Power And Dollar

Electioneering 102: A Lesson From Green Party of Canada

The federal election in Canada concluded on 2008.10.14.  The incumbent party won another mandate.  There are a lot of interesting content in this election to fill the media.  However, for the purpose of Electioneering, this story may not make the cut to the paper, let alone to the headline.  This case study lesson is experienced by the Leader of Green Party of Canada.  This biggest contribution of this race is: how to choose a spot to run.  The most applicable lesson of this is still city councilor.  

 

Green Party of Canada has been increasing its vote share ever since the turn of the millennium.  In 2006, they got 4.48% of the votes and no seats in the parliament.  After that election, the Leader of the party then did not run in the leadership race again.  It then became an open race and Elizabeth May won the leadership.  She was an Executive Director of Sierra Club Canada, with government bureaucrat experience, a law degree and a recipient of Order of Canada.  She ran a by-election earlier, against all parties and got the second largest votes in that race.  

 

Green Party has long held the position that they are unable to win a seat because they are excluded from the televised debates.  This election proves that a televised debate did not help.  

 

May was looking for an epic race.  This could have been the first sign of trouble.  An election is not about making a statement.  Election is about finding the most representative will of the people.  By being the leader and possibly the first elected officer of a party, May’s election is more important than any other candidate.  There is a lot of media attention, political resources, volunteer resources, and money involved in a leader’s race.  Therefore, it is only prudent to maximum the vote, not to dramatize an epic.  

 

If you are running in a city councilor race (or county board, school board, etc), you run to win.  Any other objective is mischievous, and misleading the voters.  It is true that people run elections for all kinds of reasons, some of them noble too.  However, it is only when you aim to win would you be serving your voters, be honest to your voters, donors, volunteers and other kinds of supporters.  Furthermore, if you do not run to win, your result tends to sink, even if you got some special interest groups’ backing because your true primary motives usually affect your plan, execution and result.  For instance, since your real motive is a geography A, you divert more resources to that area instead.  However, that area may be a contestable area.  if the votes are already secured, no need to get vote there.  However, you are doing it there to serve your personal interests.  So, your volunteer hours are lost, your lawn signs are wasted.  Alternatively, you may be interested at a specific donor group.  Similarly you wasted your campaign.

 

Liberal party delivered their promise not to contest against May in order to maximize her chances to a seat, wherever her choosing.  This promise is also unlikely to be offered in the next election since the leader of Liberal party is also in his trouble.  And no one should plan a race with the expectation that this offer will be made twice anyway.  

 

May placed this epic over at Central Nova, where the incumbent runs a dynasty there: 2 generations of incumbent, close to 10 elections.  This is where the second problem is.  One should contest in a place to win, not a place to dramatize.  By being the leader, she can choose any leader she wanted.  She should have picked a riding where

 

1)       The Liberal candidate is not the incumbent, however strong enough that the votes actually matter in her race;

2)       The Green votes are decent, say above the 2006’s record of 4.48% votes;

3)       Incumbent votes are actually weak; below 50% is minimum requirement.  The lower the better. 

4)       Since there are 3 major parties contesting in every riding in Canada, an ideal riding is where all three parties split their votes, i.e. around 30% each.  Of course this is unrealistic.

 

Election is a contest of organization, stamina of the salesman (candidate), branding (party), money (fundraising) and product (platform).  A leader got the luxury of choosing a riding, which most people cannot afford the infrastructure investment to do.  Building up a local political network to support is not easy.  However, this is fairly accomplishable if you were interested at a city race.  Changing a house from this corner of the town to that corner is not too difficult.  What is the ideal demographic for you?  Ethnic group? Income class? Age group? Occupation?  Family status? 

 

If she spent 30 minutes to look around the >300 ridings in Canada, she maybe able to see that there are multiple ridings where Liberal is the incumbent, however with >25% of votes; Green votes are above 5%, and the incumbent got votes around mid 30%.  

 

With 30 minutes of your time, you can see that Welland is one such riding where the incumbent is Conservative.  Vancouver Kingsway is another one, where the incumbent is NDP.  There are probably others.  These 2 may not deliver an ideal environment for victory.  However, the point is there are potential sites to choose from.

 

If May knew that it wasn’t going to be a victory, then dramatizing an epic is not a bad option.  However, in your case, don’t run.  An election is costly not only to you, but also to your supporters in forms other than money.  

 

If you plan to remove a low performing incumbent, then get all the prospective candidates together.  Gamble all resources in only one person.  So, all your prospective candidates may want to have a quasi primary to determine who will have the best shot.  

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October 22, 2008 - Posted by | activism, advocacy, canada, Current Events, Democrats, election, Election 2008, Electioneering, environment, fundraising, nonprofits, politics, Republican, wordpress-political-blogs

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