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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.

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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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