The First 50 Plan
Getting 50 Greens in Ottawa
Why set a seat goal?
Successful political parties, successful businesses, successful unions, successful NGO’s – all set goals.
They should be audacious but realistic. They should be inspiring while not overwhelming.
Setting our sights on winning 50 seats over two federal elections is all those things.
Too large a number - might seem unrealistic to potential Green supporters to vote confidently in priority ridings.
Too small a number - might lead people to conclude we are not a serious political force for change and we lack the focus and ambition to lead.
Fifty seats is credible to Greens and Canadians alike.
Holding 50 seats in Ottawa creates sufficient influence and power in Canadian parliament to affect change. In the current minority parliament, 50 seats would hold the balance of power.
With the right plan, 50 is doable.
Talent and time
While the other parties have more seats than we have, larger memberships and much more money, we have talent and time which we can deploy to level the playing field and start winning more seats with a practical plan. We are punching way below our weight organizationally and electorally. It’s time to step up to the opportunities that are in front of us.
What this is not
The First 50 Seat Plan outlined below is not a top down process. The selection of priority riding and the final numbers and locations will be selected with EDAs and led through regional discussions.
This is not shifting resources away from existing EDAs. In fact, there must be resources for every EDA to develop its own development and growth plan and by reinvesting in the party’s infrastructure and fundraising. The goal is to grow and strengthen each EDA.
15 Steps to 50 Seats
Build up the Electoral District Associations
The first goal of the First 50 Seat Plan is to build on current Green Party successes and the conditions that led to breakthroughs for our federal and provincial parties by strengthening each and every electoral district association.
Do our “polling” homework
Research shows that one in three Canadians like us. That is an extraordinary accessible pool of voters and represent a huge and diverse swath of the Canadian public. Let’s pursue the folks that are into us with strong polling and research that maps out our vote geographically and demographically advantages. The selection of 50 priority seats should draw on this evidence-based approach. In other words let’s focus on the 33 percent of Canadian that are into us and ignore the 66 percent - for now - who do not actively consider voting for us.
Move supporters to become members
To access our potential voter pool, we have to focus on some key numbers.
- We need to try and turn at least 10 percent of the 1,165,000 Canadians who voted for us in the last election into Green party members. We need a campaign to get Green party cards into the pockets of Green supporters. We should have a goal of 116,000 members by the next election. This would give a much stronger financial and organizational base.
- We have 22,000 members but only about 7,000 are really active and vote in federal council elections and are mobilizing for the party. We should start to organize a strong member outreach, member events and program to engage and ignite our current membership. That would include mobilizing our members to attend events and rallies supporting causes we are allied with. Finally we should offer life time free memberships to anyone who signs up 10 friends to join the Green Party or hosts a Green Party get together in their neighbourhood.
- If half our membership signed up 10 people we would have 110,000 members.
Federal and provincial Greens collaborate
Concentrated efforts and collaboration between provincial and federal Greens running extraordinarily strong local campaigns like the one that elected Jenica Atwin, also have a higher probability of delivering a win. What we are really talking about here is scaling up these conditions to a larger number of seats to achieve breakthroughs by enhancing these characteristics of our provincial and federal campaigns.
Seek out star candidates / incumbents
Star candidates are people who the community knows, recognizes as their own, believes in and trusts. The candidate can be old or young; white, black or brown; male or female; an experienced politician or a person new to politics. But they will most likely win if voters recognize them as a member of the community who has already contributed to the community.
Retaining strong incumbent candidates and their teams who built the voter base will be important. We would also need to match newly recruited and high-profile candidates to appropriate ridings so we maximize their impact.
Improve diversity with planning
We can better ensure gender parity, diversity and a slate of candidates that reflects the complex reality of Canadian society if those candidates see the Greens have a well thought out election plan. Most importantly we want real leaders and change agents who are ready to take on the challenges we are confronting. It is much easier to get leading Canadians to be candidates and to build the diverse team we want if we have a longer runway to build and organize our team. Many people face a huge financial barrier in signing on as a candidate. More time allows the party and the candidate to raise money and remove barriers to the participation for many people who face these challenges.
Don’t spread the peanut butter too far
Deliver high powered and fully resourced campaigns in at least those 50 seats. It doesn’t mean we can’t run strong campaigns in more than 50 ridings but we have to be cautious not to “spread the peanut butter too far” because we don’t have the money to do it all. My estimate is that we could raise the revenues within an achievable new fund raising goals and then properly allocated resources to move 50 seats as close as we can to the win column before the writ is dropped. In the short term we would lift our vote in all ridings and allow us to also enhance our support for all Green candidates in the long term.
Recruit candidates now
We have to start campaigning well in advance of the election writ being dropped. This makes recruiting candidates will be easier as people will have months and months to campaign (often after their day job) meaning that they do not need an immediate absence from work. It allows candidates to better plan and manage their participation in the election process and enhances the chances for success.
Create shadow MPs now
If we nominate candidates in 50 seats right away at least a year or two in advance of the next election we have lots of lead time to position our candidates as “shadow MPs” who can campaign, advocate and engage with citizens in the riding immediately. Lots of time to raise the profile of our candidates and build our local fund-raising capacity.
Get the leader on the road
Our party leader would place a priority on these 50 ridings, visiting them frequently and holding events with the local candidate, attending community meetings, arranging meetings with local media editorial boards and supporting important local campaigns for causes aligned with Green Party policy and priorities.
Engage local media
While it is hard to break into the national media, it is easier to get front page news in a local paper and develop a profile for a candidate with local radio if the leader is present focusing on an important local concerns with the local candidate. You can win an “air war” one city, town and community at a time through “local, local, local” media coverage, cumulatively building a higher profile for our party’s message and our candidates.
Commit to three ideas
As David Crombie former mayor of Toronto said an election campaign or a good speech should have three principle ideas. We have run successfully when we stay focused on a key set of platform planks that intersect with Canadians priorities. Good politicians realize that Canadians are not policy experts and want clear delineated credible campaign commitments that improve their lives. In past elections Greens have gotten baited into side issues and lost our narrative halfway through a campaign and consequently our electoral momentum. We need message discipline and a few focused resonate promises, repeated endlessly.
Review our organization
To make sure this all runs smoothly we need an organizational review to clearly delineate the roles of the various organs of the party, EDAs, the Leaders office, the campaign team, the Federal Council, the staff, the Executive Director and the caucus. We need an organizational review to resolve a lot of the conflict and weak processes in the party, but most urgently to be ready for the next election. An election campaign has to be a tightly run event with clear lines of decision making and authority.
Knock on doors, knock on doors, knock on doors
I’ve won eight elections in my career as a city councilor and Mayor of Winnipeg and as an Ontario MPP.
The best advice I ever got about successful campaigning – that I follow faithfully - were three things.
#1 Knock on doors
#2 Knock on doors
#3 Knock on doors again.
Two of the biggest factors in an election campaign are the demonstrated commitment of the candidate to win and their ability to listen and leave a highly likeable impression behind with the voter at the door.
- “E-day” is the most important day in an election campaign (along side the advance polling days). It’s often referred to as “G-O-T-V” (Get Out the Vote). A successful campaign has one essential focus: identify every Green voter and every likely leaning Green voter and make sure they cast their ballots.
- Knocking on doors is about creating a positive impression which is what the candidate does and identifying the household voter intentions which is what the campaign canvassers do by phone or by visiting every household they can through an evidence based poll priority system.
- A Highly visible “Get Out the Vote” strategy, which is calling on people to go to the polls during advance polls and election day. This is critical to success as is recording that people have voted so you don’t bother those who have already cast votes for you. Election day is also important for perception management as the major parties all have GOTV efforts active campaigns on “E-day” and if Greens don’t it reinforces the perception we are not a serious contender and either are not working as hard as the other parties, are under resourced or we don’t consider the seat winnable. Again, this is why a full-on campaign in 50 seats clearly communicates we are confident of winning. It is so important to be able to back up our ambitions with visible efforts and not over-extend ourselves across to many unwinnable seats.
- Software for campaigns has automated so much of the labour intensive parts of electioneering and we need to invest in the very best and skill up our volunteers who currently don’t have those resources and technology at their fingertips.
- Our biggest enemy is strategic voting where naturally inclined Green supporters vote defensively for another (less offensive) party to avoid electing a government that would oppose Green parties priorities and reverse progress on fundamental Green issues. Canadians are less likely to do that if they see from the beginning we are serious about winning.
- Finally, ne on the alert and ready to run in by-elections. They present opportunities for break throughs which we saw Elizabeth May and Paul Manley accomplish.
Believe we can get this done.
We have a plan. We have a process.
We are ready. Canadians are ready for us.
This leadership race is the beginning of that next election.
Let’ get this done.