Idea Flow for the NDP

My impression was Bird’s corporation, 270 Strategies[3] was the exclusive consulting company for the NDP 2015 campaign. Based on my observations at a distance the national directors of the Federal NDP were the principle interface between 270 Strategies and the party apparatus. I believe by following the individuals who held the national director role you can follow the influence of 270 Strategies and their take on elect-ability. They seemed to be the sole authority consistently relied upon on issues of electability, both at party headquarters and at the Broadbent Institute, an NDP think-tank.

I heard from insiders that when Mulcair was elected party leader, he was quite disappointed to discover the national director Brad Lavigne did not show up for work the next day.

Mulcair considered Jack Layton’s elect-ability infrastructure to be a valuable asset. Lavigne went on to manage and lose the BC provincial campaign. The torch for 270 Strategies was then taken up by the new national director Nathan Rotman. When Rotman left the directorship to run Olivia Chow's mayoral campaign, Anne McGrath then became national director and Lavigne was eventually brought back to the Ottawa party office in a consulting role. This would indicate the strategy begun by Layton was also a consistent strategy implemented throughout Mulcair's tenure as leader.

The elect-ability strategy which worked for Obama in 2008 and seemed to work for Jack Layton in 2011 did not bear fruit in Canada in 2015. Context and time do not stand still. Culture is constantly evolving. Maybe Layton’s success in 2011 can be attributed more to his charisma and other factors than to the direction provided by a segment of Obama strategists. With so many factors contributing to an electoral gain it is hard to isolate a specific factor as the primary cause of the win.

One of the factors that contributes to the transformation of the community intelligence and idea flow is variable response and openness to new ideas. These conditions facilitate both exploration, to introduce new ideas, and engagement, which expands exposure to these new ideas. Pentland's research shows that high exploration leads to high engagement creating overall greater idea flow with greater propensity for changing collective intelligence.

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The NDP elect-ability campaign strategy seems to have been determined before it became a big part of the Halifax 2009 convention. Consequently if one invests heavily in a course of action like a long term plan for elect-ability exploration of new ideas will be stifled. Generalizing from Thomas Kuhn's hypothesis on scientific paradigms in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Kuhn, 1970); investment in a long term strategy establishes vested interests. Managers of the strategy expend time and effort learning and creating scenarios elicited by the strategy. Their social and economic status becomes coupled with the strategy. Variation to that strategy suggested from the outside would then tend to be discouraged, because innovation threatens vested interests. Dedication to a long term strategy tends to obstruct idea flow by limiting the ideas available for engagement with the larger group.

It was my personal experience pitching ideas on fast thinking over several years to NDP Central that the federal NDP were not receptive to ideas that were foreign to their elect-ability strategy. This notion was confirmed for me in an interview of Naomi Klein and Avery Lewis viewed on Democracy Now Oct. 5, 2015[4]. Klein, Lewis and a number of other Canadian celebrities of conscience posted the Leap Manifesto: A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another[5]. The NDP were already down in the polls and I thought maybe the manifesto might provide an opportunity for Team Mulcair to back pedal on his unpopular promise to balance the budget. The drop in the polls occurred immediately following the announcement of this policy. I was disappointed when Naomi Klein announced on Democracy Now that while she received no feedback on the Leap Manifesto from the Mulcair Team, she did receive a supportive response from Trudeau.

Idea Flow for the Liberals

Whereas Team Mulcair were the front runners with an agenda set in 2009, Trudeau began in a much weaker position with a platform devoid of concrete policy loaded with an inconsistent voting record. The Federal Liberals did not have to deal with an established strategy. They hadn't figured things out, so come election time they had to ad lib. They turned this liability into an advantage.

Initially they made no substantive policy claims other than they would consult and listen to the Canadian people, to the provincial Premiers, to the refugee settlement organizations and any other group that wasn’t being listened to. In the beginning the group was the Marijuana Party. Having been incessantly spurned by their first choice, the NDP, they approached Trudeau who took up their cause for legalization of the demonized herb. The many attempts by the NDP and the Conservatives to tarnish the Trudeau campaign by associating him with the horrors of marijuana usa Leap Manifesto:A Call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Anotherge failed. The credibility of the demonized claims for this beneficial plant waned in the Canadian collective intelligence. In the final days of the campaign Mulcair too supported legalization.

Trudeau's vocalization of a consultatory approach worked better for him than having clear well defined targets and policies like the NDP. Having no climate change targets he was able to say he would consult with the provinces. Having not made the commitment to balance budgets, he was able to take advantage of this NDP gift to distinguish his brand as unique from the NDP and Conservatives. Rather than run on balanced budgets he was going to run deficits. To the surprise of many it quickly became clear that deficits after years of austerity resonated with the population. The Liberals had better idea flow. Their approach had the flexibility to vary response and engage new ideas. Thus they were able to discover ideas that engaged the collective wisdom and build their brand to be in solidarity with that wisdom.

Trudeau consistently opened his tent to groups alienated by Mulcair, slamming doors shut. First it was marijuana activists who endorsed the Liberal party. Next it was activists striving for social justice in Palestine who had nowhere to go accept the Green party. When elements of the NDP base proposed the Leap Manifesto, the event was ignored by Mulcair.

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