Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's About The Benjamins

Okay, maybe it's about "the Bordens".

First of all, I would urge Mr. Dion to stay. The cost and time requirement of a leadership battle right now is not the best (although we have some solid suggestions on how to save costs, and make these more efficient - see my earlier threads)... Mr. Dion also really came on strong in the campaign, and arguably his debate performance overshadowed a horrible campaign run by the party (with inadequate funds, of course - I'm not pointing fingers here).

Secondly, we had a distinct disadvantage in the race - beyond any person, or beyond policy, or beyond platform: the Benjamin factor. That's right, money. We had a leader (who I didn't support in the leadership, by the way - on any of the ballots), who was hammered from day one by the vicious (but timely, for them) attack ads put out by the Cons. We had a really solid Economic/Environmental plan, that was endorsed by Canada's top economists. What we lacked was the money to get our ideas across... We were unable to sell ideas, because we could not pay for the ads to get them out there.

As any marketing expert will tell you, people need to hear about your product. People aren't all like us "blog-geeks" who seem to know too much about every issue. The average "Joe 6-pack" is not really "informed". They need to - at the very least - see our logo. In a positive light is best. We basically were too hamstrung to do this because of our horrible fund raising. There are a lot of us on here, who I guarantee did not donate $100s to the party - let alone the maximum donation and tax credit... I think we did come on pretty strong in the summer with fund raising efforts, but that is when we should have been engaging the public with our ideas - not closed-door fund-raising meetings and dinners.

We need to re-think our fund-raising (I've posted on this before). We need to do away with the lavish dinners and costly affairs. If we want the "Joe-six-pack", student, and Johnny Lunch-pail support, we need to make it easy for them to join the party, AND we need to run events that attract that crowd. Beer and burgers, beer pizza (sense a theme here?), chili contest, bake sales, flea markets, etc. - vs. $500/plate "black tie" dinners.

We also need to make party events cost less. Working on many events in Sask, and Alberta, I've seen a lot of money spent simply securing a venue, renting equipment, and catering, and realizing, that even at $100 a plate (or more) we made less than $10/head. Better to bring in numbers, impress them, and have them continue to donate to the party. If you hit me up for $500 for a dinner, good luck getting me to part with another several thousand dollars a year to attend conventions, go to a leader's dinner, make election contributions, pay to attend meetings in other cities (gas, food, hotel), etc. Now, if I get to see the leader for the price of a $20 BBQ, you might get 1000 more of me in the hall... Now we're getting somewhere. We need to let the "champagne Liberals" out to pasture. The days of the glitzy $500/plate corporate dinners are over.

On a brighter note, I see the Conservatives getting back to the "Mulroney ways" on a lot of these items - and abandoning the old Reform practicality. As they get big and fat (not just talking about our "Sub-Prime" Minister), they are starting to get comfortable with their Hog-town lifestyle...

Leadership campaigns and conventions in general are another issue. We need to ensure that we don't have costly affairs anymore. I've blogged recently about some new ways of running conventions (for example, a regionally distributed convention electronically linked, which would save the party and members costs, be more inclusive, and still create enough of a spectacle that it would drive excitement and media coverage in each of the cities it is held in). We need to get outside the box in this respect. We can also shorten the time it takes for a leadership contest. Anything over 4-6 months is ridiculous.

Money drove Harper's victory. Gobs of it. They had the money to advertise ad nauseum. Even a lie can sink in with that much lead time. We lacked the money for an effective counter-campaign. In order to fix this, we need to act now... Not wait for a policy convention, or the next public embarrassment.


Anonymous said...

The last convention made money.

WesternGrit said...

I'm still focused on the costs to convention-goers, and the fact that they are strapped for cash for future fundraisers, and election time... If we can do things cheaper, why not? I like big conventions, but why not spread them to other cities. I know we get a fair amount of press in the host city, but what if we - a truly national party - held our contest from coast to coast, in an attempt to bring all Canadians on board. Wouldn't that be an inclusive and truly national event, representing a truly national party? We would get a lot more press too...

Save the environment - less flights
Save party members money - lower costs, less flights
Save money for the party - more money left for future events and more importantly - year round attack ads - seems to be the new precedent the Conservatives have set...

jaycurrie said...

Back when I was Liberal the same arguments ran. The difference was that the "black tie" people were legally allowed to write cheques for $20,000 and more.

You are on the right track. But so long as the Liberal Party is the Toronto Party - and really, the Annex/Rosedale Party - your argument is not going to gain any traction.

Try potlucks for the community. Try Church basement policy discussions. Get back to the roots.

But try it fast because in a matter of months the Liberal Party will be bankrupt.

WesternGrit said...

Good point Jay... The rule changes allow us to adapt, or go the way of the dodo...

David Graham - said...

The question of the convention making money or not isn't about the venue making a profit/suffering a loss based on registration fees, it's the wholesale depletion of the donation poll by leadership campaigns rather than by the party itself.

If the people who want to run in the leadership race truly want to show leadership, let them tour the country raising that money for the party instead.