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Jagmeet Singh for NDP Leader Campaign – Understanding the Ground Game

Published: Nov 15, 2017

Client Spotlight with James Wardlaw, Field Director for the Jagmeet Singh for NDP leader campaign

Jagmeet Singh, a former criminal defense lawyer, and Brampton MPP will lead the New Democratic Party into the next federal election. Despite his late entry into the race, Singh ran an extensive ground and digital operation, raising more money than his peers, to secure the NDP leadership.

Jagmeet Singh for NDP Leader Campaign hero image


We talked to James Wardlaw, field director for the Jagmeet Singh campaign, for an insider look into the race for NDP leadership. James talks to us about his role as field director, campaign strategies, and how the campaign ran nationwide phone banks using CallHub.


James Wardlaw started his organizing career with ACORN Canada, an independent national organization of low and moderate income families located in Canada. After a 7 year stint at ACORN, James worked for the federal NDP for a few years following it up most recently with two province-wide union organizing drives for part-time college workers. It was after he left the union that James started working as a Field Director for the Jagmeet Singh for NDP leader race.

The NDP Campaign

Field Strategy

The Singh campaign prioritized face-to-face contact and canvassing, utilizing supporter networks across the country to form personal connections with voters. The campaign used “captains”, volunteers who were responsible for signing up 20 to 30 members from their communities and making sure they cast their ballots. These personal connections, forged through face-to-face meetings and cemented over multiple phone calls, proved crucial to the high voter turnout among Singh supporters on election day.

Field Organizing

The first phase of the campaign involved getting as many people as they could, registered as NDP members. The process involved face to face contact and canvassing, having volunteers and supporters work within their networks across the country. Supporters were encouraged to go out into the community i.e their neighborhood associations and groups, and get people registered as NDP members. The volunteers would then follow up with people they had signed up over phone calls, email, and social media to make sure they cast their ballots. Digital tools like CallHub helped complement activities on the field to form this cohesive digital and on-the-ground strategy.

“The main thing, I would say, about our field program is that it had many layers. We had really well-organized events and we could use all those digital tools in concert with our events.”

Ring for Singh

While field operations were an effective voter outreach strategy, it wasn’t the most scalable option. In many cases, a supporter was new to a community and didn’t know that many people or everyone they knew was already a party supporter. The NDP campaign organized these supporters on CallHub to engage with voters over the phone. Volunteers would make calls to lapsed party members or recent volunteers, depending on which list the campaign assigned them.

While the campaign had only two offices near Toronto and Vancouver, CallHub along with a group of excited volunteers let it run distributed phone banks and engage with voters across Canada.

“For the membership calls, we took enthusiastic people and put them to work. And I guess that didn’t really change (throughout the campaign).”

The second phase of phone banking was for Voter identification for party members who the campaign had not signed up and who had not been engaged previously.

“After August 17th, the next phase of phoning was voter identification because there were a lot of people in the existing membership, people that we didn’t sign up, people we haven’t contacted.”

“Our contact rate was consistently above 20% which in my experience is great. Sometimes it was as high as 30% and I have often worked with phone banks that are getting 10 or 15%.”

Get Out The Vote

GOTV efforts were targeted at identified supporters and party members and getting them all to send in their ballots via direct mail or to vote online. The campaign had signed up more than 47,000 members, representing about 57% of all new members signed up in the duration of the campaign and 38 percent of the 124,000 members eligible to vote.

Campaign volunteers consistently reached out to supporters with CallHub and other outreach tools, encouraging them and providing guidance to cast their vote. For the majority of supporters, the campaign kept track of which volunteers had reached out to them previously and had the same volunteers re-engage those supporters. A practice, which helped create the personal connections that subsequently led to an impressive turnout. While overall turnout was 52.8 percent, turnout among some segments of Jagmeet’s supporters went as high as 70%.

“We didn’t want to have a random phoner calling those people because we knew we didn’t have to do that. The turnout from the list that we put on CallHub was excellent. We had it up to around 70%, way above our target.”

“Both for our supporters and party members, the turnout was generally around mid-fifties, maybe even lower for party membership generally. So we were very happy with the turnout that we were able to do with Call Hub.”

The Team

Behind the success of the campaign is a team of dedicated volunteers and staff who believed in Jagmeet’s cause and recognized the power of forging personal connections with voters.

We asked James what drew this level of engagement with volunteers…

“Jagmeet is an incredible leader, that’s part of it. And I think, me and everybody else in a leadership position in the campaign, highly values organizing work and the person to person contact that actually builds power for political and community organizations. Organizing work is often devalued and that was not at all the case with Jagmeet’s team. It was exciting and that’s where we wanted to be.”

At 38, Jagmeet Singh is the youngest leader in the NDP party’s history. He is also only the third person to win the NDP leadership in the first ballot, after Tommy Douglas, the party’s first leader, and Jack Layton. With a campaign that clearly resonated with New Democrats across Canada, Jagmeet Singh continues to defy expectations as he prepares for the race to become Prime Minister.

What to love about CallHub?

“Cost is one. We also really liked the user friendliness of CallHub on the agent side. We had consistent feedback from all kinds of volunteers of all ages and all abilities across the country that it was just really easy to use.” James Wardlaw

About CallHub

CallHub provides an affordable, scalable, and data-centric platform for campaigns, organizations, and groups to engage with voters. Our Phone Banking, Text Messaging, and Robocall services help with voter outreach, event planning, supporter mobilization, fundraising, organizing, and GOTV efforts. Till date, CallHub has connected campaigns across six continents with more than 30 million contacts.



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