meantime, the EDA’s will be boiling mad, and out for the Leaderships blood. Can you spell: Recall Motion? Not very good politics, eh?

The RSA was predicated on several motions passed by the membership in years gone by. It was intended to promote the formation of EDA’s, while still allowing for the Party Hub in Ottawa to have predictable cash flows. There are arguments that could be made that not all EDA’s use the money wisely. There are arguments that could be made that the RSA was created by council, therefore it can be revoked by council. There are also arguments that could be made that Provincial Divisions are really problematic under the Elections Act. While these arguments may have lot of merit, it’s moot. Why? Because the membership has spoken, council was fulfilling their mandated role when they enacted the RSA. The EDA share has definitely promoted EDA formation, and endurance. Even in the lamest EDA, there is a degree of continuity because they don’t want to abandon their bank account, and revenue sharing cheque. Who cares if some of them aren’t picture perfect organisations? The membership mandated that they get a share, this mandate has proven very effective at achieving it’s stated purpose. Just take a look at the last elections results. A growing number of local campaigns are breaking the 10% threshold, and surprise, surprise, they all have EDA’s in place to back them up.

Provincial Divisions are another kettle of fish. The membership, and RSA mandated that Provincial Division formation be promoted as well. That was before it became abundantly clear that the revisions to the Election Finances Act had rendered PD’s obsolete in Canada. Because Provincial Divisions are not legally seperated from the National Party accounts, it is problematic to ask the Party’s financial agent to be responsable for the books and spending decisions, unless thay are as directly under the Agents control as the National Party is. Why go through the cumbersome exercise of transferring money, and then scrutinising it seperately?

So now we have come full circle. As usual, I have digressed, and tread a tortuous path to my conclusion. We have a Leadership race coming up. Our current Leadership has demonstrated that they are not competent to fulfil their fiduciary, and governance duties. Draw your’ own conclusions, but perhaps you should consider a new Leader? One who can actually demonstrate some competence in the real world? Stay tuned, and soon I’ll be able to table another option for you, and I think you’re gonna like her and her team!

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Chris Tindal for Ward 27! Toronto Greens Unite!

Chris Tindal, Elizabeth May, and Bob Banks (Right to left). Photo Credit: Macleans

Last week I got a very pleasant surprise. The most electable Green I know in Toronto, Chris Tindal, threw his hat in the ring for the race to replace Kyle Rae as city Councillor for Ward 27. Kyle Rae has been a very popular Councillor, but last year he announced that he would not seek re-election.

Lesson number one in Municipal politics is that incumbents get re-elected. There’s really not much more to be said about it. Gnash your teeth all you want, but name recognition, and the concerted efforts of those who stand to see their development plans proceed under the incumbent will trump any and all efforts to unseat said incumbent. This is why this race in Ward 27 will be very hard fought, and will have a whole lot more than the usual crop of self promoters, and people ‘positioning’ themselves. There will be a handful of Candidates who are playing for keeps, and I would have to say that Chris is in a great position to go against the moneyed interests… and win.

The opposition is already shaping up, and at this early date there are already 6 Candidates registered. At this moment, Susan Gapka looks to be the NDP candidate, while Smitherman, the Liberal MPP for Toronto Centre, and Mayoral Candidate has brought along one of his former aides, Ken Chan to run in this Ward for the vacant council slot. It should be obvious to all that Chan will have the backing of those parts of the Toronto Centre Liberal machine loyal to Smitherman, and Chan will almost certainly pin his bid hopes on the coat-tail effect. Take note Chris, this is a wedge that will seperate Chan from parts of his natural constituency. Make him wear his affiliation when it is something he wants to sweep under the carpet. Test his supporters, and split away those who cannot stomach a Liberal. Then there’s Enza Anderson, the relentlessly self promoting candidate who reached a degree of national fame as the would-be Trans-gendered candidate for the leadership of the Canadian Alliance Party. Don’t dismiss her! She got a quite respectable 15% of the vote against Kyle Rae last time she ran, in 2003 I think? I don’t see Enza winning, but she will play a significant role, and her presence should be accomodated, and planned for.

Lesson number two in municipal politics is that City of Toronto councillors are amongst the most powerful politicians in the country. That’s right, I said the MOST powerful. City councillors make and influence decisions that affect billions of dollars in development, and infrastructure spending. Through their committee positions, they have a direct impact on policy formulation that guides these billions of dollars towards favoured recipients. The local councilor eats, drinks, and breathes local issues. They make or break local businesses, and have enormous political influence at the grass roots level. These are the facts of life, and as you can imagine, when the electorate is asleep, and billions of dollars are at stake, the Liberal Party will be not far behind. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I think that Chan will have some pretty telling resources placed at his disposal by the local Liberal organisations. At a minimum, he’ll have access to very detailed electoral databases of voting intentions, and will be able to very scientifically target his efforts. If Chris Tindal is to win this race, he will need a lot of assistance, which is part of the reason I am writing this blog.

Lesson number three in Municipal politics is that personal direct voter contact is the most effective tool in your’ arsenal. Getting media exposure is nice, and a sea of signs will help out with name recognition too, but NOTHING can replace the Candidates canvas. It happens ‘under the radar’, and it is going to be too late for the Liberals to counter if Chris has locked up a few thousand voters before the Liberal cliques machine kicks into gear for the final 8 weeks. There will be approximately 45,000 electors in Ward 27, and ultimately the candidate who canvasses the most will be the one in the winners circle. If Chris is serious, (and I’m pretty sure he is), then he will be out every single day between now and E-Day meeting another 250 voters. It’s a grind, but it is the magic formula for winning an open seat like this. A retail pitch, one on one, repeated hundreds of times per day. I know that Chris presents himself very well, and will win if he manages to Canvass the Ward three times over. Chris also has a big advantage over the other Candidates. He is very recognisable as the Green Pary candidate from the last two Federal elections, plus one by-election. Provided the Toronto Centre EDA’s, and CA actually canvass their own identified voters with a strong endoresement for Chris, there ought to be about 1,000-1,500 Green voters in the bag for Chris.

Which brings me to the main point of this blog. Please help Chris Tindal to be elected in October. Chris Tindal is the real deal. He lives and works green and Green. He is seeking an extremely important and influential elected office. He has a real chance to win, but he will not succeed without a lot of help and money. I am confident that Chris will campaign on several issues that are dear to the hearts of Greens, and that Toronto Centre will have a great opportunity to start bulking out their supporter database with some issues related voter information. Chris could, and should ‘tag team’ with the Toronto Centre CA/EDA by sharing a communications plan to get local issues on the local agenda, and then capturing the same voters for the Green Party’s at the Federal and Provincial level. It’s a total win-win strategy, and will definitely serve both Chris and the EDA well. I know that there are many thousands of identified GPC supporters in Toronto Centre, and the EDA should really welcome the chance to contact them all, and find out what they think about local issues. The worst case scenario is that they acquire tons of detailed information about their supporters. The best case scenario is that Chris Tindal gets elected, and all of a sudden, there are local political staffers, office space, electoral data, and a sympathetic colleague in City Hall, pulling for the Greens at every opportunity. That’s how the NDP took over parts of Toronto, it’s why the Liberals will fight hard for their candidate,and will probably rally around their chosen one, and it’s why the Greens need to be electing people to these vitally important offices across the land.

So reach into your’ pockets, and take out your’ chequebook. Chris will need about $50,000 for a fully funded campaign, and the developers will be lining up with cheques from themselves, their families, their pet dog etc. to fund the other guys, while Chris will have to rely on those few people who donate for the right reasons. Plan to make a week or two available to Canvas in downtown Toronto this summer. If you’re coming for the GPC Convention, come for an extra few days, and just blast the crap out of Toronto Centre, and Ward 27. Volunteer as a policy researcher, or media relations, or whatever skills you have, that Chris could use. If you blog, then blog about Chris, and help build his name recognition. This is a big deal, and every little bit you can do will count.

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