BC NDP contributors might want to ask where their money went
Less than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the recent B.C. election. Prior to the election, chief electoral officer Harry Neufeld told the Straight that he was hoping for a 62 percent turnout.
This would have meant two million ballots cast. Instead, only 1,545,716 people voted, a sharp drop from the 2005 election.
There are lots of reasons for the low turnout. All four party leaders--Gordon Campbell, Carole James, Jane Sterk, and Wilf Hanni--failed to inspire the electorate.
The first-past-the-post system discourages people from turning up in constituencies where you know who's going to win before the election writ is dropped.
Local television stations also underplayed the election, sometimes commencing coverage in the second block of news.
But I think there's another reason that must be considered. And that's how the political parties marketed their election messages.
Both the B.C. Liberals and the NDP appeared to devote the bulk of their expenditures on placing ads on conventional television stations, including the evening newscasts.
The biggest beneficiary appeared to be Canwest Global Communications Corp.
Yes, those NDP donors wrote lots of cheques that ended up filling Canwest's empty coffers.
Meanwhile, the Canwest-owned Vancouver Sun endorsed Premier Gordon Campbell in a pre-election editorial. And just to rub it in, the Vancouver Sun ran an election-day opinion piece from B.C. Business Council head Virginia Greene touting how good the Campbell government is for women.
The election-day opinion piece didn't mention that Greene is a former B.C. Liberal candidate.
It's time to let the NDP and B.C. Liberal braintrusts in on a secret: conventional television is in decline because many viewers are moving up the dial to watch specialty channels, such as Newsworld, MuchMusic, TSN, and Business News Network, to name a few. They're also watching ethnic stations.
And the growing number of people who don't watch television are either reading print publications or scouring the Internet.
CTVglobemedia executive vice president Paul Sparkes said earlier this year that because of all those specialty channels, the conventional television model is "broken". It's why the broadcasters are begging for new fees to be added to cable bills.
But that didn't stop the political parties from bombarding the conventional stations with advertising. And guess what? Hardly anyone showed up to vote.
The next time the NDP comes begging for your money, you might want to ask these fundraisers: are you going to blow my hard-earned dough on conventional television advertising that people can block out by hitting a button on their converters?
I sent an e-mail asking an NDP communications official how much money was spent on advertising and how much of this went to conventional television stations. I also asked how much NDP money went to Canwest.
Not surprisingly, I haven't received a response.
The union that represents Canwest employees obviously wants to see more money going to Canwest to save the workers' jobs. After all, the corporation is teetering on the edge of seeking bankruptcy protection.
But there are other unions--such as CUPE and the B.C. Teachers' Federation--that might not like the idea of a lot of NDP funds going to save Canwest in its hour of need.
Canwest has supported public-private partnerships and gone out of its way to publicize the Fraser Institute's rankings of public and private schools. That hasn't impressed some public servants and teachers.
It will be interesting to see if CUPE and the BCTF start poking around to try to find out how much of the NDP's expenditures went to Canwest in the recent election campaign. Any party members who are curious to know about this deserve some answers from NDP president Jeff Fox.
Regardless, the party ought to conduct a review of the marketing of its candidates and its platform. Because the voter-turnout figures suggest that something might have gone dreadfully wrong in the 2009 campaign.