Gregor Robertson holds off Kirk LaPointe to win tough battle in Vancouver

Proud to have once again been the pollster and one of strategists for Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver’s third win as Mayor of Vancouver.   It was harder this time, and we needed a great campaign to do it. Below some articles about the campaign, and Vision:

Gregor Robertson secured his third term as Vancouver’s mayor in a decisive victory

Mayor Gregor Robertson overcame adversity in the toughest campaign of his career to win a third term at Vancouver City Hall.

It was a gruelling fight for Robertson, who held off surging NPA challenger Kirk LaPointe but lost one Vision seat on council, with a Green and three NPA councillors topping the polls. With only mail-in votes left to count, Robertson, who had about 54 per cent of the vote in the prior two elections, had 83,281 votes and LaPointe trailed with 72,966.

“I am so humbled and honoured to have been re-elected as your mayor,” Robertson said in his victory speech. “We have a wider diversity of opinions at council … We will continue to build a green, inclusive city. There are things we can do better.”

Vision’s Tony Tang, who was first elected in 2011, was defeated, and Geoff Meggs won the 10th spot in a tight race with the NPA’s Ian Robertson. The NPA looked set to gain one seat on council with Vision retaining a reduced majority. NPA Couns. George Affleck and Elizabeth Ball were in the top three of councillors in polls, joined by Melissa De Genova in fourth place.

Vision lost control of the parks board, whose seven commissioners now include four from the NPA. Vision and NPA secured four seats each on the school board, where Green trustee Janet Fraser will hold the balance of power.

Viewed as a long shot at the start of the campaign, LaPointe worked his way up through the polls from a double-digit deficit to just a four-point spread with one week to go.

At 11 p.m., LaPointe appeared before supporters to offer a concession speech and congratulations to Robertson.

“It was a great, hard-fought campaign,” LaPointe said. “Our city appears stronger (with) three NPA members on council. There are brighter days ahead for the NPA.”

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr topped the polls, butfellow candidates Pete Fry, a graphic designer, and Cleta Brown, a lawyer, failed to earn a spot.

“I think people are unhappy. That’s why you get more people out to vote,” said Carr of the large voter turnout Saturday and lack of Vision councillors atop the council polls. “I think they want to see public interest at their councillor’s top of mind.”

Robertson — who has been criticized for arrogance in pressing Vision’s green agenda and turning a deaf ear to opponents of neighbourhood densification — offered a stunning mea culpa to Vancouver citizens Wednesday in a humbling move that may have saved the election for Vision Vancouver.

Arguably, with a desire for change seen in pre-election polls in Vancouver, the NPA could have won what campaigners call the “air war” — messages in ads, and political discussions across the city. Both parties raised over $2 million in campaign donations. But Vision was widely seen as a having the bigger, better organized and more tech-savvy electoral machine on the ground, and apparently beat the NPA in the nitty-gritty work of cultivating voter lists and getting supporters to the polls Saturday.

Throughout the campaign Robertson and Vision colleagues argued that LaPointe was politically inexperienced, and an NPA-controlled city hall would roll back Vision’s progress on making Vancouver the “greenest city” by 2020. Robertson, helped by environmental activist and vote-organizing groups, also strongly advocated his opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. But in the end, the message that seemed to put Robertson over the top was that an experienced Vision council and a mayor now willing to listen to criticism was a safer choice than LaPointe and the NPA. The NPA promised change but lacked detailed plans of how to govern.

Robertson’s bid for re-election got off to a rough start in July, when rumours circulated about problems in his marriage. Over the past six years, at his best, he has come across as an earnest politician, rather than a high-energy one. But from the day in July when Robertson stood in front of reporters outside council chambers and rejected rumours about his personal life, it seemed that his energy for the job was at an all-time low.

However, with a late apology to voters and a rejigged positive campaign — TV ads had Robertson saying he would be “honoured” to be re-elected — the mayor regained enough of his stride to cross the line ahead of LaPointe

Leave a Comment November 17, 2014

What now for Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver?


The music that piped Gregor Robertson onto the stage for his victory speech on Saturday night after a securing his third term as Vancouver’s mayor said it all.

The mega-hit Happy by Pharrell Williams speaks to a boundless, simple joy despite the challenges ahead:

Here come bad news talking this and that
Yeah, give me all you got, don’t hold back
Yeah, well I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine
Yeah, no offence to you don’t waste your time

Make no mistake, there is certainly a lot Robertson and his Vision Vancouver team should be happy about.

They fought a good fight. They faced a virtually unknown challenger from political obscurity who gave them a run for their money.

They had an army that was organized, tight and focused — financed with millions of dollars from an unlikely coalition of supporters: big business, big unions, interest groups and thousands of individuals.

But this time around, it wasn’t a walk in the park.

As with any political party that’s held power for any length of time, Vision has made some enemies over the last six years.

Most notably, citizens who say there hasn’t been enough consultation as Vision pushes forward with its progressive agenda of tackling homelessness and climate change, and increasing density in neighbourhoods that used to be primarily single-family homes.

Leave a Comment November 17, 2014

Vancouver voters chose party with a ‘Vision’ for the future

Proud to have once again been the pollster and one of strategists for Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver’s third win as Mayor of Vancouver.   It was harder this time, and we needed a great campaign to do it. Below some articles about the campaign, and Vision:


On going into the Non-Partisan Association’s election night party at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver — and as parties go, I’ve had more people in my bathroom — I could not help but note that outside on the street, bordering either side of the hotel, were bike lanes.

Look out, reader, there’s a bad metaphor heading your way, and it would be:

The city’s new landscape was right there at curbside for the NPA and its supporters to read.

This, they either chose not to do, or if they did, they misread it completely. For this, they got to spend their election night staring into their drinks.

At the height of the NPA’s evening, which peaked as soon as the first polls came in, there might have been at most 200 to 300 people there. The crowd was largely white, mannerly and older. The mood was . . . what’s the opposite of electrifying? And that was before the results started to come in.

Down the street at the Wall Centre, Vision Vancouver was holding its election night party, and all one had to do was walk into that big ballroom to be struck by the difference between Vision and the NPA.

The room was packed. The crowd was remarkably diverse and mostly young. (Vision clearly held the lead in pork pie hats and skinny jeans.) Even before the first results came in, you could feel the energy in the room. It was an energy that felt positive, as if these people were for something rather than against it.

In a post-election interview that night, losing NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe made mention of Vision Vancouver’s campaign “machine,” and that Vision had done a better job of getting out its vote.

But that is missing the point, and deflecting what is the NPA’s biggest problem.

Vision does have a formidable campaign machine. But machines are only as good as the energy behind them.

More to the point was LaPointe’s concession speech, in which he characterized Mayor Gregor Robertson’s three-peat as “a signature accomplishment” and that his “commitment to his priorities (was) a real role model for how mayors should operate.”

Exactly. Robertson has been committed to his priorities. He may have alienated many voters over bike lanes and densification and his Green City agenda, but at least he had an agenda. He had a clear idea of what he wanted Vancouver to be, and that was to be not just a city but an expression of an idea. That idea was forward-looking, and meant to meet a future dominated by population growth and climate change. And that is why, I would suggest, that the crowd at the Vision party was so overwhelmingly young. They were the machine, because they had a big stake in the future, whereas the NPA looked mired in the past.

I had thought the race was going to be closer, and had even believed LaPointe had a good chance of squeaking in a win if COPE mayoral candidate Meena Wong could steal enough votes from Robertson to make a difference.

She didn’t. For all the press she received for her idea of a surtax on empty homes — an unworkable idea, by the way — Wong was clearly out of her depth. But by getting almost 17,000 votes, all she succeeded in doing was making LaPointe’s loss look respectably close. If she hadn’t run, and those COPE voters had drifted toward what for them would have been the more ideologically palatable Vision, there wouldn’t have been talk of it being a close result between Robertson and Lapointe but of it being an ol-fashioned ass-kicking. As it is, COPE was, and will be, a spent force relegated to the status of political irritant.

The NPA? Much was made that an unknown like LaPointe could do as well as he did.

But was anything made of the fact that the NPA had to resort to an unknown? LaPointe, whose last job in mainstream journalism was as CBC ombudsman, had nothing to lose except an election. Meanwhile, he raised his profile significantly.

The NPA will have to do better. If it is to grow, it will have to attract a younger base. It will have to start looking forward rather than back, and realize that the centre, which it once believed it represented, has shifted.

The city changed. The NPA didn’t. For that, it got kicked to the curb. Guess what it found there.

By Pete McMartin, Vancouver Sun columnist November 16, 2014

Leave a Comment November 17, 2014

Congratulations to Projet Montréal

We would like to congratulate Projet Montreal for their success in Sunday’s Montreal municipal election, and to their Campaign Director Raymond Guardia and CEO Patrick Cigana who ran a very strong, modern campaign. Continue reading.

Leave a Comment November 6, 2013

Congratulations to Don Iveson, new Mayor of Edmonton

Click here to read more about his victory.

Leave a Comment October 24, 2013

Shaena’s new book released

I am excited to let you know that Shaena’s new book, Oh, My Darling was released today. This is Shaena’s third book and is a collection of stories published as part of HarperCollins’ Patrick Crean editions. Please see the ad below for more info.  It is available in most bookstores and through

And if you can, please pass the ad along to your friends and networks (you can retweet me on twitter or share on facebook or Linkedin where I’ve posted it).  Shaena also posts on the craft of writing, and updates on her publications at and you can follow her there too.  Thanks, and happy reading!




Leave a Comment September 4, 2013

From Obama to Canada? 7 Lessons from the U.S. Presidential Election for Canadian Campaigns

By now, the dust has settled on much of the analysis of 2012 US election. Yet, with seven provincial and many municipal elections coming up over the next two years in Canada, much of what was learned in the last US election cycle could be put to use closer to home.  I followed the campaign and the various post-mortems, and I attended the International Association of Political Consultants (IAPC) meeting a few days after the US campaign, where I heard and spoke with Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina and pollster Joel Benenson.

 With this, here is my take on some key lessons that can be applied in a Canadian context. The US election left its mark on many of us and inspired us to want to try new things in the field of campaigning, but we need to be careful how we borrow the tactics and techniques used, as one election does not fit all.  Here a few things we could keep in mind:

1.  You’re Not Obama  After the 2008 presidential election, I saw more than one campaign try to replicate major elements of the Obama strategy, particularly in smaller and different types of campaigns, which made little sense in our Canadian context. These included an excessive  devotion of resources to online fundraising (this isn’t a bad thing, you just don’t want to over-rely on it) and strategies heavily dependent on large number of volunteers when there was no good reason to think the declining trend in volunteer participation was going to be reversed. Much of what Obama did was dependent on the scale of the campaign resources available and the national media profile that went with it. So, if you don’t have a billion dollars, daily national media coverage or throngs of volunteers banging down your door asking to join up, proceed with some caution.

 2.  Measure, Measure, Measure  Whether your campaign is large or small, you can measure what you’re doing and adapt accordingly. The Obama campaign had 100 people in their analytics department measuring everything. They worked independently from those leading the campaign areas, and measured voter contact, polling, fundraising, and other areas. Sometimes they used sophisticated analytical techniques, and sometimes very basic ones.  The point is that Jim Messina decided early on that measurement was going to be a cornerstone of the campaign, and it was certainly one of the reasons they won. The Obama campaign’s own polling was deadly accurate (cross checking multiple ways as they went along), as was their individual targeting. This allowed them to deploy their resources exactly where they were needed. 

 You don’t need to have an analytics department to recognize the basic principles. As they say in business, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” If you are in a campaign where the reports are vaguely qualitative along the lines of,  “This or that activity went pretty well”, instead of having a series of numbers in a spreadsheet or graph, you can start improving your campaign right there, even if your “analytics department” has only one person in it. Alternatively, make those with front line responsibilities give you hard numbers and comparisons regularly, and recommendations on what actions can be taken as a result.

 3.  The Ground Game is a Game Changer   Sure, the Obama and Romney campaign spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising, especially in the later stages of the campaign, however there was little evidence that it moved many votes.  At IAPC, Jim Messina said that in October the campaigns, they were spending 12,000 gross rating points (GRPs) per week on advertising, which is a huge amount, many times more than would be considered a saturation buy. In his opinion, these ads “made no difference”. However, where the campaign was won he said, and many agree, was on the ground.  Obama’s ability to reach key swing voters in swing states was vital to their victory. There remains a myth in politics that if you put up an ad you move votes. Sometimes you do, sometimes (even often) you don’t, but in many campaign scenarios there more votes to be won, or turned out, with direct voter contact efforts.

For Obama, some of the ground game was significantly “back to the future”, i.e., personal one-on-one contact. Personal contact is still the most effective way of talking to voters, but it’s expensive either with volunteer or paid resources. If going this route, you want to make sure you are talking to the right people, targeted most effectively. Often this can be done through micro-targeting, or other means of targeting, in order to minimize wasted resources by talking to the wrong people or not reaching people at all. 

 4. Mistakes Matter Most  While there was no discernible effect of ads moving numbers most of the time, big media stories did have an obvious effect, and those media stories almost always revolved around mistakes.  Romney’s poor convention performance, the leak of his 47% statement, his gaffs in Europe, his veering to the right in the primary process, and Obama’ poor first debate performance to mention some, all had a measurable effect on public support for the candidates, as seen through polling numbers.  It’s easy to say “don’t make mistakes”, and of course they do happen, which is why recovering well is important. This is something that many candidates (including Romney in this campaign) didn’t do well and an area most campaigns could improve on.  But It is important to spend the appropriate time reviewing potential pitfalls (hello, Christy Clark) in order to avoid them, because the unfortunate truth is that in politics, doing something wrong is many times more influential than doing something right. So weigh your resources accordingly.

 5. Social Media  One thing social media is great for is creating spin, including creating the spin on how effective social media is. We’ll have to await further analysis to find out what emerging technologies produced the most effect on outcomes.  A number of things are clear though, while social media continues to grow as an effective tool in political campaigns, it’s changing very rapidly, even within its own rapidly changing context. In the 2008 campaign, Obama sent out one tweet – for the whole campaign. In the most recent campaign, he sent as many as 28 per day, sometimes with a million actions taken by followers.  In the 2008 campaign, viral videos were everywhere, from “Obama Girl” to Will.I.Am’s   “Yes We Can” video.  In the 2012 campaign, almost no internet meme hit that same level of reach. That space either became more crowded, or less interesting. This rapid pace of change will only increase in social media as yesterday’s lessons, let alone last year’s, become out of date. You have to be on the trends, in real time in order to play effectively here.  

 6. Negative Doesn’t Always Work   There’s a myth about the universal success of negative campaigning, which I’ve written about before, but here is another example.  Both Romney and Obama ran negative ads. The Romney campaign found through research that significant aspects of their negative message were not working. They discovered that while voters might have been disappointed in aspects of the Obama agenda, they still liked him.  As such, character attacks on him were counterproductive.  What voters wanted to know about was who was this alternative choice to Obama, not just what was wrong with Obama. This is very common in such weakened incumbent versus challenger races, where the challenger makes it all about the incumbent’s record (and not them) and the incumbent tries to makes it all about the choice between the two.  However, even if the challenger successfully attacks the record of the incumbent (for example, the Wild Rose party in the recent Alberta election), ultimately voters still have to decide whether the alternative is acceptable in his or her own right. The fact is that Romney’s veer to the right with his nomination campaign, and his selection of an even more right-winger as his running mate, led to his lack of a credible, positive program that would motivate disappointed Obama voters to make the switch. This was one thing he clearly needed, much more than further piling on the Obama record.

 7.  Turnout Modeling   A key to polling in the presidential campaign, but also in many elections, is turnout modeling. Turnout modeling allows you to refine your polling predictions based on who you actually think will turn out to vote, rather than the population at large.  This is of growing importance as turnout out numbers decline. If only 50% of the voters in a given election are going to vote, you’ve got to know who that 50% is.  For whatever reason, this is not commonplace in Canadian politics. Canadian media pollsters seldom apply a turnout model, with some exceptions in Quebec, where “ballot box boosts” compared to polling numbers have been widely observed. Many pollsters use a very basic, likely-to-vote screen based on a voter’s declared intention of voting or not, which can be very misleading, given most people’s propensity to over-report turn out.  Much more sophisticated techniques are needed to really understand voter turnout. We’re never going to have an analytics team of 100 to determine that, but campaigns that dedicate resources to turnout modeling will be campaigns that do better.  Just ask Jim Messina. 


10 Comments March 13, 2013

Survey Says: BC Opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Expansion Proposal Growing, Not Just Enbridge’s Northern Gateway

Pipeline and tankers have become one of the most pressing issues in British Columbia (BC), according to recent polling that Stratcom conducted for the Living Oceans Society… See more

Leave a Comment November 7, 2012

Expect a Different Obama in Term Two

Well in the end Obama won easily, not that much the nail biter some predicted. Still while the Electoral College victory was decisive, the popular vote victory was small.  One question on many people’s mind including mine is: how could a guy like Mitt Romney come so close?

Not at all the type of person you would think most Americans would want to have running their country.  How could such an impressive figure as Barack Obama, with such a hopeful start to his presidency four years ago, do little more than limp across the finish line this time?

While much analysis will be done in the next days and weeks about the campaign strategies and tactics, the micro targeting, the ad campaigns and the massive spending. In the end they didn’t achieve all that  much, especially given their magnitude: the numbers really didn’t move that much.  The key question this time wasn’t who campaigned well, but whether Obama had governed well.   And obviously  many Americans, including so many who voted for him in 2008,  didn’t think so.

Yes he governed in challenging times, and inherited difficult circumstances.  But at one level it doesn’t matter the reasons why Obama was perceived by some to have done a poor job.  As the Obama campaign did, you could blame the congress, the economy or the wars he inherited. You can blame George Bush, or Wall Street.  But in politics “when you’re explaining you’re losing.”  To many voters your explanations are excuses.  If you’re an American who lost your job or lost your home, that’s what you are going to care about. If you live in a depressed city because your neighbours have lost their houses or jobs you are going to care about that , and you’re likely to think the guy at the top should have done more for you.

Tough times are tough for politicians, but still many of them succeed in them. They manage to get their agenda, or important parts of it, delivered, and they are understood by voters for what they could or couldn’t do under the circumstances. Obama did some of this, but not enough.  Almost always these successful politicians are perceived for standing up, win or lose, for some group a people, a constituency, region or a class.   Why didn’t this happen for Obama in a more significant way in his first term? 

Largely that’s no longer important.  What is important is term two.  And what is going to be important for the Democrats is not losing congress in 2014, or the presidency in 2016, both reasonable possibilities.   What’s also important for Obama is making his legacy the success of term two, not the popular vote split decision of term one.

So what will we see in the future?  I think we’ll see a more activist President, and a more combative President.   He will pick sides, more than he has done, and will put forward programs and solutions that he and his advisors think he can deliver on for the constituencies that the Democrats need to win coming elections.

 Close elections you win are a bit like firm but forgiving  parents: they make sure you’ve learned your lessons, but they also  give you another chance to do better.

Here’s hoping that Obama does.

1 Comment November 7, 2012

Stratcom announces expansion to the UK, partners with Pure Associates

Alliance Brings the Best of UK and North American
expertise to Charities and Non-profits

June 27, 2012

VANCOUVER — Strategic Communications Inc. (Stratcom), a leading provider of services to the non-profit sector, announced Tuesday it will be expanding to the UK by forming a strategic alliance with Pure Associates, a UK telephone fundraising agency. Stratcom and Pure will run programs from Pure’s Brighton call centre and Stratcom’s call centres in Toronto and Vancouver.

Stratcom will also establish a stand-alone London office to support its efforts with Pure and will sell and deliver additional services to UK and European clients such as polling, communications, advocacy and political campaign strategy, and engagement tools for campaigns and fundraising.

The two companies will offer an expanded suite of services to the clients of both firms including outbound fundraising, inbound call services, engagement tools such as Telephone Town Halls, new donor acquisition programs and micro-targeting. Stratcom and Pure will also work together on developing new products and technology for the benefit of their clients.

“We are fortunate to have found such excellent partners in Pure. Pure has a ten year track record of ethical and successful fundraising, top results, and an excellent management team,” said Stratcom CEO Bob Penner. “This international alliance will combine the knowledge and experience on two continents benefiting all of our clients, as well as expanding capacity, capabilities, and time zone coverage.”

Pure Managing Director Jon Eserin welcomes Stratcom as its new international partner: “We are excited to have a successful firm such as Stratcom join with us, and to build our services and effectiveness to the charitable sector. This partnership should be very beneficial. It will allow us to share expertise and to compliment each other’s core competencies. Both agencies’ clients will gain as a result of the synergies generated.”

Pure specializes in telephone fundraising. The organization provides a host of tailored development, acquisition and inbound telephone products on behalf of its clients. Pure offers fully integrated email, SMS, and data services to support its core telephone fundraising activities. The company works with over sixty clients including well known UK charities such as Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK, as well as major international organizations such as WWF, Save the Children and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Stratcom is an award-winning consulting firm that creates and implements innovative and integrated campaign and fundraising strategies for non-profit organizations. Stratcom’s client base covers a wide range of non-profit sectors, including health, environmental, international aid and development, advocacy, politics, and the arts. Their client list includes some of Canada’s most prominent charitable and non-profit organizations including the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, The Association of Fundraising Professionals, The David Suzuki Foundation and Oxfam. The organization also creates and implements campaigns, conducts opinion research and evaluations for clients such as Greenpeace International, the Pew Charitable Trust, the Canadian Labour Congress and political candidates.

For more information contact:

Corinne Berman
(416) 537-6100 x68
or 02033 180 558 x68

Pure Associates
Matt Goulson
01273 810047

2 Comments July 3, 2012

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