Breaking a Million

Breaking a Million - a Canadian federal election, 2005 breakthrough strategy for the Green Party of Canada - based on the original from Canadian federal election, 2004.

The following is the only extant strategy for the Outreach Team to apply to Platform 2005:

The average lifespan of a minority government in Canada is sixteen months. The most recent one, in 1979, lasted only nine months. It must be assumed that we're returning to the ballot box federally again before the end of 2005, likely in the fall.

Polls just prior to the June 2004 federal election showed the Green Party of Canada at up to 6% of support. Historically, this kind of number has been vastly depressed by actual voting day tendencies to cast one's vote for the "least worst" party, typically one that is perceived as having a "chance to win" in a seat. While national polling numbers showed the Green numbers steady at 6% or 7% just before that election, the actual Green vote was only 4% - about half a million votes Canada-wide.

The 640,000 votes that the GPC would expect to receive if the 6% number was to hold in future, are likely to be cut in half, or more, by that tendency alone, even if it consistently succeeds in running a "full slate" of 308 candidates Canada-wide.

This is not guarnateed: In 2004 it was necessary to run a good many "parachute" candidates who did not live in their ridings, or "paper" candidacies that were unfunded, or very weak candidates who were willing to come forward when no one else was. In 2005 ideally every single one of the 308 nominates would be at least nominally contested, if only to build excitement in the riding associations and get press attention.

If there is any way to exploit such nomination races, that is also part of a breakthrough strategy that will prevent the usual halving of the vote, it should be done. If that same strategy can perhaps add as many votes again as would otherwise be lost, then it should be the highest priority.

The following is such a strategy. Followed strictly, it should be quite
possible to reap one million votes for the Green Party of Canada in 2005 or 2006, funding the Party with $1.75/vote/year, or $1,750,000/year, until 2007 or 2008, when the next election occurs in case of minority, or 2009 or 2010 in case of a majority. The strategy has four parts:

1. Introduce candidates to the voters who ensure that the public sees the Green Party of Canada as the correct way to register a protest vote. Ensure they see the Green vote as the way to actually demand an end to the "democratic deficit". This is the simplest goal to accomplish:

Distribute a simple flyer to all potential candidate nominees with the 2004 platform broadsheet that explains how to "mark up and mail back" that broadsheet to the Party - providing direct feedback that Party officials will type in to already-existing "rank a plank" and "living platform?" facilities at greenparty.ca/lp.

Those voters who primarily see politicians as incapable of listening, or as an elite only accessible through arcane processes, and who have voted for the Alliance, or community based NDP or Tory candidates, on this basis, are far more likely to vote for a Party that offers this option, even if the actual markup method is rarely used. It makes participatory democracy a tangible concept.

Recruiting volunteers in the earliest phases of the campaign to gather signatures and solicit donations is simpler with such a tool in hand.

2. Ensure that the public understands that no vote is wasted, that *every single vote puts $1.75/year in the hands of a Party* that could well be working hard for deep and principled change. While party activists are well aware of this fact, the general public isn't: it will take consistent communications and constant reinforcement to make clear that all votes are now worthwhile.

Those who did not vote in 2000 or 2004, either because they were too young or too disgusted or felt it was hopeless, should all receive this message.

Even where there is strong incentive to vote for environmentally benign incumbents, Greens can solicit voters to "buy a membership and give us at least as much as you gave them". Many voters will likely respond to this concept of fairness, particularly those who often change their vote between opinion polling and the actual election date, to vote tactically. Offering such an option is one way to make them feel good about what they have done politically: voted for the "least worst", but made up for it by giving more than that $7 to the party that they really wanted to support.

3. With the basic pitch established and drilled in to all active candidate nominees: "Buy a membership, mark up our platform, mail it back, and we'll listen", any party activist now has a good excuse to visit any community group and volunteer to represent constituent opinions as their own to the eventual MP who wins the election. The Green who puts himself or herself in the position of trusted relayer of real community activist views, is a winner already. From there it is a short step to running for other offices, or becoming a leader of any grassroots group. Simply posting this pitch on church or mall or school bulletin boards, may well have a nonzero effect and reach voters who would otherwise literally never hear of the Party:

"Buy a membership, mark up our platform, mail it back, and we'll listen", It's a hell of an offer. It'll generate at least two or three members per riding. One of those may well be the one who gets the 100th signature or makes the pivotal donation that makes the candidacy real, and gathers 300-500 more votes in a marginal riding, which is $2100-$3500 over a four year election cycle. It's a return that is available by no other means.

The potential candidate who signs up the most members and receives the most feedback on the platform that is forwarded to the party can receive some kind of additional funding from the national party, recognizing they have already created some feedback energy from the electorate. If the Green Party is to be seen as "the citizens' party", then, we must at least indicate to the riding association that we approve of the candidates who do this most diligently, not just the ones who are most popular with their peers.

4. Focus on those specific ridings and regions where Greens have made serious breakthroughs - Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver Island come to mind. Begin the process above in those ridings where Greens came in second or third - exploit any dissatisfaction with the parties that the Green candidate has displaced. These will also be the ridings where there should be the most participation anyway.

5. Most people know of the Green Party as the voice of "environmentalism", but have no idea how ecological sciences guide our economics and ethics. If they did, they'd realize how closely it aligns to their own beliefs about health, wealth, prosperity and what is actually worth preserving: they'd see it as a fundamentally conservative movement concerned with a defense of living things against an onslaught of abstract stupidities - they'd be nostalgic for a world before pollution and daily health panic.

Most voters did not imagine they'd be buying bottled water, in 1993 - after ten years of Liberal rule, many are. That is their first warning.

Most voters can tell you that piling up debt to pursue wars is wrong. Few can tell you that giving tax breaks to oil companies, encouraging purchases of logging and fishing equipment by favourable capital cost allowances, is wrong. But the implications of a "War on Terra" are as significant, maybe more so, as any "War on Terror". If we emphasize that the logging trucks, fishing boats, drilling rigs, are weapons of war, a segment of the public may decide they are simply not worthy of favourable fiscal treatment.

In other words: reposition the Greens as being an anti-war pro-peace party, and characterize the tools of converting natural capital to resources as weapons of war. Clear messaging on this point is of great value, and it provides a coherent rationale for Greens' economic policies. It also reconciles the pacifist and direct action wing of the Party. It complements such strategies as wise mobs and blackberry.

In a time of increasing global conflicts, there can be no other more potential vote catcher than to be seen as promoting a coherent analysis of why we are now at war, and how it might end. If nothing else, this puts communities that traditionally might have supported Liberals, including many immigrants affected by global conflicts, firmly on the same side as those who want to end the War On Terra.

Will this get the Green Party of Canada to 15% support and seats in the House of Commons under the first past the post system? No. Will it get even 10% of existing voters? Not likely. Will it boost voter turnout, perhaps to 60%-70% of those eligible, and return a full 6%-7% of *those* votes? Yes. And that's a million votes, and that's enough funding and members to seriously challenge for seats and electoral reform in the next federal election. How can people not vote for a platform that they helped to write?

What's more, it's starting with those people who really seek ecological wisdom and peace with nature, and who insist on participatory democracy. Those votes are worth more than $7. Each of those is a whole universe.

Yours in satyagraha and ahimsa,
The Green Trolls