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Friends of Public Services: a look back at 2015

Friends of Public Services has had quite start since our founding in August 2015.

Screen_Shot_2016-01-05_at_6.59.33_PM.pngWe set out, in July 2015, to help in a small but strategic and high-leverage way to get the Conservatives out of power while making the case that public services aren't just a way to increase quality of life, but an essential part of the economy.

The first part was simple: lots of people who voted Conservative in 2011 were losing their postal service, but many of them didn't know that the Conservatives were behind the cuts. We identified 17 ridings where people were affected by the cuts, and where Conservatives were vulnerable.

The second part came through in our brochure, "Conservative cuts or door to door?". The primary goal of the brochure was to connect the Conservatives to the cuts, but we also took the opportunity to educate share analysis about the austerity agenda and privatization, using simple text and straightforward infographics. For example:

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With some help from our friends, we printed 105,000 copies (85,000 in English, 20,000 in French). Working with postal workers and community activists across the country, we distributed all of em, mostly in ridings where Conservative candidates were vulnerable and people had recently lost their door-to-door delivery.

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Photo: Niagara Falls Review

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Photo courtesy of Ruth Otterman

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Photo courtesy of Ruth Otterman

We also conducted an online campaign, targeting the same ridings. In seven ridings, we also singled out incumbent Conservatives candidates who had voted against an NDP motion to declare Canada Post as an valuable public service. Some examples of our meme-style attack ads:

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At the last minute, we created a flyer that spoke to rural voters about cuts to Canada Post in their areas. In the Conservative-held Essex, postal workers distributed 20,000 copies in the rural areas of the riding a few days before the election.

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We also put together a campaign (two weeks before the election) to put pressure on Justin Trudeau in his home riding of Papineau, where early polls showed him vulnerable to an NDP upset. We put up hundreds of posters and handed out thousands of flyers asking people to vote no to privatization.

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We also delivered targeted ads to areas where the Conservatives were not in the running (i.e. NDP-Liberal contests) asking people to oppose Justin Trudeau's openly-held privatization agenda.

Results?

It is of course, very difficult to say what changed votes or what changed policy... but here's what happened:

Canada Post Results:

The Liberals were successfully pressured to fulfill their campaign promise to stop the cuts to door-to-door delivery. Of the 5.1 million points of call Canada Post had planned to eliminate, 4.2 million remain. Between 4,000 and 6,000 jobs were saved. It's a major victory by any measure, but a partial one. Works remains to reverse the cuts, and build a postal service for the 21st century.

Privatization Results:

A month after the election, the Liberals removed a requirement that provinces and cities receiving infrastructure spending look into Public Private Partnership options. There is still a danger for billions in infrastructure dollars to end up padding profit margins instead of providing useful services, but it's a small step in the right direction.

By the numbers:

In 12 of the 17 ridings we targeted overall, the Conservatives lost.

5 of the 7 Conservative incumbents we held to account for voting against door to door delivery lost their seats.

In Essex, where the CUPW local distributed 20,000 copies of our rural leaflet three days before the election, NDP candidate Tracey Ramsey won over 11-year incumbent Conservative Jeff Watson by a margin of 3,470 votes, bucking the trend of Liberal victories. A local CBC report named the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Postal Service as key issues in the riding.

Our online ads reached approximately 400,000 people total (including paid targeted delivery and "organic" shares).

In conclusion:

We feel that we've had a very successful year. Hundreds of thousands more people have heard a strong voice advocating for public services, and significant by partial, short-term victories give us a lot to build on in 2016. A huge thanks to all those who volunteered, donated and helped to spread the word.

We're looking forward to what we can build in the year to come.

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