Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

May's new strategy

Elizabeth May is saying that the Greens may not run candidates in all ridings in the next election, and I'm going to go against the grain and say that it may not be a bad strategy. If it's really about what some bloggers think it is, of course--that she's deliberately undermining her party so as not to harm the Liberals--then yeah, I agree that it's stupid. But if she's admitting that the party has limited resources and consciously deciding to steer those resources into ridings where they can actually have a chance of winning (or at least seriously growing the vote to prepare for next time), then it's at least worth considering.

I mean, I'm coming at this as an immigrant from the U.S., where it's absolutely par for the course for not only the marginal parties, but also the big parties not to run candidates in districts that they'll never be able to win. I'm pretty sure the Republicans haven't run a candidate against fifty-year Congressman John Dingell in my lifetime, for example. So the whole "this party is legitimate because we're running candidates in every riding" thing that the Greens have sometimes touted has always seemed a bit silly to me. If they've done some investigating and figured out that there are a couple of ridings where they have a real chance, and they're saving up so as to make a real push there, then good on them.

The downside to going that route, of course, is that if they don't win any seats next time, then the only thing that's going to raise their profile is a much larger percentage of the vote than they got last time. They can still manage that by sitting out a small handful of ridings, but it really has to be the exception rather than the rule. But if May runs candidates in, say, 300 ridings rather than 308, then it's not going to make a dent.


Northern BC Dipper said...

Actually, it would seem to me that the Greens would be sacrificing resources if they don't run a candidate in every seat. Why? Because every vote the Greens get is $1.75 in the coffers.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't agree with the idea of the Greens focusing in certain ridings, but the idea of not running even a "paper" candidate in order to receive government funding, which the Greens depend on seems really weird to me.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

northern bc dipper,

Well, like I said, if it's a lot of ridings, then it's too big a sacrifice (both of the $1.75 and of the potential increase in vote). But if they don't run candidates in a few ridings where the Greens have absolutely no organization, volunteers, members, riding association to speak of, and where they got only a tiny sliver of the vote last time, it's just not going to make that much difference, and it might help them conserve resources (financial and human) for real battles.

janfromthebruce said...

Northern bc dipper is right. He said they could run a paper candidate. What this means is that the candidate really doesn't put any effort out, and there is no money spent, but for every vote thrown at them on election day they get this 1.75.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Hmm, I was thinking in terms of the candidate at least having to do some work (and therefore not being able to volunteer in another constituency), but if you mean just somebody who's a name on the paper, then I guess you're right.

Kuri said...

I'm on the fence on this one. I'm curious to see how rank and file Greens will respond, though, especially as the UK Greens are moving towards running in every riding, on the notion that everyone should have the opportunity to vote Green. I think Ms. Bennett makes some pretty good arguments for maintaining a presence in every district - but the UK is a lot smaller geographically. So, I don't know.

Radical Centrist said...

They could do what Quebec suicidaire did in the recent QC election. I think they ran candidates in every riding, but they concentrated the bulk of their $$ and efforts in 3 ridings they thought they might have a shot at, then had a 2nd tier of ridings that got less cash, but still some, and the the rest basically got a bit of money to photocopy flyers or something.

JimBobby said...

(Whooee!) My first reaction is to prefer taht the GPC run in all ridings. I'm a GPC member and voter and I live in one of those no-chance, unorganized ridings without even an EDA. If we have no candidate in my riding, I'll feel disenfranchised and may boycott or spoil my ballot.

Alternatively, I could get more active and start up an EDA and find a candidate. That's a lot of work just so I can cast a GPC vote.

Reportedly, Lizzie's already made some tentative moves vis-a-vis bargaining with other parties to stay away from races where the Greens can win. A firm commitment to run in every riding would preclude any possible deals along those lines.

I agree with the Rad Centrist that we should field a full slate but leave unwinnable EDA's mostly on their own with minimal support from head office. Pour the money and people into a half dozen ridings where there's the best chances for a win.

James Robert

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


That's true--I wasn't thinking of it from the perspective of the Green voters in the "no chance in hell" ridings. You do deserve the opportunity to vote as you want to vote.

You could BE that paper candidate, you know that? Have you considered it?

JimBobby said...

"You could BE that paper candidate, you know that? Have you considered it?"

I considered it quite seriously for the 2006 vote. I decided there was a better qualified person willing to do it. In this riding, I don't think there can be a purely paper candidate. There are typically 3 or 4 all candidates' meetings (public Q & A) and if I were running and living in the riding, I'd be expected to attend. I might have a skeleton or two, less formal education than some, little by way of official involvement in green causes, etc. Plus, I'm a miserable sumbitch, up close. HappyFaceGladHanding ain't my style.

Something interesting is shaping up here in Haldimand-Norfolk. Dr Eric Hoskins is possibly going to be the LPC candidate. He's a bit of a hometown hero -- a Doctors Without Borders veteran working with WarChild Canada. If he's nominated, he'll run against Diane Finley and he'll have a chance.

BTW, on the $1.75/vote thing... it costs money to get votes. The GPC is the only major party to spend less than $1.75 for each vote cast in both 2004 and 2006. The net return is not the full $1.75 and comapred to increased membership dues and donations from a green-conscious support base, it may not be as big a motivator as it appears.


James Bow said...

You just broke character, Jimbobby! :-)

JimBobby said...


"You just broke character, Jimbobby! :-)"

That was James Robert yammerin' fer ol' JB, JamesyBowFeller. You might have yerself some clues wrt JB's secretcybersuperhero identity but I'll thankee kindly t' keep any speculatin' t' yerself.


Wednesday Keller said...

Although the $1.75/vote applies to the total federal election vote I should also mention that candidates who get 10% or better in a riding also get 50% reimbursement so targeting those ridings makes sense for the Greens.

Furthermore you 60% of general election expenses reimbursed (which is actually a major way the NDP, for example, finances campaigns—loans against the value of their reimbursement and against their new HQ building).

----BILL C-24 / Royal Assent on 19 June 2003

Currently, registered parties can be reimbursed for 22.5% of their election period expenses. The rate of reimbursement of electoral expenses for candidates is currently 50%. Bill C-24 proposes to raise to 60% the reimbursement rate for registered parties’ election expenses. With respect to individual candidates, the bill proposes that the percentage of votes that a candidate must obtain in his or her riding to qualify for reimbursement of electoral expenses be lowered to 10% from the current 15% (proposed section 430; amendment to proposed section 464(1); see also clauses 48, 52, 53).

The bill provides for an annual allowance to registered parties in the amount of $1.75 per vote received by the party in the previous general election, provided the party has received in the last election either 2% of the valid votes cast nationally or 5% of the votes in the ridings where the party ran candidates (proposed section 435). The figure of $1.75 was raised by the House of Commons at Report Stage from $1.50 and is now also to be adjusted for inflation.

Lou said...

If the Greens drop candidates in a variety of no-hope ridings, the strategy may have some integrity to it. But even then, they are denying themselves the $1.75, the chance to grow, and the opportunity for their supporters to vote for the party of their choice.

Truth is, if they don't have resources in a riding, then they don't save much by collapsing that campaign. A $500 campaign might still get 800 votes, which pays for itself in less than a year at $1.75/vote. But that $500 won't go as far elsewhere. (i.e. it might not add 800 votes to a 3,000 vote result).

However, I don't for a minute expect any of this to happen. This is about the Liberals waking up to the fact their strategy of promoting the Greens to take away votes from the NDP is backfiring. Greens are taking at least as many votes away from Liberals as the NDP.

As a result, watch for May to pull candidates in ridings with vulnerable Liberal MPs and/or Tory MPs vulnerable to Liberal challengers. No way will May pull her candidate in say, Edmonton Strathcona, where the NDP is challenging to win and the Green vote went down last election. But they might in Edmonton Centre where the Liberals want to take back the seat.

If they can help the senior partner in their coalition - they will.

That's all this is about.