What happened and what’s next

“It feels like a great shadow has departed..."
- Abby S. Vancouver, BC  

Today, after 9 years and 257 days, Stephen Harper is no longer the Prime Minister of Canada.  

Let’s let that soak in, and think about what it means.

This was not inevitable. In the last phase of the campaign, Harper bet everything on stoking racism, xenophobia and fear – and it nearly worked. Just two weeks ago, the polls had Harper on track for a fourth term.  But on election day, Canadians drew a line and overwhelmingly rejected the politics of hate and division that have so clouded the last decade of public life. How did it happen?

There was a national wave, to be sure. But in dozens of close ridings, where the result hinged on razor-thin margins, this was the result of months and years of dedicated planning, organizing and heroic work by volunteers fighting for every last vote.

The Vote Together campaign was a big part of that story. We picked 29 ridings where Conservatives won last time and ran an unprecedented series of local polls; then asked the local Leadnow community to recommend the best candidate to defeat the Harper Conservative in these ridings. Leadnow members pledged to “Vote Together” to support that candidate, and volunteered to reach local voters on the phones, at their doorsteps, and in their mailboxes, urging them to do the same.

It was a bold, unprecedented and admittedly risky strategy, because beating Harper in our broken voting system required picking one candidate per riding. We empowered our communities to select the best candidate to defeat the conservatives and threw everything we had behind them. Here’s how it played out:

  • In the Manitoba riding of Elmwood-Transcona, we ran a scrappy operation in a quiet suburban district with no history of independent election campaigns. Local volunteers held 6,271 one-on-one conversations to encourage their neighbours to vote together. 1,664 conversations were reported in the last 10 days alone. When the dust settled, the recommended candidate, Daniel Blaikie of the NDP, won by just 51 votes.

  • In Ontario, our recommended candidate in the Eglinton-Lawrence riding, Marco Mendicino of the Liberal party, beat Harper’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, the man behind some of the most cruel and counterproductive economic policies in recent history. Vote Together volunteers reported 18,945 voter contacts during the campaign, more than 3 times the margin of victory.

  • In Alberta, the Conservatives lost the Calgary Centre seat for the first time in 47 years. Our recommended candidate, Kent Hehr of the Liberal party, won by 906 votes. Leadnow members in the riding who pledged to vote together, following the local recommendation: 964.

  • In the BC riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, local Leadnow members recommended Fin Donnelly of the NDP – not just as the best choice to beat Harper, but as a real progressive champion on issues like pipeline expansion and electoral reform. Vote Together volunteers in the riding reported 8,479 voter contacts over the course of the campaign, including 3,127 one-on-one conversations with swing voters. Donnelly won by 2,814 votes.

Those are just a few highlights. Here are the top-line results for the whole campaign:

  • NDP and Liberals took 25 of the 29 targeted seats away from the Conservatives. That’s an 86% success rate in seats the Conservatives won in 2011. A HUGE shift and far more dramatic than the national average.

  • Local Leadnow members recommended 13 NDP candidates and 16 Liberal candidates as the most likely to defeat their Conservative opponent. In the seats Conservatives lost, our recommended candidate was the winner 96% of the time (24 out of 25 ridings).

  • In our 4 targeted seats where Conservatives won, our recommended candidate ended up as the closest challenger twice. In the two other ridings, the recommended candidates ended up finishing 3rd.

  • In the ridings where a recommended candidate won, Leadnow members and the voters we directly engaged total more than the margin of victory in 8 ridings, and more than the half the margin of victory in 14 ridings.

Add it all up and there’s no room for doubt: The Harper shadow has finally lifted and your incredible work together is a big, big part of the reason why. It wasn’t a perfect score to be sure, either on recommendations or final results. But in the end, the gamble paid off, big time, thanks to you.

So now comes the fun, hard, critical question we’ve been waiting 9 years and 257 days to ask: what’s next?

Let’s figure it out together.

There are so many issues we need to tackle but here’s a place to start: election reform. Our broken system has given this government, like the last one, 100% of the power with just 39% of the votes. It’s a better outcome for the country, but it’s stark proof that our broken voting system is still in desperate need of change – change we can now deliver.  Stay tuned for more on that front very soon.

We’ve always known defeating Harper was just a beginning, a necessary first step towards the strong democracy, fair economy, and clean environment everyone deserves. To figure out our next steps, we’ll have to huddle together as a community, listen carefully to local leaders and allies, and watch carefully to spot new opportunities and threats as they emerge.

As people committed to deep, meaningful change, our job has just begun. Because this government, like all governments, will only soar as high as the people demand, and will sink as low as the people allow. What comes next is up to us.

If we all keep pitching in our time, passion, creativity and hope towards the shared work ahead, this amazing Leadnow community – 500,000+ strong, growing fast and deeply rooted in communities coast to coast to coast – will be ready.

With gratitude and respect,

Amara on behalf of the Leadnow team

P.S. If you’d like to help power-up our community to face the challenges ahead, please consider chipping in today. Leadnow is built on small contributions from individual members, and every little bit helps. ?