Thursday, May 13, 2010

Raising a party's profile is hard but rewarding work

(Written for Root Issues in the Barrie Examiner)

People are most aware of politicians during elections, especially those challenging the incumbent. But for a dedicated politician, the time between elections is still very busy. There are supporters to identify, new contacts to make, and the constant need for visibility. Incumbents have many advantages, but even they need to keep in the limelight as much as possible.

As Barrie’s nominated Green Party candidate, it is my job between elections to raise the party’s profile and build our base. With a support team of volunteers, we put together a variety of events to help us integrate our values and members with the greater community. Some are designed to raise money, some to build visibility, some just to help us feel good by helping others. In planning activities, we often look to other parties to see what they have done.

Back in 2004 I noticed a great event hosted by the Barrie Women’s Liberal Association in support of Adopt-a-Minefield. Liberal supporters came together to dine, contribute, and learn about efforts around the world to clear mines and save lives. International cooperation minister Aileen Carroll spoke, along with local experts on politics and international aid. I really liked this idea of mobilizing political supporters to help a good cause, so we have since hosted several events in support of local charities. In 2007 we contributed to the Simcoe County Alliance to End Homelessness at our fundraiser dinner, and in 2009 we cut a cheque to the Seasons Centre for Grieving Children.

While BBQs and pancake breakfasts are the mainstay of an elected MP, last spring we hosted “Cooking for Sustainability,” which demonstrated how to prepare local, in-season food for nutritious and delicious meals. MP Patrick Brown hosts passport clinics to help folks fill out forms; we modified that idea and hosted an e-waste and used clothing depot, allowing people to clear out their unused but still useable items and donate food to the Grocery Assistance Program.

This June 26 will see our 3rd annual community yard sale. Another chance to reduce waste and re-use items, we collect suitable merchandise from supporters and provide tax credit for whatever sells. Promotion costs eat up much of our sales revenue, but we enjoy partnering with other community groups, such as Barrie Fair Trade who provide coffee, or Mapleview Community Church’s Health Ministry who run a bake sale alongside us. Unsold items are donated to local charities.

About once a year we roll out our “big guns” and have our party leader speak in Barrie. Since she’s not in cabinet and can’t directly control government, we can’t charge too much to meet her. Not for us $5,000-a-plate dinners like MPP Carroll attended with Dalton McGuinty in Barrie!* Instead, we try more modestly-priced activities to maximize contact. Coming up on June 2 is our “Playing for Change” event at the MacLaren, featuring along with Ms. May a concert by Toronto swing-jazz-jump musician Big Rude Jake. $20 would be a fair cost for either attraction, but we’re selling a ticket to both for that price. This is our first time mixing music and politics, and it is looking to be a really exciting evening. For more information, you can visit Or if you have suggestions about how you’d like parties to connect with you between elections – please share them with us!

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

*Originally this said "dinners like MPP Carroll hosted for Dalton McGuinty" but her assistant informs me that Aileen did not host this event in Barrie, she just attended it with the Premier as a key guest. I'm not sure what difference that makes but it seemed important to her. She was also worried that this somehow implied it was a local (riding) fundraiser rather than a party one, but since ridings and parties are free to transfer funds both ways at will, I am not sure what difference that would make, either. When we host a fundraiser with our leader, we split the funds raised between riding and party. I imagine other parties often do the same.

1 comment:

  1. You're a great asset for the party, keep up. :)

    We're trying to bring the same kind of energy in Montreal, but we're not there yet...