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They Call It Democracy – Part 4

By Stuart Hertzog
October 19th, 2009

Denial of service

The Green party did its best to completely bury my campaign

Green maillist

Most of the national media attention around my complaint to Elections Canada focused on possible illegal transfer of funds by the Green Party to the Elizabeth May campaign, which I believed she could use to secure her nomination. But even more important to me was the unequal offering of Party services to myself compared to the largely taxpayer-funded resources it was pouring into promoting the Party leader.

There’s a species of Internet sabotage called a Denial of Service attack, in which a multitude of infected personal computers overwhelm a web service with millions of simultaneous requests generated by a virus program hidden in a spam message or a rogue piece of software.

My experience was exactly the opposite, but just as deadly. The Green Party of Canada denied and delayed essential services to me, while supplying them to its Leader. Essentially, the Party tried to bury my nomination campaign. This was the hardest thing for me to deal with. It nearly throttled my campaign by making it almost impossible for me to contact the EDA membership in time.

Resistance—or just incompetence?

The scene shifts now to the Saanich-Gulf Islands Green Party EDA. We are almost halfway through August. I alerted the EDA of my intention to stand as a nomination candidate via an August 12th email to the current CEO and the Party’s BC organiser, and filled in and submitted that 11-page application form in time for the brief, four-day nomination window that opened on August 25th.

Despite its own own strict deadlines set out in its August 2009 Rules of Procedure, I didn’t receive notice of the Party’s acceptance of my nomination candidacy until September 1st, by my calculation already two days later than stipulated in the Party’s own rules. In just a three-week campaign, every day that goes by without action is a major disaster. The clock was ticking fast.

I should then have received the membership list the next day, but that didn’t happen. I had to contact the EDA Board to remind it of my right to a complete membership list. Its response was a non-disclosure form that I had to sign and return before it would give me a copy of the membership list. Asking me to sign and return yet another form was yet another unwarranted delay. As an officially authorised nomination candidate, I shouldn’t even have had to ask.

That evening I received an incomplete membership list that didn’t indicate when a member had joined or renewed, or when their good standing lapsed, making it impossible to tell who was qualified to vote at the nomination meeting. I again asked for a complete list, pointing out that this delay could have been avoided by the Party giving me direct access to EDA data on its online CiviCRM member database, which also would allow me to easily and directly email the members.

I finally received a complete list just two weeks away from the nomination meeting—a full week into what was only a three-week nomination campaign.

Access denied—does not compute

Okay, I know what you’re thinking—what did I expect? This is the Green Party; the EDA Board are all volunteer amateurs; and it’s the laid-back West Coast. Relax! Be cool! Take a Valium! Yeah—right. I’m pretty sure that our Dear Leader didn’t have to beg for a proper list. I’ll bet one was thrust into her hot little telephone-ready hands as soon as the official processing period ended on Sunday. I had to wait until that Friday before I was ready to start setting up.

If I had been given access to the CiviCRM database, there would have been no problem. I’d used the same kind of system run by the BC Green Party, so I knew that it was entirely possible to email a select group of members straight from the online database. The non-disclosure form was the same one used for access to the CiviCRM, which can be closely controlled through user privileges.

I had repeatedly asked for CiviCRM access, and was repeatedly denied. But Party employees were using it to promote May’s candidacy to not just Saanich-Gulf Island members, but in one instance to all Greens in the South Island region. This unequal use of this Party service was a major part of my complaint to Elections Canada. This service was never offered to me; it was used to promote one candidate only. This is is illegal during a nomination campaign.

I was not to be defeated so easily. I’m a fairly dab hand at computers and the Internet, and had been playing around with an open-source piece of software called phpList. My ISP throttles my personal email to just a couple of dozen messages at a time, but this email management system would allow me to send out the couple of hundred messages to qualified members, lickety-split. In fact, I think the Party’s CiviCRM uses phpList as its back end mailing system.

By setting the software up on my blog hosting server at no cost, I was able to send out six emails to almost 200 members within the two weeks that was left in the campaign. Just as important, I was able to email a burgeoning media list. You can’t keep a good man down, as they say. Screw you, Green Politburo!

The mighty May media machine

The final way in which the May Machine mowed down my nomination campaign was through the Party’s use of its propaganda services—I’m sorry, I meant to write ‘the Party’s communications staff’—to promote Ms May’s candidacy while not even mentioning that it was being contested.

The May Machine did its best to bury my campaign. Its part-time BC organiser helped organise a cozy ‘Tea With Elizabeth’ get-together in affluent Oak Bay at which I was not invited to speak. It sent email invitations to over 1,200 Party members in the South Island region for that. Communications staff and May assistants pumped out news releases that didn’t even mention my name.

It was an impressive effort. The May Machine rolled imperiously along its pre-ordained route without ever once coming off the rails. What a tribute to the thoroughness of the Green Politburo’s planning process and Ms May’s complete control over the Green Party apparatus! It’s just that—well, I don’t like to harp on it but it’s the law—not to offer the same services equally to me was illegal.

Perhaps now you’re starting to get some idea of what I was up against. I’d heard about the extent to which the Green Party had become the Elizabeth May Party, but it wasn’t until I stood in the way of her progress towards a Senate seat (this MP thing is just a step along the way), that I realised what it meant.

It was a salutary reminder of the persuasive power of political propaganda.


Next: Part 5—Formal complaint

Read other parts of this series:

  • Part 1—Challenge
  • Part 2—Green Politburo
  • Part 3—Follow the money
  • Part 4—Denial of Service
  • Part 5—Formal complaint
  • Part 6—Lessons learned
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    13 Responses

    1. SIR Says:

      I was able to send out six emails to almost 200 members

      There appears to be some confusion out there regarding number of members in SGI. Can you provide an accurate count of number of current and expired members at the time when the list was provided to you?

      As someone who appears to be exact,”almost 200″ doesn’t appear to cut it. What, specifically were the numbers? May in the media claimed close to 250 members. Who is spinning? Pls elaborate.

    2. Stuart Hertzog Says:

      Not all members had an email address listed. I started off sending out 194 emails to 114 current, 62 lapsed and 18 new members. There were 21 current and 20 lapsed members without emails, for a total membership of 235. I don’t know how the membership grew to 250 — unless there were 15 members about whom I wasn’t told? Gosh! I’ll bet they’d all have voted for me if only I could have emailed them. Darn!

    3. SIR Says:

      I think you’ve demonstrated that e-mailing existing or lapsed members is ineffective (to influence their voting choice), notwithstanding the 15 phantom voters. The response to “six emails to almost 200 members within the two weeks that was left in the campaign” seems underwhelming.

    4. Stuart Hertzog Says:

      I don’t think such a broad conclusion can be drawn from such a token campaign within such a limited time frame against such a well-known candidate who already had a considerable media profile and who continued to have her image boosted by a Party apparatus that was only available to her and which continued to avoid any mention of my name. Did you think I had a fair chance of winning?

    5. SIR Says:

      I think your question is one of materiality.

      Assuming everything went according to your preferred timetable/process, I doubt the outcome would have been materially different. You are, let’s not forget, trying to winover members who have in all likelihood been convinced to fork over $10 by someone in person to join (or continue to support) the Elizabeth May lead party.

      Even if there was a significant lead time, and you were allowed to sign up new members, do you really think the outcome would have been different? You strike me more as an idealist, not a retail “huggy” politician. The latter sell and maintain the memberships while pressing the flesh and stroking the egos. Very few of this group would be convinced to switch allegiances, realistically, as was demonstrated.

    6. Stuart Hertzog Says:

      “Retail huggy politician” — a very good description! 😀

      The problem with the Green Party is far deeper than your fairly accurate assessment of myself (except that I’m also a realist). Those Greens who agree with my position on internal party processes have mostly already quit the Green Party in disgust.

      So I agree, even with a better timetable and process, I would still have been starting from way behind and doubt that the outcome would have been much different. No surprises there.

    7. political atheist Says:

      After this whole experience, and seeing the GP moving in a ‘business as usual’ direction in politics, do you see any hope in bringing the GP into a true alternative to the other parties in Canada?

      There is no place for true environmentally conscious, altruistically aware, capitalist nonsupporters to go.

    8. Stuart Hertzog Says:

      That’s the $64 million question. I’ve been ruminating on this recently. I don’t know if it’s possible at this stage. So many of the current Green Party members seem to have little or no idea of the origins and implications of Green politics. It may be a built-in tendency of electoral politics — many Green parties, even in Germany, appear to be moving quickly to the right.

      I’m going to offer an answer to this in a while on this site — so stay tuned!

    9. John Ogilvie Says:

      I went thru something similar when I sought the nomination in Ottawa West Nepean in Apr 2008.

      My first candidate application was “mangled in the fax machine” but no-one told me til I phoned them. I sent it again, a week later. A week lost.

      I was told that the party had a policy against male candidates parachuting into adjacent ridings. This was reserved for females only. As a recent member of council, someone who knew the rules, I challenged this, and it was withdrawn.

      The story of obstruction goes on at length, but it culminated with Elizabeth herself coming out – unannounced – to the nomination meeting in OWN in Apr 2008. Where she worked the room and told riding executives that “the party doesn’t want John to run here”.

      She also stood up from the floor and debated me, which was *weird*. She brought along a group of staff/supporters, who also debated me. A long night. In the end, I lost by one vote 🙂

      Elizabeth has a lot of nerve writing a book about the failure of democracy in Canada.

    10. Stuart Hertzog Says:

      Sorry to hear about your experience, John. Thanks for sharing it with us—at least it proves that I’m not the only one and that the pattern of abuse by an Elizabeth May-dominated party is consistent.

      Your point about her book and the state of democracy within the Party is exactly the question I put to her at the Saanich-Gulf Islands EDA AGM in July. Her inadequate reply started me to think about standing against her as a nomination candidate (see the conclusion of Part 1 of this series).

      It’s a sad state of affairs. The only conclusion that an intelligent person can come to is that despite her high public profile, electing Elizabeth May as leader was the worst decision the Green Party ever made. It may never recover from her self-seeking depredations.

    11. John Ogilvie Says:

      In 2006 the GPC membership elected Elizabeth over David Chernushenko by a margin of 2,000 votes to 1,000 votes.

      At the time, it seemed like a good idea. I didn’t vote in that election, but I might have voted for Elizabeth.

      But the party has endured three years of her leadership, and she has hollowed out the party. Only Elizabeth-clones – female, activist and politically inexperiencd – have survived the purges.

    12. political atheist Says:

      As a female activist and ‘politically inexperienced’ [whatever that means. . . unelected, perhaps] I think the aspect of having a well known woman to run for a federal seat appealed to some SGI voters on the islands.

      Something that should have been done, though, is to have that Stuart/Elizabeth ‘debate’ session put on Youtube – that would certainly have shown the issues covered [or not] and then, after 2 weeks, have a vote.

      It would have put some distance between the ‘popularity’ aspect and allowed deeper thinking about the party and its direction.

      It would also have given others a good opportunity to think about their own parties and what is needed.

    13. Stuart Hertzog Says:

      By Stuart/Elizabeth ‘debate’ session do you mean the encounter at the SGI AGM? If there’s video of that, I’d like to see it. I’ve never had the opportunity to debate Ms May about the issue of democratic process with the Green Party. I’d like to do that, but I’m fairly sure Ms May won’t risk such an open discussion.

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