Updated: Sep 30, 2020
One of the unfortunate consequences of the Green Party's leader-centric pattern of operation is that it is centrally controlled, centrally focused, and centrally dominated leaving a massive pool of untapped resource of
volunteers at the local level. This unjustified control significantly diminishes the incentive of rank and file supporters to remain engaged when they constantly feel left out. Most EDA’s, (Electoral District Association – each riding can have one for any party) that exist, ramp up for an election, fall into a period of dormancy and struggle to fill out the paperwork to maintain a nominal presence. In my view, the local EDA should be the heartbeat of the Green party where members support national campaigns but are busy when their time permits to make their own locality that much more sustainable. I actually prefer the word regenerative.
With a caucus of three, the party is slowing moving away from a sole focus on the leader but the party is still a long way from calling itself grass roots driven. Paid organizers at the central office are often tasked with assisting MPs and national campaigns and ignore volunteer resources ready to mobilize around the country. Any time that I have seen pressure to help EDAs, the response is usually ‘well we don’t have the money for more organizers.’ There are all KINDS of talents in the membership that is sitting there ready to be put into action. Skilled and motivated members acting locally can blow the doors off of any national campaigns designed to put pressure for any public policy that we want to see implemented.
Paid organizers are indeed needed to oversee compliance with Elections Canada and that local EDAs do not become rogue and start taking their corner of the world away from approved Green member policies. But stifling them into inaction doesn’t work either.
EDAs can be organized into regions with mentorship and co-operation. When I started the
Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke CA (Constituency Association – i.e Provincial riding association) in 2007, I leaned heavily on neighbouring CAs for assistance and mentorship. Take the role of financial officer, for example. It does not have to be a solitary venture sorting
through government red tape. Each region should have an experienced CFO that can mentor all new CFOs in their region, helping fill out paperwork and reminding them of deadlines. Quarterly networking Zoom meetings (or in person when this craziness is over) with officers from other EDAs can be pleasant, engaging and inspiring.
How about EDA fundraiser? Sure you can get somebody to raise their hand but it’s a tough job and there are good fundraising projects that go unnoticed because you just don’t see them lauded on the Green Party website or in the member’s section. The forum there is
about 1995 technology and barely monitored. There should be a meeting place on the web for EDAs from across the country to inspire each other with fundraising drives, new member events and petition drives.
Many EDAs carry on with the same President year after year because there is nobody else ready or willing to take over. This position needs to be respected much more in the party as there are all KINDS of competent people motivators out there ready to lead their EDA if there was just a good reason to. There is plenty of opportunity to make this and other EDA executive positions rewarding, if only the party truly facilitated real political action at the local or regional level.
During election times, we have Super Saturdays where a whole gang of Greens flood a neighbourhood, knock on doors, identify supporters, get signs up and really have a good social time together. Yes it’s Covid time right now but this will pass and truthfully I’m of the opinion that door knocking can be respectful and safe but that’s another story.... Anyway, Greens getting out to meet the public at their door should not be confined to election time and can be a great way to feel that you have done something to make the world a better place on a fresh weekend or weekday evening. Followed up with a gathering at the local
park or residence to share stories, you can get to know like minded people in your locality.
There are almost always petitions being submitted by Green MPs that can be the subject of the door to door campaign and you will find people very appreciative and receptive of your efforts. They like to see SOMEbody local taking leadership on issues that are important to them and many are willing to sign a reasonable petition that makes sense even if it isn’t necessarily initiated by their regular party of choice.
Regardless, you will move the Green Party up on their list of choices, maybe even right to the
top. You will find people that were sitting on the fence about ‘getting involved’ showing up to your next EDA meeting. The key is a low key and respectful approach. When they sign the petition, you ask for their email address (make sure you can read it!) and respectfully ask if we can keep in touch with them.
A petition on water taking by big corporations was a key to Mike Schreiner’s credibility with the electorate in Guelph and played a big part in his election as it rallied a lot of volunteers to his election campaign team. A petition on recreation also worked for me to get elected to local Council as the known Green guy in a predominantly conservative township. Imagine the power of our petitions to Parliament with our small (for now) caucus when there are thousands of signatures from all across the country. The local EDA communications officer can make a press release out of it and the credibility of the party only goes up from there. Local community newspapers are still always hungry for news and let’s give it to them. The
national office can deal with the national press very effectively but they need to encourage and empower local EDAs to function at the local level. Pictures and videos can be posted all over social media about our Super Saturdays and watch the membership numbers rise as more and more highly skilled people from all walks of life join us because they are frustrated with whatever party is in power is just not listening.
Come election time, what should the goal of your EDA be? If your EDA is consistently active, you are much more likely to attract better quality candidates to vie for the candidacy. We want to get people elected and this question often comes up: Is there some strong candidate in your region that you should be spending your time campaigning for and donating to instead of your local riding? The key number in my view is the 10% threshold. If you reach that threshold in your riding, you get up to 60% of your campaign expenses returned to the EDA to fund its activities in between elections and to thus give the next
candidate a running start. EDAs should have this discussion about the best use of resources.
I was very perturbed as a candidate in a riding that had never got 10% previously, having to raise money just to pay for signs when the other three parties had tens of thousands of dollars of public money gifted to them to pay for all of these basic expenses. If your result last election was anywhere north of 5% you should be setting a target to reach that 10% level imo.
If you have created a fun and rewarding email-list building engagement in-between elections, your EDA and candidate will be well positioned to become a force to be reckoned with. In the FPTP system, the rise of a fourth party means that you only need to be in the low 30’s to win a riding, if the vote is split roughly four or five ways. Each member and EDA must decide if they are best to put all of their resources towards that 10% goal or to split their time with a strong campaign in the region, where the Green is running to win.