Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cullen Gets Social-Media Boost for Co-Operation among Opposition Parties: Cullen Gets Boost from Online Campaigns

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cullen Gets Social-Media Boost for Co-Operation among Opposition Parties: Cullen Gets Boost from Online Campaigns

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - Two online advocacy organizations are giving a potentially big boost to Nathan Cullen's underdog campaign to become federal NDP leader.

Avaaz and Leadnow.ca are promoting more co-operation among Canada's "progressive" political forces to defeat Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

And they're urging their members -- almost 700,000 strong -- to join federal opposition parties in a bid to influence their agendas, including their choice of leader.

Both have launched massive email campaigns over the last week, reminding their members that they must join the NDP by midnight Saturday to be eligible to vote for that party's next leader.

Since Cullen is the only one of seven NDP leadership hopefuls to fully embrace the idea of co-operation with rival parties, he stands to be the primary beneficiary of the online campaigns.

Cullen has proposed holding joint nomination meetings with Liberals and Greens in Tory-held ridings as the best way to ensure defeat of Harper's Conservatives in the next election.

The idea has been flatly rejected by rival candidates and greeted coolly by NDP rank and file. But the online groups represent an enormous potential pool of new support for Cullen.

Youth-led Leadnow.ca boasts a membership of 80,000 -- roughly the same as the NDP's membership at the start of the seven-month leadership campaign. Avaaz has more than 13 million members worldwide, 604,547 of them in Canada.

"These two groups coming on board is huge for us," Cullen, a British Columbia MP, said in an interview.

"They have networks that go far, far beyond normal party structures. ... The sheer number, that's absolutely staggering."

Before launching their campaigns, both groups polled their members and say they found overwhelming support (95 per cent) for the notion of co-operation among progressive political forces.

In less than a week, Leadnow.ca has amassed more than 13,000 signatures on an online petition that calls on parties to co-operate prior to the next election "to elect a government that better represents a majority of Canadians."

The petition, which includes links to join various opposition parties, also calls on parties to work together after the 2015 election to introduce electoral reform that would permanently ensure no party can win a majority with 40 per cent or less of the popular vote.

By mid-afternoon Friday, Leadnow.ca's Jamie Biggar said almost 5,000 had clicked on the link to join the NDP, about 1,500 had clicked to join the Liberals and another 1,500 to join the Greens.

Biggar said Leadnow.ca will not endorse any candidate in the NDP contest. Its objective is to show all contenders that there's an appetite for co-operation and to perhaps compel some of Cullen's rivals to come up with their own ideas on that score.

Leadnow.ca will issue a report card on each candidate before the March 23-24 leadership convention. …

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