Unite the progressives? Not much of a solution.

For several years there has been a scattered sense amongst some so-called `progressives` that the progressive left should merge, or co-operate electorally to keep the Conservative Party out of power.  No less a Liberal luminary than Jean Chretien has called for a formal merger between the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens. During the current Liberal leadership contest, Joyce Murray is arguing strongly that a pact with the Green Party would be the bees knees.

On the NDP side, the idea was championed by Nathan Cullen in the recent leadership contest.

Elizabeth May has sounded of on this theme again in the aftermath of the recent by-elections where the GPC had a pretty good showing in two of the three ridings contested. She said that; `The tight races also reinforce the need for the NDP, Liberals and Greens to “start talking to each other” to avoid vote splitting in future elections…` I laughed when I read that. Of course she did! The Green Party is tottering, and this is about the only way she is going to retain any electoral significance beyond the next General election. Now some people will want to attribute this statement to malice on my part.  After all, did the GPC not just exceed all expectations in both Calgary Centre, and Victoria by-elections? Sure they did. They did it by pulling out all the stops. They have gotten better at coordinating a national virtual phone bank, and they recruited canvassers from coast to coast to coast to support a couple of strong local candidates. There is a real difference between concentrating your resources on a couple of by-elections, and running a National General election campaign.

They spent real money and resources on those by-elections. In fact, I suspect that when the by-election financial returns are made public, we shall find that they spent as much on these two by-election contests as the Central Party spent on the whole of Canada outside the four target ridings in the last general election. And I would posit that this big effort was symptomatic of their very weak position moving forward. Reason number one is that the per vote subsidy for political party’s is being phased out. The GPC shares the funding from this source between the National Party, and the local EDA`s. This fund sharing formula was in existence before Elizabeth May was elected leader, and it has had a perverse impact on the development of the local units of the party, the Electoral District Associations.  Under Jim Harris, there was a strong emphasis on building the local electoral capacity of the EDA`s. There were full-time organisers on staff, whose job was to assist local Greens in forming EDA`s. Their job was to help out with training, and electoral readiness. There was help in recruiting candidates, there were election training tools, seminars, and manuals being produced. There was a strong incentive for the central Party to support the EDA`s, because the per vote subsidy was shared between the local EDA and the Party itself. The central Party was not very good at fundraising, so they were dependant upon good election results to pay the organisers salaries. Winning votes at the local level was important to the EDA also, because their share of the subsidy represented the lions share of the money available to them to contest the next election.

Elizabeth May brought a very different focus to the Green Party. For whatever reason, the Party lost interest in supporting and developing any strength in the local organisations.  There was a Salary for the Leader, and Deputy Leader to be paid. There was the leaders aide to pay, and the basic legal compliance functions to fund, like financial reporting, meeting the expenses of the Federal governing council, etc. It seemed there was little interest, or resources left over for spending money on training, organising, forming or supporting EDA`s. In fact, from what I could observe, there seemed to be a perverse incentive at work. Every EDA that folded up it`s tent and was collapsed, meant that the per vote subsidy previously `diverted`to the local organisation reverted back to the central party, and helped to keep the top-heavy organisation afloat. During the various budgetary crises that the GPC faced, a series of moves were made to secure an increasing share of the subsidy cheque for the central party. For example, at one point the central Party sent out communications telling the EDA`s that they would be `opted out`of the revenue sharing agreement, unless they responded on short notice that they still wanted to receive their share. Then there was the whole Quebec organising fiasco. The central party was pressured by the Quebec EDA`s to hire a very talented young lady as Quebec organiser for the GPC. She was very succesful, as she set up regional meetings, membership started climbing dramatically, and they registered a whole whack of EDA`s in Quebec over the course of a couple of months. The reaction of the Central Party was to sack the organiser, in order to preserve their revenue stream from the per vote subsidy from Quebec voters! You see, the GPC council had decided that the entirety of the Party`s resources had to be dedicated to winning the leaders seat in SGI in the next election. The upshot was the voluntary dissolution of the Quebec EDA`s. The activists and EDA executives all left the Party, and the Quebec wing completely collapsed. As far as I can tell, that is pretty well where things stand in Quebec today.

The picture is a little more complicated across the rest of the country. The same basic fact holds true, that there is no organising support for the EDA`s, but there is still some residual strength left in some of the EDA`s. The majority of the EDA`s still in existence are held together by the ongoing revenue sharing cheques they receive from the central Party. There are still a few local organisations who go beyond filing their annual returns and cashing the revenue sharing cheques, but the bulk of the EDA`s are collapsing one by one, even though they have guaranteed sources of funds if they meet some minimal filing requirements.

Here is a quick table I whipped up based on Elections Canada records:

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 1
Total: 285 118

As you can see from the table, the Revenue sharing agreement, in conjunction with the central party supporting and assisting in EDA formation succeeded in putting at a minimum a rudimentary local organisation across the country between 2004-2007. There was an upwards blip in 2009 when a whole lot of Quebec EDAs were registered. The recurring financial crisis within the GPC head office contributed to, (or in the case of Quebec was the proximate cause of), the collapse of the EDA`s in 2008-2009, which resulted in the de-registration of all those EDA`s without an executive from that time on. There has been little or no effort to revive the Party organisation at the local level since the momentous decision of the federal Council to concentrate 100% of the GPCs resources on supporting Elizabeth May since 2008-9.

So given these facts, and the history of the GPC, what is going to happen now that the per vote subsidy is being phased out, and there are no easy sources of funds for local EDAs? Well it is clear that the GPC has never shown an  interest in organising at a local level. The local membership is losing the biggest incentive they have to retain the vestiges of an organisation. Even with the ongoing flow of funds from the vote subsidy, about 40% of the EDAs have folded. If the current trend continues, then at BEST there will be about 110-120 EDAs left preserving some resources for the candidates in the 2015 general election. So just how relevant will the GPC actually be in the 2015 general election?

Well the lifeblood of the GPC, the per vote subsidy, will have ceased to exist by 2015. The central party had what should have been a strong incentive to win as many votes as possible across the country in 2010, but they chose to focus all their resources on an effort to secure a seat for Elizabeth May. The impact of failing to run a national Campaign was predictably followed by a substantial decline in their vote share.  How much effort will they expend on recruiting and supporting candidates for the next election? It is safe to assume that those EDAs that still exist will manage to find a candidate for themselves. It is clearly not safe to assume that the party will spend a nickel to recruit candidates where there is no local organisation though. Even if they do field a decent number of candidates, there will be no local organisation to support the candidates. there will be no money in the bank, there will be no candidate training, there will be no resources backing them up, because there is no reason for the national Party to do so. Therefore, it is my contention that the GPC will have lost the capability to influence the course of the general election. Based on past electoral results, a GPC candidate without an EDA, and a minimum of $5,000 behind their campaign will not win more than 2-4% of the vote. The implication is that the GPC will halve their vote share on Eday, if they are lucky.

So having provided some background information, why is it that I would laugh aloud at Elizabeth Mays noble gesture of calling for electoral co-operation before we get to the next election? That is simple. the GPC does not have the resources, the motive, and I suspect the intention to field candidates across the country. When faced with the choice of fading into irrelevance, or cloaking their impotence in an electoral pact, Elizabeth has opted to squeeze the last drop of influence from a Party with some regional strength, but at the end of its rope in most of Canada. If they can run candidates un-opposed in a handful of ridings, they can marshal sufficient resources to pick up a few more seats, but that can only happen if they are gifted that option by both the Liberals and the NDP. They have tried to bolster their bargaining position with an all out effort in the recent by-elections, but they will never have the resources to duplicate this beyond a handful of ridings at a time. My advice to the Liberal Party, and to the NDP, is to smile politely, agree she is a wonderful MP, and ignore her overtures. She has nothing of substance to offer, beyond her own not insignificant abilities as an MP, and policy guru.

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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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An Open Letter the Green Party of Canada federal council:

I’ll apologise if the letter below, and this blog post is not as cogent as it should have been. I am writing this post standing up, buzzed out on percosets. My Kidneys are acting up again, and I cannot sit down, pee, or think straight, but I could not let the opportunity to influence the decisions council must make today pass me by because of a little pain. Incidentally, I know I should have been returning calls, answering emails, and meeting my commitments better this week, but I have been stumped by my hopefully soon to be forgotten bloody damned kidneys!

First the context, then the text of the letter.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you’ll know that the Green Party of Canada’s federal council has been consumed by some strange, and untimely debates of late. More importantly, there has been an enormous amount of manoevering, and negotiations between the three more or less openly campaigning leadership candidates, and the current leader. I believe that the by-laws are being subverted in order to serve the purposes of these back room operators. The public spin has no realtionship with the underlying purposes and intent of some of the participants. Like many GPC members, one of the reasons I support the GPC is the commitment to doing politics differently, and in an open manner. That is actually the reason for the very existence of this blog. To shine a light into darkened corners, and seperate spin from reality to enable members to make informed decisions on the management, and governance of OUR Party.

Federal council will be debating 5 or 6 motions to delay, obstruct, eliminate, or enforce the provisions in our by-laws, and constitution which mandate a leadership contest this year. I am upset that my hand has been forced, and that it is even neccessary that council be chivvied into performing their duties. I’ll return the favour today, and force some other positions into the open. Jim Harris gracefully stepped aside before the last race, and council did their very best to ensure the ensuing race delivered huge benefits to the GPC. I fear, and am working to prevent a situation whereby our current council, leadership, and the three other known candidates can create an environment where the next leader of the Green Party of Canada will be determined in secret, by shaping the terms of the contest behind closed doors.

It does not surprise me that Adrian Carr should be supporting a quiet deal to support Elizabeth May and delay the race. Adrian and Elizabeth are as thick as .. I was going to say thieves, but that isn’t very nice, so instead I’ll say they are extremely close. Adrian has staked her career on being the loyal, and natural successor to Elizabeth, and will be enjoying the support of staff, and Elizabeth when the time comes. As Elizabeth’s appointee to the Deputy Leader position, she draws a salary, receives support from the Party, for example when she tours the EDA’s building support for her leadership, er, I mean, training the EDA’s. She is granted many opportunities for public exposure that the other candidates will never, ever be granted by this council and leader, so it’s fair to say that every years delay is a free lunch and paycheque. Why should she jeopardise these fantastic perk’s by allowing a leadership race?

If Frank’s supporting a quiet deal, it’s a little more surprising. It’s obvious that he has made a strategic calculation that Elizabeth May cannot be beaten in a direct contest. Therefore he is desirous of a delay so that Elizabeth can get clobbered in SGI, and will be dumped with all her baggage. While I think these strategic considerations are partially valid, it is a mistake to be party to a backroom deal to ‘handle’ the leadership races terms and conditions. The Green Party membership will not react kindly to this whole fiasco. I can be frank, and confess that I was very close to joining Frank’s team last year. His candidacy is important, and brings value for the Party as a whole, so I’ll offer some advice, at no-charge. Either commit your campaign to running against Elizabeth, or step back and wait to contest against the field in the next one. Frank , you are ideally positioned to prepare for, introduce motions to, and organise to pass those motions at the BGM in Toronto. If you want to influence the terms and condidtions of the race, do so in a Green, and legitimate way in the place and time designated for that purpose. Continuing to play at influencing the backrooms risks making you a patsy, and will definitely wrong-foot you with those whose support you will need the most. Just a friendly heads up about the freight train coming down the tracks at you ;-)

I will extend a proper courtesy to the third candidate, based in Toronto. Unlike Frank and Adrian, he has made no public moves to tip his hand. He has the same right as my candidate to control the timing and method of launching his campaign. He is however quite new to the Party, and so has been very busy raising his profile in Ontario at least. There is one very big banana peel lying right at his feet though. The Green Party membership is allergic to backroom politics, and he hasn’t been here long enough to understand that deep in his bones. In politics, as in the field of marketing, perception has a way of turning into reality. Because his candidacy is the best thing that could possibly happen for Adrian Carr, he risks being branded as a status quo candidate, or even a patsy of Adrian and Elizabeth. I have faith that this is not the case, and that his purpose is not simply to split the Ontario vote. My advice to him would be to stay the course. Continue to build a constituency within the Party, and use this campaign to meet and understand the incredibly diverse constituencies within the Green Party. Keep it real, and don’t get caught up in negative campaigning, and mud slinging. Be a part of the reconciliation after the race is done. You will be well positioned for a responsible position after the election, and I don’t think that you run a real risk of being cast aside and villified when the race is over, the way Chernushenko was after the last race.

So now that I have pissed off pretty well everybody, and without further ado, here is the text of the letter I forwarded to council this morning.

February 21, 2010. 11:00 AM

It is with regret that I am draughting this open letter to council.

Just under a year ago, I agreed to offer my services to a wonderful francophone woman, and a very skilled manager, who has been actively organising a campaign to become the next leader of the Green Party of Canada. Whether or not there would be a race in 2010 was not in question, because it is mandated, with strict language, by the Constitution and By-Laws of the Party. Naturally, the final decision, and any public announcement of the intent to run cannot be made until the terms and condidtions of this years Leadership contest have been publicised. I am not writing this letter as a casual observer, I am extremely familiar with the context in which this debate is occurring.

I think by now, you are all familiar with your’ roles and duties, which are to support, and enforce the Constitution, and By-Laws of the Party. The authority of council is established by the constitution, and by running for, and accepting the offices which you now hold, you accepted the legal obligations to enforce the by-laws. The intent, and purpose of the By-Laws that you are now debating are clear, that there should be a Leadership contest in 2010. Not a Review, not a plebiscite, but a proper contest, with all the trimmings. The authority to change the pertinent By-Laws rest with the membership, not council. A number of the council motions that you are debating today are plain and simply illegal. In some cases, they pre-judge the will of the membership by assuming a change in the By-Laws will be passed at the August BGM. In other cases, they simply arrogate authority to council which council does not have.

“In Knox v. Conservative Party of Canada (Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, 2006), Justice Sulatyky wrote:

“10 If the political party must control and regulate its internal affairs, it must, in my view, also do it in accordance with their own rules and constitution.

“11 A political party of course is free to leave to its leader the appointment of all of its candidates, but once it chooses to adopt a different process for selection of candidates, even though in the end the leader might have the ultimate authority, it must follow the process that it itself sets up for choosing those candidates.

“12 And because the process is given the blessing of the statute, as enunciated in the Ahenakew decision, the process is subject to judicial review. That is the inevitable consequence of generous election funding of parties and their candidates from public coffers.

“13 So while my inclination and my belief was that Courts should not interfere in nomination processes, I find that the law as it has evolved gives the Courts jurisdiction as a result of the statutory constitution of political parties and constituency associations to review decisions of those parties and associations.””

While this is a ways from a formally bought and paid for legal opinion, the language is clear enough that there is a legal case to be made, and a competent court to hear the case. This case pertained to nominated candidates at the EDA level, for a general election, but the language of Justice Sulatyky leaves little doubt that this would apply far more widely. There are other supporting precedents as well. While the campaign I am working on does not at this moment anticipate launching a legal challenge, this option is generally available to anybody who could demonstrate they intended to launch a leadership bid, and were quashed by an illegal act of council. Any disgruntled EDA, member, campaign, candidate, or their nominees could spend a few hundred dollars, and cause the GPC, and our current leadership severe financial, and public embarrasment. My greatest fear is that operatives from a certain right wing party will use this issue as a tool to justify the elimination of the per vote public subsidy to political Party’s. I’m afraid it would make for a compelling media story. It will be no surprise to any on council that there are armies of well funded ConBots that would revel in such a campaign.

I have called on council, both via my public blog, and more directly by lobbying some individual council members, and a letter to council in late 2009, requesting clarity on the terms of the leadership race. While some of you may be of the opinion that there are only the current leaderships, and several other undeclared candidates opinions that need to be accomodated, please take this letter as due notice that there are other interested Party’s, with a direct interest in the outcome of todays vote on leadership motions, and those other interested Party’s will vigorously, and publicly defend their rights and prerogatives.

I will be more than pleased to make formal representations to the leadership fairness committee regarding how to control the risks of a conflict between the leadership race, and a potential general election. This can easily be acheived with consensus provisions to delay the vote in the event of a general election. I would respectfully submit that establishing a fair and balanced contest, most importantly in a timely manner that respects both the intent of the membership, and the practical considerations is the proper business of council at this late date. I await the results of councils deliberations with interest, and remain cordially yours;

Matthew Day
GPC member in good standing

If you are interested in serving our Party, and our great country by volunteering your support to our campaign, please send me an email with your contact information including a phone number and best time to contact you to: bluegreen1965@live.com. I can give you a lot more information directly, but would prefer not to publicise in print until the legal spending limits, and conditions of the campaign are known.


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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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Not an Official Green Party Site over 20,000 visitors

Bluegreenblogger a.k.a. Matthew Day

In November 2oo8, I got quite irate about the fallout from the 2008 election. Like many other GPC activists, I had become disenchanted with the candidate I had worked so hard to help make leader of the Green Party of Canada. I had lived with my mistake, and quietly withdrawn my services. Having been at the centre of the Leadership team, I had a fair idea that they really didn’t understand politics outside the realm of  communications, and media relations. No huhu I thought, they don’t want my help, and they’ll eventually find their own way.

As an interested outside observer, the 2008 general election was a real eye opener. They hadn’t learned anything! Running Elizabeth in Central Nova? What hubris! David Chernushenko was making dark and gloomy public statements, and the Green Party leadership was in complete denial about the failings of the National Campaign. My blood had boiled when I heard Elizabeth May encouraging strategic voting, which was a gut blow to hundreds of hard working candidates across the country. The very grudging, and half hearted retractions and clarifications from Elizabeth convinced me that the Party was in the hands of the wrong people.

To my thinking, the key missing ingredient was a lack of  training, support, and resources dedicated to building the organisational strength at the grassroots level of the Party. At that time, I had no inkling of anything except to share my experience, and hard won expertise in the actual nuts and bolts mechanics of succesful campaigning. There would be a leadership race in 2010, and in all likelihood, the Party membership would repay the lack of administrative capability, and perceived betrayal by the leadership by replacing it. The important thing would be that the potential candidates, and GPC activists should have some real organisational objectives, strategies, and initiatives to focus on as leadership campaign issues. I frankly don’t remember what conversation, or news report it was that decided me to start blogging on the Green Party of Canada, and political organisation in a Green Party of Canada context, but on November 28, 2008 I trotted off to WordPress, and set up a free blog, which you are patiently struggling through now.

I was, and still am proud of my earliest efforts on this blog. I have extensive experience building my own business, and my 25 years of Sales and Marketing experience has been invaluable in informing me about systematic presentation of a succesful message to a target audience. All the varied initiatives, and tasks I have performed on a volunteer basis since my initiation into the world of Canadian p0litics have taught me what works, and what fails in the real world of politics. There are some commonalities between political activism, and the world of commerce, but it took a lot of partial successes, and sometimes glaring failures to internalise the differences.

So here I am, one week short of 1 year, and this little blog just passed the milestone of 20,000 unique visitors. Many of the most useful lessons I had to present were dealt with in my first 30 posts or so. I have digressed, and faded a bit, (a lot actually) in recent months. Firstly, because I earn my living in a seas0nal marketplace, and I’ve been too busy. Secondly, much of the best advice I have to offer has already been written up as posts. I am seeking the advice of my readers now. Please go back to my December 08 – March 09 archived posts, and check them out. Contrast them with recent posts. I am puzzled about what direction to go in. Should I simply start re-posting past blogs, with a little editing? There is the possibility of re-formatting, and compiling this into a comprehensive ‘Campaign and Organising Manual’. I could dish a ton of scanadlous dirt on the GPC, or I could turn to my policy interests of Tax Policy, and Urban Transportation( a.k.a. location and urban economics). Another option would be to seek more input from some of the gifted organisers and campaigners within Green Party ranks. I for one would love to interview Bill Hulet about the Guelph experience in community organising, or get a complete Obama campaign field manual review with Rob Routledge. What do YOU think? (I just edited to read Bill Hulet, not Bill Hewitt. I make this mistake very often, and I sincerely apologise to both the Bill’s for my own impending senility)

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The Green Party of Canada’s Leadership race conundrum.

Wheelbarrow_race

On your mark, get set, wait a minute, wait a bit more...

I was somewhat pleased to note that the GPC Federal Council has started thinking a little about how next summers leadership convention will be run, and they are also starting to consider the rules for the leadership contest that our constitution requires goes with the convention. I have heard rumours, (and more than just idle speculation), about some pretty exciting potential candidates from across the spectrum. This is really great news for the Green Party of Canada! The membership numbers are in a free fall, and we are in financial straights with a substantial election debt to pay off. An exciting 5 way, or 6 way race will re-invigorate the Party. There will be of thousands of new members added to the rolls, and the Party’s share of leadership fundraising, and directed contributions just might save us from financial embarrasment.

So what’s the conundrum? Well it goes like this; Elizabeth May has a constitutionally mandated term of 4 years as leader. That term expires in August 2010. We are in a minority Government situation, and as we are all aware, the next general election could come any time between now and 2013. The argument might be made that since the Party has given Elizabeth May $60k, plus her leaders salary, and three supporting staff positions to prepare for an election in SGI, (And before that $100k in Central Nova, and before that $70k in London), we cannot possibly hold the Leadership convention next summer in Toronto. After all, there might be a general election in full swing, and we cannot waste all those hundreds of thousands of dollars that we have wagered on getting our Leader elected.

There`s some merit in that argument as well, although I don`t think that we can simply make up the leadership race terms on the fly just like that. So there`s the conundrum. The Green Party of Canada wants to have an enormous, and much needed boost from a much aniticipated Leadership race. This boost cannot be had unless all of the various leadership campaigns have plenty of lead time to build their field organisations, and communications teams. Let`s face it, it takes time to build the team and plan that can win this contest, and in all fairness, our sitting council owes it to the membership to come clean with a fair and impartial rule book for the contest. We just won`t be able to recruit the very best candidates, and will have trouble getting the kind of resources lined up to blow the roof off, if prospective candidates cannot even be certain that a race will happen. Imagine if you will that you are seriously considering taking on the major task of winning the leadership of the GPC. You need to start recruiting, building, and committing a chunk of your life to this contest. I suspect that you will hesitate if 6 months before the contest  is theoretically beginning, there was no rule-book, no time frame, no spending limits, in fact absolutely no indication of what the rules will be…

Sharolyn_Vettesse

Sharolyn Vetesse, impartial judge (photo credit Globe and Mail.com)

In the last leadership race, which was won by Elizabeth May, council struck an election fairness committee. It was chaired by Sharolyn Vetesse, if memory serves. I can tell you first hand that it was very equitable, and impartial. The spending limits were too low, and the contestants had very restrictive limits on how they could reach the membership, but at least the rules were clear, and applied to all. It would serve as an adequate model, provided the chair were truly impartial, and the spending limits were increased. It takes quite a bit of money just to travel around the country. It`s OK if you`ve got a book tour, or an EDA training tour to cover your travel costs, but if you are covering expenses to visit hundreds of EDA`s out of a $50,000 campaign chest, then you just don`t have enough money to make all the rest of a viable campaigns infrastructure happen. If the Party takes a tithe from directed contributions to leadership campaigns, then a $500,000 limit will allow proper national campaigns to take shape, without simply handing the Party to the candidate with the deepest pockets. If this sum seems too rich, I beg to differ. Please remember that it takes a lot of money to raise a lot of money, and if there’s a 20% tithe, plus fundraisers, event hall rentals, promotional advertising for events, etc. etc. then it doesn’t leave very much for prosaic things like travel expenses, and telephone bills. If you think it’s no big deal, the winning campaign will have had to make a bare minimum of 15,000 phone calls. And when’s the last time you had to pay for 30 or 40 train trips, hotel bills, and food for two or three people on the candidates tour?

So here`s what I think we need to know: When will the race officially start and conclude? What will the nomination procedures be? What access, and when will the candidates get access to membership, past membership, and supporter lists? What will the spending limits be, and what tithes and or fees will the Party charge for processing directed contributions? Policy regarding staffers involvement in the race; Will candidates have to resign from existing duties in appointed, or elected roles in the Party hierarchy? I for one will not be impressed to see a deputy leader drawing a salary, and gadding about the country on training tours while actively campaigning. (Neither would some candidates legal council I suspect). Here`s a biggie: Does the Party appoint an interim leader during the race? There`s lots to think about, and it should be done in a timely way. I hope I’m not alone in hoping for a vigorous, and strongly contested race next year. It could be the saviour of the Party in more than one respect.

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Managing expectations and the Green Party of Canada’s ‘message’.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May plans to take on Tory MP Gary Lunn in the next federal election. Photo Credit: Tyler Anderson, National Post

Green Party leader Elizabeth May plans to take on Tory MP Gary Lunn in the next federal election. Photo Credit: Tyler Anderson, National Post

There has been a lot of interest and discussion within, (and without) Green Party ranks regarding the big question: “Where will Elizabeth May be running in the next election?” There have been some pretty open discussions about the relative merits, and electability in given riding’s, in a kind of a guessing game based on public utterances by Elizabeth, and whatever drip-pets of information come from informal internal sources. This discussion is healthy, and without question serves a useful purpose in drawing out strategic analysis of varying quality from people both within, and without the decision making loop.

I am afraid that most of us that I am aware of, (With the notable exception of Bill Hulett, a leading light and long time organiser in the Guelph EDA), have more or less ignored the consequences of talking it up so heavily. Cast your mind back to the 2004 election, with tons of hype by Jim Harris, and GPC hacks that Greens were poised to elect MP’s all over the place. Remember the public, and media reaction to the election outcome? “Greens fail to elect MP” is a reasonably representative headline for you to think about. Again, in 2005-6, Bruce Grey Owen Sound was trumpeted as the ‘breakthrough riding’, with predictable results when the election was said and done. London North Centre by-election? Same deal, with the added salacious fact that the shiny new media star had failed to win, even in a by-election. Central Nova? There was a broad reaction that despite the presence of Elizabeth in the debate, the Green Party still came nowhere near.

Over the past few weeks, Elizabeth May has been giving interviews charging that the Green Party has a single objective, that overrides all other concerns. Electing Elizabeth May to Parliament. If you actually sit back and consider the past consequences of failing to meet very demanding self imposed expectations, this starts to look like a very very risky communications fiasco in the making. The downsides for both Elizabeth May, and the Green Party are pretty big. If Elizabeth fails to get elected in SGI, then the Green Party has failed once again.

I don’t believe it will be fatal, or even particularly injurious to the GPC. We will continue to grow our strength in more and more EDA’s, because we do have many hundreds of dedicated local activists. Every election pours resources into well organised EDA’s, and the teams get broader, and deeper in skills, experience, and raw electoral resources like ID’d voter lists. Nonetheless, it will further damage our credibility, and will provide plenty of ammunition for our political foes. For Elizabeth May, it will be a big drag on her personal profile, and will devalue her once impressive stature as one of the foremost environment advocates in Canada. It is likely, even probable that Elizabeth would lose the leadership of the Party, with the attendant loss of prestige and credibility. Not a very good outcome for somebody whose future livelihood depends on the high profile that she has spent a lifetime building.

I have been as guilty as anybody in inflating the rhetoric surrounding the choice of riding’s. It’s a choice that needed to be made, and many people wanted to influence the decision, in a positive direction. I apologise if Elizabeth thought it was needful to quell criticism by acknowledging the Party’s wishes in this way. I wonder if it is too late to wind back the clock, and start managing expectations better? What would the best route be to backtrack, and start publicising equally important, but less ‘sexy’ objectives? Should we set up broader objectives to be given equal, (at least), prominence to the laudible, but very challenging task of electing an MP?

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