(Originally published Apr 14, 2013)
Only a couple of short years ago, the Canadian Liberal Party was divided, virtually insolvent, and declining in the polls. The Liberals were under attack by a Prime Minister who hates government, but despised the Liberals even more. Liberals were also suffering from a growing split in the electorate, where the Conservatives had been able to effectively target their own supporters, while effectively suppressing votes of their opponents. Without the funds and organization to combat the paid Conservative campaign, the Liberal Party was slowly withering.
Last January, in Ottawa, the “core” of the Liberal Party met, in one of the largest political conventions in recent Canadian history. Along with interim leader Bob Rae, and a new executive itching for a new way forward, countless measures were adopted that would see the party on its way back.
There was something else occuring in Ottawa in January 2012 – something which began months before. Some of us like to call it the “Young Turks Movement”. Whatever you call it, what it WAS was a movement built on a social media backbone. Thousands of Liberals across Canada – many of them brand new supporters – came ‘together’ online to discuss what could be done to bring the party back from the brink. While the Conservatives could rely on paid workers in a multi-million dollar war room, this group of young(er) Liberals were building a REAL social network of members, supporters, and key organizers.
At the convention in January, on a blizzardy day in Ottawa, over 4000 members gathered in an event that shocked the punditocracy. In that movement of “new Liberal thought” was most of a team you’ll recognize organizing for Justin Trudeau. We had decided it was time for real change. Canada needed hope again. We achieved much of the framework for that change on those two freezing days in Ottawa.
The Trudeau Team helped cultivate that new grassroots Liberal movement. The recent big wins in Supporter numbers, and surge in polls can all find roots in the powerful grassroots movement which has coalesced around Justin.
A few weeks ago, this new grassroots Liberal movement crossed a milestone as a new “open party” signed over 300,000 “supporters” in only a few short weeks. A volunteer grassroots “army” had gone forth to every riding, every city, town, and hamlet, and every outboard community, to involve more Canadians in this movement for change.
Yesterday, another milestone was reached: The Liberal Party of Canada tally of leadership voters had exceeded 100,000 – a number almost twice that of the vote total in the last NDP leadership, and more than the total votes cast in the last Conservative leadership campaign!
Not bad for a “dying third party” (as some critics are wont to say).
As the party gathers in Ottawa, and online throughout the land today, to celebrate a new leader, it can also celebrate the creation of a new style of campaign and a new way of engaging Canadians, piloted by the minds powering this new movement.
“Dying party”? Hardly.
Herman Thind, BSc., OOST, Certified Social Media Strategist.
Herman is a community advocate, consultant, and a student of all things political. He was born and raised in Saskatchewan, and grew up across Western Canada.