Decade of Decline: The Collapse of Green Party Grassroots Support, 2008-2017

Decade of Decline is my report on the deep and long-running decline in local support for the Green Party of Canada. The decline began in 2008 (with some early warning signs in 2006-2007), and has continued relentlessly since then. As of 2017-18, the party’s local support is at its lowest level in 15 years.

Contents

Additional parts will be added to this list as they are published.

I intend to publish one to two sections of the report each week, as they are completed. To be informed when future parts are published, please follow this blog, or contact me and I will notify you personally.

Why report on this topic?

The focus of my writing is democracy and human rights. So why write about the decline of local support in the Green Party? There are several reasons.

First, the Greens are the only major party in Canada that explicitly include Participatory Democracy in their statement of values, and the only party that has made grassroots involvement a core part of their identity. This makes a collapse of grassroots support more notable in the Green Party than in other parties, since it goes against the party’s stated identity and values, rather than being a mere electoral concern.

Second, the events taking place in the Green Party can provide useful insights to people who are trying to build or rebuild grassroots parties and movements (including people within the Green Party itself).

Third, as a result of my past (long-term) membership in the party, I have a network of contacts that allows me to report with more complete data than I would have access to when reporting on other parties.

Finally, the collapse of the Green Party’s grassroots support is tied as one of the two biggest declines in the past two decades of Canadian politics, matched only by the crisis in the Bloc Québécois. However, while decline of the Bloc Québécois has been covered extensively, especially within Québec, many people are completely unaware of the similar decline happening within the Green Party. In other words, this report fills a gap in the existing body of reporting and analysis on party politics in Canada.

Disclosures

I was a member of the Green Party of Canada from late 2003 to early 2017. I was also briefly a member of the NDP in 2017. Since 2017, I have not been a member or supporter of any federal party.

I was not paid or compensated in any way for writing this report.

Sources

Most of the source data for this report has been gathered from the Elections Canada political financing database, which contains a public record of political financing at the federal level from 2004 onward. The Canada Gazette, which announces de-registrations of EDAs, was also consulted.

Some additional statistics have been gathered from materials published by the Green Party of Canada, such as vote results and minutes of past general meetings which were made available to me.

Outliers

When analyzing EDA fundraising in the Green Party, there are two important outliers that should be accounted for.

  1. The 2015 election. Due to a historically long campaign period, all major parties experienced a record spike in fundraising, in some cases more than doubling the results of their previous best year. A spike of this size interrupts long-term trends and can badly warp averages. To compensate, some calculations in this report exclude 2015 or treat it differently. In all such cases, I describe my methods precisely in the text.
  2. The riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands. Starting in 2008, this riding became a larger and larger outlier from the party’s overall performance. There are several years where this single riding accounts for more than one third of all donations to Green Party EDA’s. When the reality for 337 out of 338 ridings is drastically different from the one remaining riding, it would be misleading not to give separate statistics for the 337. Therefore, many statistics throughout the report are shown both ways, with SGI and without SGI. In each case, this distinction is noted in the text.

Compensating for these two outliers allows for a clearer look at the long-term, nation-wide trends in the Green Party of Canada.

Next

The body of the report begins with Part 1.1: The Collapse of Local Contributions.


[Edit 2018-Sep-26: List of sources expanded to include Canada Gazette, which was referenced in Part 1.2, published today. Miscellaneous changes to phrasing to improve clarity.]

4 thoughts on “Decade of Decline: The Collapse of Green Party Grassroots Support, 2008-2017

  1. As I noted elsewhere, your “decade of decline” may be entirely an artifact of your choice of the 2008 starting date. If you set your start at 2006 instead, you will likely find no long-term decline, but rather a quite normal pattern of high fundraising in election years (like 2008) and lower funding in non-election years.
    Also, you are using local (EDA-level) *fundraising* as a proxy for local “support”, which I do not see as a valid identity. There is nothing wrong with members supporting the party at the local level through volunteer activity, but sending their monetary contributions to the national level, except (as noted) in election years when there is a candidate to stand behind. This is, in fact, quite normal for all major federal political parties.

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    1. Hi erichthegreen, thanks for your comments. (Note: I don’t know whether you are Erich Jacoby-Hawkins commenting under a different account, or a different Erich. I will assume you are a different person unless you state otherwise.)

      This report covers more than just EDA fundraising. Other forms of local support are discussed in subsequent chapters. The use of the phrase “grassroots support” in the report title is a description of the overall report contents, not just Part 1.1.

      [Edit: I see that you have commented on the start date under Part 1.1 as well. I have removed my brief reply about the start date and will post a more detailed reply under Part 1.1.]

      You also assert that it is “quite normal” for members of other federal political parties to donate to the central party during non-election years, then change their behaviour during election years. You do not specify whether these contributors switch to contributing to their EDA during election years, or switch to contributing directly to the candidate’s campaign, or some mix. Could you clarify this so that your assertion can be properly tested against the public data?

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  2. I’m the same Erich either way; I use 2 computers and apparently one of them remembers my password for WordPress while the other does not so I log in via Facebook.

    My personal experience with other parties’ fundraising has been that between-election events are leader-focused and money raised goes primarily or entirely to the central party, while pre-election events are local candidate focused and money raised goes to the local campaign. Whether that is through the EDA will depend on timing and how they have their finances set up. Feel free to test that and see if my personal (anecdotal, although with Conservative, Liberal, and NDP events) is typical or exceptional.

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    1. Hi Erïch, thanks for clarifying. Anecdotally, I have definitely seen the fundraising approach you describe.

      Numerically, I did a comparison for the four major parties other than the GPC (so LIB, CON, NDP, and BQ). I compared the average of their election year contributions versus non-election year contributions, to EDAs and to the central party, first with 2015 included, then with 2015 excluded.

      With 2015 included, contributions to the central party are 15% higher in election years, and contributions to EDAs are 61% higher. However, 2015 drastically warps the stats (as you will see in a moment), so I prefer to exclude it. That still leaves 4 other election years included in the average.

      With 2015 excluded, contributions to the central party are 7% lower in election years, and contributions to EDAs are 16% higher, confirming the pattern you suggested. Giving the numbers another way, the proportion of EDA-level contributions (out of the total of EDA-plus-central) is 28.2% in election years and 23.9% in non-election years.

      (Note that I have excluded campaign contributions, because that would require totaling a massive amount of data that I do not have at hand. However, campaigns are not necessary to reach a conclusion on the particular point we’re discussing.)

      So there does appear to be a portion of contributions that “shifts” from central to EDA during an election year, and back to central in the non-election years. The size of this shifting portion appears to be about 4-5% of total contributions.

      Meanwhile, with the GPC, there is a ten-year trend of a 68% decline, with no “shifting” pattern. This is much higher than the shift of 4-5% that appears to happen in other parties, and not aligned to the election cycle at all, so I continue to see it as a very significant trend outside the norm.

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