Green Party Organizing Needs Overhaul

Elizabeth May takes credit for doubling poll support since taking over all aspects of the Green Parties operation, but the 6.8% result of the 2008 election is especially disappointing considering that the GPC received 4.3% the first time a full slate was run in 2004, without being in the televised Leaders debate. The question begs to be asked: what would the result have been with a more popular Liberal Leader to run against?

Elizabeth must bear responsibility for bypassing any democratic process and surrounding herself with people who’s only record of success was helping with Elizabeth’s Leadership campaign.

Accountability is the fundamental concept of democracy. It ensures fairness, and quality. The very leadership structure of the GPC is completely unaccountable to the members that are the Green Party of Canada, for the next two years, when there will be a mandatory Leadership contest. All Greens should keep this in mind when they speak of our electoral system being “undemocratic”, or other parties as being “hypocritical”.

The GPC, has appointed Deputy Leaders, no automatic leadership review after an election, there are no performance review procedures, no mandatory benchmarks of success, and no tracking of benchmarks beyond the often disappointing financial figures presented to the Federal Council. Ultimately, the Federal Council’s capitulation to the desires of E. may mean that every employee of the Green Party is appointed by–or approved by one person–Elizabeth May.

Monitoring and reporting of key indicators is rarely undertaken, because very few indicators point to successes. In their place are arbitrarily and deceptive statistical analysis, such as Jim Harris claiming that the number of votes received per dollars spent is the most “efficient” of the federal parties. This ignores the fact that the dollars spent per seats won is 0% “efficient” and the worst of all parties, and it does not include in the analysis that almost all of the increase in popular vote for the GPC could be protest votes that do not in any way indicate success of the Green Party.

This theory is supported by the loss of 2000 members since Elizabeth May took over. Most members would be surprised and outraged to learn membership figures were down 20% from two years ago. This is our fundraising and volunteer base that we depend on during elections. An accountable system would have discovered this and demanded a plan of action form the Executive Director and Director of Organizing, and then monitored progress of the plan and made changes to strategies or staff as required. The result would be a sizable increase in our election success.

In the past, when members have attempted to analyze metrics and to bring these issues forth, they have been shunned, banned, block, restricted, excluded from paid and volunteer roles, and spoken of dishonestly by the oligarchy that inevitably festers in all unaccountable systems.

The success of the Green movement and the implementation of the Green Party platform is more important than any individual friendships, or individual’s ego or job security. As Greens, the victory we seek does not belong to us–it belongs to our earth, our country, and our children. It is for them that I call for the resignation of Director of Organizing Sharon Labchuk.

UPDATE: (Monday, Dec 1 10am pacific) It has taken almost two days for the first vote to keep Sharon to come in. I have attempted to e-mail every candidate, organizer, council member and staff member about this blog. The result is 21-1 in favor of dumping Sharon Labchuk at this time. While this result is not scientific by any means, surely if Sharon had the confidence of members, then it would not have taken over 150 hits on this post to find the first person willing to vote to keep her. The verdict is in and Sharon is out.

UPDATE (Monday, Dec 1 1:20pm pacific) I wonder if supporters (if there is more than two) of Sharon would leave a comment and a name and tell us why they support her?

UPDATE (December 2) Former Leader, Chair of the Federal Campaign Committee, and National Campaign Chair Jim Harris resigns

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25 responses to “Green Party Organizing Needs Overhaul

  1. bluegreenblogger

    I haven’t had access to membership numbers for over a year, but given that there is no ‘Join’ button on the website, I’m not surprised. Membership is down. It’s true that the only qualification for employment is 110% loyalty to Elizabeth personally. Sharon Labchuk is so utterly incompetent, it is embarrassing to watch her at work.
    Elizabeth has done one thing. She has brought enormous publicity to the GPC, and it has been pretty good. If that could be coupled with a real – to – goodness ground war, then we’d be getting somewhere very impressive indeed. I blogged on the disappointing election results last week, and there’l be more to follow.
    http://greencanada.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/green-party-2008-election-results-win-or-loss/
    Incidentally, I laughed aloud when I saw Sharon Labchuk was made Organizer. She is the most thoroughly dis-organised people I had ever met. Indecisive, with no experience, management, or political skills whatsoever. I will avoid naming names on my Blog, but since you did so here, I concurr.

  2. thequantumbuddha

    I think we need to name names, or the members won’t know how bad things are going as far as organizing is concerned.

  3. Dylan Perceval-Maxwell

    I am in favour of all political party including ours becoming more democratic however I don’t think anybody wants to have a leadership contest every month. I don’t think that is what you are suggesting. There is, however, no perfect amount of time between leadership contests.

    It is also good to remember that if we had a different leader there is a good change that we would never have been in the debates. We are all responsible for the result we got. If you don’t like our leadership you should run next time, however I would love if you focused your energy in changing the government right now with a coalition government instead of pushing for a leadership review which I think the majority of Greens do not want.
    I agree it is important to replace employees who do not do a good job. I have heard many complaints about many different green party employees over the last 20 years. I think most of these complaints were valid however I also know that unless you are working next to someone every day it is hard to know how good a job they are actually doing.
    May is in my opinion by far the best leader we ever had. It does not mean she can not do a better job but we should all work together to improve the planet showing each other the same respect we all share for the planet. Maybe Sharon should be replaced I don’t know enough about her to say? Could you tell us how she could have done her job better?

    There is a very important debate right now about political financing I would love if we focused on this instead.

    Dylan Perceval-Maxwell
    P.S. What is your name?

  4. thequantumbuddha

    I am not sure why you are focusing on Elizabeth May when the post is about organizing…

    The question is not when we have leadership contests. We need accountability between contests and we don’t have any.

    I give credit to E. may for getting into the debates, though what did it gets Greens? Both the Reform Party and Bloc went from one seat to over 50 when they first got into the televised Leaders debates. Greens lost one seat…

    This is because we don’t have the grassroots organizing strength that Sharon was hired to give us. This is why I am calling for the resignation of Sharon Labchuk.

    And no, Dylan, you don’t need to work next to George Bush to know he has failed. The same goes for Sharon. The facts say it all. If we need personal relationships with all staff then we will be a party of E. May’s friends.

    Membership is down, fundraising is stagnant, many ridings don’t have a EDA, most EDA don’t do any organizing, and regional organizing is non-existent. You can’t get any worse. It is time for her to go.

  5. thequantumbuddha

    As for my name, it was in the e-mail I sent you as well as at the top of this blog. Please read closer.

  6. Luke Macmichael

    I just wanted to say that I absolutely love Elizabeth May and where she has brought this party. It is no fault of hers that we do not have seats. It is solely the blame of the first past the post sytem that allows current parties to stay in control for so long. The only reason NDP can get seats is because of local situations where Labour movements are strong. Teh green Movement is not and cannot be a localized thing. Our policies are adopted by every party everywhere and to me that has been our greatest success. I think it’s truly time to join up with the liberals and NDP’s and do our best to change their organizations even further to “Become the change we want to see” and get rid of the divisive Partisan politics forever. The Liberals and NDP agree with us on way more than we disagree on, so I think we can find ways to support each other rather than compete for votes and allow the corporate propaganda machine based right wing minority to stay in power a moment longer. It is time for real change “let’s work together on this one”. The green party has accomplished it’s purpose, it is time to continue to do so within the ranks of a new coalition!

  7. thequantumbuddha

    Hi, Luke. Your comment has nothing to do with organizing, or Sharon Labchuk. Please comment on the actual post.

    Also read my post
    https://quantumbuddha.wordpress.com/2008/11/27/the-people/
    for more on coalitions.

  8. Interesting post. As a GPC candidate, I was not particularly impressed by the central party leadership in the last election. Our campaign ran in essential isolation from the main party, without so much as a phone call to consult or guide us. This led to the joke that real meaning of being a grassroots party is having to do everything by your damned self.
    I will separate E.May’s media and leadership from the central party organizing here. This is important, as many Greens get defensive of E.May any time someone criticizes the party’s organization. So then, on the specific topic of organization, I would like to see some proper documents and analyses from the central party on the state of our organization. I don’t know Ms. Labchuk and can’t comment on her job specifically, but I want to see some proper information on where we are and where we’re going.
    Any advance by the GPC must be made through nuts-and-bolts organizing and campaigning. If the GPC ever hopes to grow, we need to become a proper, professional organization, and it’s going to take some hard self-criticism to get there.
    That, and if I hear one more person blame FPTP for our disorganization, I’m going to verbally light them on fire.

  9. thequantumbuddha

    Thank you, Aden. I agree that we must separate he communications ability of E. May and the Organizing ability of the Central Party.

    You are certainly not alone in… being alone. Most Candidates and EDAs have no contact with the so-called “Organizers”.

    Organizers should be in contact with every EDA AT LEAST once a month and attend every EDA meeting they can. Also, regional campaigning that is used for training should happen every 8-10 weeks. These are the priorities.

    The fact that Sharon brags about “doing as little as possible” according to one long time Candidate is especially disturbing considering the state of the environment.

    The real model for grassroots is paid organizers organizing and training more organizers. This is what leads to growth and electoral success.

  10. I did get a phone call from Sharon early on in the process, and she was helpful and left her contact info in case I needed any more help. And later in the campaign, someone in Mississauga sent 250 campaign signs out. Perhaps the best help we got was from the head of the Alberta Greens, who drove up here to Red Deer to help us get everything organized. (Thanks George and Marie!) We didn’t even have an EDA set up at the time (we still don’t), but when all was said and done, we got the 2nd highest percentage of the vote in the rural ridings in Alberta and we beat the Liberal candidate by a hefty margin. I suspect part of the problem is the geographic distance from the centre of things, as well as the fact that we were running in Conservative country, so major efforts may have been expended elsewhere.

  11. GreenSolidarity

    I shall remain anonymous for the moment.

    I agree with most of what QB has to say and fully conquer with the urgency and importance of a GPC ‘Organizing Over-haul’ .

    One speculative factoid that is certainly incorrect is: “Ultimately, the Federal Council’s capitulation to the desires of E. may mean that every employee of the Green Party is appointed by–or approved by one person–Elizabeth May”.
    Even though I have been involved with the GPC, since 1997 as a candidate, I was just at my first Federal council meeting , a few weeks ago and saw how efficient and effective they are in operation. Elizabeth is fully present form a participatory point of view in advised, suggesting and requesting, but she in now way does she oligarchically sway decisions, nor does she have any vote, nor can she even be present while they are in decision making and voting ‘camera'(?) sessions. Communications, strategy and organizing were all highlighted as key important issues for Federal Council in the 2009 Action Plan.

    May I suggest that now and here, on the blog, participatory democratic initiatives be put forward in a constructive manner on the topic of how we can all help foster and enable good team work with in the GPC operations, while having strategic organising successfully occur, linked with the grassroots. Any ideas?

    One I have to help with the monumental job of the overhaul and all that follows suite: perhaps Two positions of Co-Directors of Organizing, one for Strategy and the other for Operations:

    Co-Director Organizing, Strategy & Co-Director Organizing, Operations.

  12. thequantumbuddha

    Thanks, GreenSolidarity. When I say that E. May appoints or approves of all appointees, I consider inside information and the fact that NO ONE holds a major position within the Green Party that E. May is opposed to.

    I don’t think we need another salary when our fundraising is going poorly. The problem is not lack of staff–its the wrong staff.

    As far as ideas, Our Director of Organizing needs to foster a participatory process. Instead, the GPC website does not even have links to EDAs–its pretty hard to be grassroots that way.

    Let’s ask every EDA–and member–“What is your best idea to sign up 3 new members in one week?” Then let’s ask them to do it.

    Also, it used to be that any five members in a riding could form an EDA. Now we have to go through the official GPC Organizer who is generally more of a gate-keeper excluding anyone who is perceived as not loyal to E. May. Many other steps have been taken to weaken the grassroots under Sharon Labchuk.

    Organizers should be in contact with every EDA AT LEAST once a month and attend every EDA meeting they can. Also, regional campaigning that is used for training should happen every 8-10 weeks.

    The GPC needs to seek out criticism and not silence opposition by banning, blocking, and excluding greens that disagree.

    By “seeking criticism” I mean that organizers should find all those that have any grievance whatsoever and guide their frustration into suggestion and action. Part of this process to allow frustrations to vent. This will refocus us and increase activity to rebuild our motivation and grow our volunteer base.

    Questions for Members:

    How do you feel about the past election?
    What went poorly?
    How do you feel about GPC Organizing?
    What can the GP do better?
    How do we implement that?
    Who else should I talk to?
    etc.

    The answer is to help the grassroots to find their own problems and take ownership of. These volunteers are the answer–they know the problems and solutions and are more likely to take action on their own ideas than Sharon’s orders.

  13. Erich Jacoby-Hawkins

    Much of what you say here, “QB”, has validity, but a couple of incorrect facts detract from the effectiveness you might otherwise have.

    First, you don’t know the current membership numbers and in fact have them wrong. Current membership is actually at the highest level it has ever been at – rather than being below the peak of 2 years ago, as you state. It is in fact well above what it was at during that earlier peak. As is normal, membership surged during the election. (Since the actual number is confidential, I won’t state it here – suffice to say, our paid membership has grown commensurate with our vote share growth.)

    However, your fixation on the current number of paid members is somewhat beside the point. “Members” in that sense are not necessarily the same people who work to build an EDA or volunteer during elections. Many paid members aren’t active locally, while many election volunteers aren’t members. We certainly need more active people working on growing the party – “members” of the movement – but these are not necessarily the “members” who have contributed $10 or more and checked the membership box. A more reliable indication is the number of identified supporters (a number that is significantly up, and vastly exceeds membership numbers) or the number of active volunteers (which is much lower than the number of paid members).

    Your other tangent is your fixation on an earlier blog post of Jim Harris that was directed specifically to fundraising appeals and described the party’s “efficiency” comparing spending and votes. In the original dispute you totally blew this one statement out of proportion, acting as if it was the only or prime metric the party was using (it is neither) rather than essentially a gimmick to help open wallets (and a rather successful one, in my experience). If you think this is still some kind of misapprehension of the party, can you point to Jim Harris having made reference to this in the past six months? (I didn’t think so.) And I wouldn’t assume that he’s happy or satisfied with our Oct 14 result, either, despite some positive spin he might put on it in an attempt to encourage some supporters. He’s just as aware as you are that there are serious problems that needed to be addressed – and weren’t – and still need to be addressed. So attacking him is an unnecessary diversion. Let it go, move on, focus on the present and future problems which are bad enough, as you note.

  14. thequantumbuddha

    Erich, I missed you. Good to have your input. If the membership figures are, as you say–higher, then I think it would be easy to get the party to publish the data. In fact, I would love to see a month-to-month and province-by-province breakdown of membership for the last 5 years. But I don’t think we will get it.

    As far as my focus on membership, it has a directly proportional relationship to volunteers and donors–a noticeable increase in members will lead to more volunteers and donors. That’s all.

    I hope to hear more from you. And don’t worry–I won’t ban you ; )

  15. thequantumbuddha

    I recieved this in my e-mail inbox from MAUREEN MURPHY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE GPC in response to my e-mail to the federal council and organizing staff:
    “Please ignore this bs coming from Dan Mick. His comments are not based in fact and therefore completely without relevance. Responding will only encourage a continuation of this approach which Dan is not alone in pursuing.
    Thank you.
    Maureen Murphy”

    My response: “Maureen, what have I said that is not factual? Please do not attempt to silence differing opinions with veiled profanity and libelous statements that do not include any facts themselves.

    Dan Mick”

    I think the federal council can make up their own minds.

  16. bluegreenblogger

    Hey Dan, don’t take it personally, most people don’t take criticism well, and cannot differentiate between constructive and the other kind. I don’t give a damn what she wrote, so let it be water off a ducks back.

    Erich, no offense but quibbling about the difference between paid members, vs. volunteers etc. takes up space but doesn’t help the basic question. The simplest metric, that qualifies supporters to a decent degree is ‘are they a paid up member?’

    The GPC needs to prepare for elections in between elections. Elections require people willing to pound the pavement, shell out their hard earned bucks, make phone calls, put up signs, etc.
    Membership is the starting point, because it qualifies a contact as somebody ready to do a basic minimum in support of the GPC. The membership list is where you start to mine your campaigners.
    Organisers should start out with a primary function of driving membership numbers up, in co-operation with the local EDA.
    Organisers should also have a clue about how to campaign effectively. They should run campaign schools, or training so that people understand the purpose of the canvas. People should be taught to overcome the natural fear of asking for money. People should be taught how to motivate, retain, and grow the volunteer base. (Mostly by making sure every volunteer has a job to do, is appreciated for doing it, and at least one third of their donated time should be spent just having fun). People should be taught basic earned media strategies. (Getting the candidate press coverage). Above all, Organisers should be intimately concerned with recruiting effective candidates, ideally with their own ready made networks we can ‘poach’.
    Sharon Labchuk is a dud because she doesn’t even know what these things are, and doesn’t know how to make them happen. If the GPC hires staffers judged these things alone, and measures performance by membership numbers, then council will not be mired in useless strategising. They will be asked to fund specific measures, and can look at a simple metric to judge the efficacy of each project/region. Organiser ‘X’, in central Ontario oversaw the recruitment of 800 new members this year. Give her a raise, and expand her budget 10%, next order of business?

  17. thequantumbuddha

    Thanks, bluegreenblogger. Are you blue and green because you are an ex-PC “Green Tory”? or does politics make you sick to your stomach? lol

    Don’t worry, my high testosterone levels make me thick skinned. Besides I don’t take this personal as is is not about people’s feeling–it is about saving our environment.

    Yes metrics are key and currently our organizers are chosen on the basis of excluding people who actually understand these concepts. We need a merit based system of organizing where results count more than personal relationships or political views.

    E. May is worried about a “takeover”, but she should realize that Greens are more unified around their platform than any other party. Hopefully we will see the changes that the majority of campaigns, EDAs, Candidates, and members demand.

  18. bluegreenblogger

    I I guess bluegreen is a bit of a false flag. In the past I supported the Liberals, but my politics have always been LOWER CASE pc. progressive, and fiscally conservative. I studied Neo-Classical economics, and while it’s not a religion with me, and I recognise that the theory is exactly that, theoretical (with practical policy limitations), I cannot help abiding by policy that I am intellectually convinced is the best for our polity.
    I have always managed by an old maxim, if you didn’t measure it, it didn’t happen. Decision making in an organization needs to be data driven, and KPI’s, or key performance indicators are what inform the management process. The GPC has few sophisticated managers, and many sophisticated theorists. The only way to get things done is to cut right through overcomplexity, and distill some very simple metrics, that are irrefutable by even the most sophisticated, (and I am using the root of the word, sophist, in it’s original form here), theorist.
    ergo, paid up members are the most important thing to the Green Party.

  19. thequantumbuddha

    Thanks for your professional analysis. There are no PI’s let alone KPI’s that the green party even tracks.
    Many of the comments from the Council can be summarized this way:

    “I know Sharon. She’s my friend. She is a great organizer. (Compared to what?) She did a great jo nominating those Candidates .(That got dropped after a scandal) She did a good job training the candidates .(Most of which came in last) Getting into the debates (had nothing to do with Sharon) earned the GPC 2.3% more. Stop criticizing her in public. You are hurting the GPC. Don’t message me again.”

    There are few professionals in the key positions.

    “ergo, paid up members are the most important thing to the Green Party”–between elections.

    This is the foundation on which you build a successful electoral machine. Look at the extreme example. What if GPC membership dropped to 0? It would mean no money, no candidates, no volunteers…

  20. “In the past, when members have attempted to analyze metrics and to bring these issues forth, they have been shunned, banned, block, restricted, excluded from paid and volunteer roles, and spoken of dishonestly by the oligarchy that inevitably festers in all unaccountable systems.”

    This was also the case under Jim Harris, Wayne Crookes, Dermod Travis, Debbie Hartley, John Anderson and Steve Kisby. Nothing has changed.

    If you want to restore any accountability in the GPC you will have to ditch the new constitution. Many members have resigned because of it since it puts far too much power in the hands of a few paid staff, money in the hands of an appointed body, and makes it impossible to hold any one Council member responsible for any failure. I think this is deeper than just one person, though Maureen Murphy and John Bennett should both resign for their total failure to communicate with insiders and outsiders in an appropriate fashion.

    Murphy’s note about you, and Bennett’s very embarassing failure to comprehend how YouTube works, are not minor gaffes, they are evidence of total failure to understand how a political party must operate in the Internet era.

    If someone calling himself an architect builds a building at great expense and it falls down and kills people, you don’t let him off with a nod and a remorseful speech about having “learned his lesson”. You fire him and get another architect.

    The situation here is exactly analogous. 2000 members is a lot to lose. What might they have brought as volunteers, policy analysts, donors or candidates? You’re right nothing is worth that.

    I have no position on Sharon’s role but Murphy and Bennett are obvious failures and must go.

  21. (See also my comment on this at https://quantumbuddha.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/vote-for-sharon-anyone/#comment-82 where I say)

    Maureen does Sharon no favours by responding to concerns about staff performance like this. By providing no channels for complaints about staff performance, the GPC virtually guarantees that such complaints will spread all over the net without any controls on accuracy or relevance.

    Has the GPC ever had a competent ED? This is the wrong structure and even David Scrymgeour who originally suggested it has renounced it.

  22. Pingback: Sharon Labchuk vs. Barrack Obama « The Quantum Buddha’s Blog

  23. I was a candidate in the recent election, but have since pulled back from the GPC for some of the reasons mentioned, plus some others.

    I was told by one ex/staffer (identity concealed to protect this person) that only about two of the total of 30+ current staffer are original; all the rest were replaced by EMay and crew.

  24. thequantumbuddha

    Brian, thanks for your comments. I have always valued you as one of the best Greens in the country and love your blog at http://www.greenparty.ca/en/blog/815

    Yes, there has been a significant purge that started when E May took over. Some are calling the GPC the “Elizabeth May Party of Canada”.

    I assure you that many people are coming together to work on these problems. Contact the Green Party Regional Associations @ http://www.gpra.ca/ to help out.

  25. Pingback: E May: Greens “Meaningless” | The Quantum Buddha’s Blog

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