In a bid to match successful tactics used in the past two election campaigns by Stephen Harper's Conservatives, the federal Liberals are importing highly sophisticated voter database software used by Barack Obama's political strategists.
To make maximum use of the technology, the party is also taking steps to centralize administration, fundraising and election preparation. This would effectively end the party's status as a loosely federated body of provincial and territorial associations.
Once that happens, the party can move ahead with plans to build a central database using a so-called software “skin” called VAN – for Voter Activation Network – developed by a Massachusetts company and used with great success by the Obama campaign for the U.S. presidency.
The finished system will cost anywhere between $250,000 and $1-million.
Steven MacKinnon, the party's former national director who is co-chair of the committee on party renewal, said yesterday that once the system is in place, the Liberals will be able to close the gap quickly with the Conservatives.
Toronto lawyer Alfred Apps, the party president-designate, concurred. “I can tell you, we're going to be a hell of a lot more competitive [in the next election] than we have been in the last three elections,” he said.
The system will enable the federal party to match the voters list with everyone who in the past has volunteered for the party, put up a lawn sign, canvassed, made a donation or identified themselves to the party in any other way.
Mr. Ignatieff has instructed every member of his caucus to put the system in place.
One of the more perplexing dynamics of this party, watching the slow pace in adapting to the new realities, especially when the Liberals made the rules. For the first time, you really get a genuine sense that something meaningful is afoot. In base terms, it looks like we're finally getting our shit together.