Results from the Summer 2016 Leadnow Community Survey

The Leadnow campaigning community brings people together across political lines for a strong democracy, fair economy and clean environment. Everything we do, from the issues we campaign on to the way we do our work, depends on the input, actions, and donations of the hundreds of thousands of people who make up our community.

It’s now nearly 9 months since 39% of the vote in the 2015 election gave Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal government a majority of the seats in Parliament – and with the government poised to make key decisions on major issues this fall, it’s time to check-in.

So, a few weeks ago, we invited the Leadnow community to participate in a major survey about our approach to campaigning in this new context.

This survey focused on the community’s top-ranked campaigns for this year – electoral reform, the TPP, and climate change. We also organize “rapid response” campaigns that bring people together around key moments when our actions can have the biggest impact – and these results will help guid that work as well.

Our small staff team will be using the input from the thousands of people who took part to directly inform our campaign priorities and approach for the rest of this year.

In this blog post we’ll go through the results of the Leadnow community survey, and add our thoughts on what the results mean for our work together going forward. We’re interested in your thoughts too, so please leave a comment, or email us at

How the Liberal government relates to my values

Which of the following statements most closely fits your feelings about the how this government relates to your values?


November 2015 June 2016
The Trudeau Liberals share my values. I trust them to do the right thing in most cases, and we should support them to take action on our priorities. 20% 15%
The Trudeau Liberals share some of my values. I expect they will do the right thing in some cases, and we’ll need to pressure them on other issues. 64% 62%
The Trudeau Liberals do not share my values, and I don’t trust them to do the right thing. We have to stand up to them like we opposed the Harper Conservatives. 4% 15%
I’m not sure. I’ll make up my mind based on the actions they take in the coming months. 13% 8%

We asked this first question about values in our community survey last November, and again now that the Liberal government has been in power for 9 months.

A majority of the Leadnow community currently feels that the Trudeau Liberal government shares some of their values, and will do the right thing in some cases, but that we’ll need to work together to raise the bar in other cases (62%). Since November, the number of people who feel this way has remained about the same.

What is most interesting here is the shift since November: We’ve see a dip from 20% to 15% who believe that the Liberal government fully “shares my values” and are to be trusted to do the right thing.

Similarly, the number of Leadnow community members who outright believe the Liberals do not share their values at all has jumped from 4% up to 15%.

We know that Leadnow’s community members pay closer attention to issues and politics than the public as a whole, and we are seeing that for some within our campaigning community, the “honeymoon” appears to have worn off somewhat.

On the whole we’re now seeing a balance across the Leadnow community – roughly equal numbers believe this government does or does not share their values, with the majority somewhere in the middle.

Leadnow’s Approach to Campaigning since the election

After the election, we surveyed the Leadnow community to help decide our approach to campaigning with a new federal government in place. The majority of Leadnow’s members said that our approach should depend on what the government is doing:

  • We should support the government when they’re moving in the right direction. For example, we supported raising taxes on the wealthy, and restoring the Long Form Census.
  • We should work together to push for improvements when there’s room for them to do better. For example, we’re campaigning to improve the government’s plans on climate change and voting reform.
  • We should help people to speak out and oppose them when it looks like they’re taking things in the wrong direction. For example, we’re campaigning against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Which of the following statements most closely fits your feelings about how Leadnow has approached campaigning in the context of this new Liberal majority government?


Leadnow has got the mix about right. We’ve successfully supported the Liberals when they’ve done the right thing, we’ve pushed them to do better on some issues, and we’ve opposed them where necessary 75%
Leadnow has been too oppositional. We need to support the Liberals more 4%
Leadnow has been too supportive. We need to oppose the Liberals more 12%
I’m not sure 9%

Overall, the majority of the Leadnow community think we’ve got the mix between supporting the government and pushing them to do better / opposing where necessary about right. We see that very few people think we’ve been too oppositional (4%), while a larger portion (12%) think there is more room to push the government harder on the issues.

We’re glad to see most of our community thinks we’re more or less on the right track. Moving forwards, we’re seeing a degree of shift within the Leadnow community toward pushing the Liberal government a little harder on the issues, and we will be considering that in our planning as we continue to look for opportunities to help people to speak out.

Leadnow’s Priority Campaigns

After the election, we asked the Leadnow community to help choose our focus for campaigning together in 2016, in each of our priority areas: clean environment, fair economy, and strong democracy.

In each of our main campaign areas, we asked whether our current approach is still one that Leadnow community members agree with.

Climate & Clean Energy

“Support and shift on climate. Stop on pipelines.”

The government is working on a national plan on climate change. At Leadnow, we’re working to support a strong climate plan, while pushing for bold targets including 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050.

At the same time, the government has also said they want to build at least one new tar sands export pipeline. Leadnow is campaigning to stop new pipelines, and other projects that would make it impossible for Canada to meet our climate goals.

Electoral Reform

“Support the government’s commitment to implement a new voting system. Push for a strong, fair, proportional outcome to make every vote count.”

The government pledged to make 2015 the last election held under “first past the post”. Leadnow’s Vote Better campaign is working to support that commitment. At the same time, we are pushing for a fair, proportional voting system — one that ensures that all of our votes count, accounts for Canada’s unique geographic and regional differences, and maintains local representation.

Stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

The government has said they are a very “pro free-trade” party, but have expressed concerns with the TPP, and promised to consult Canadians before deciding whether or not they will ratify it. The Leadnow community voted very clearly to campaign to stop trade deals like the TPP, that would allow multinational corporations to sue Canadian governments in secret courts. Our approach here is to campaign to stop the government from passing this dangerous deal.

Building a Fair Economy

“Support increased taxes for the rich. Push to stop tax evasion. Push to secure living wages and a universal basic income to end poverty.”

The government promised to increase taxes on wealthy Canadians earning over $200,000, and the Leadnow community voted to support that policy. We’ve also been pushing for stronger action to stop tax evasion. The Leadnow community identified action on living wages and in support of a universal basic income to end poverty as priorities, and we’re looking for opportunities to build campaigns in these areas.


I think this is the about the right approach I disagree with this approach I’m not sure
Climate & Clean Energy 77% 12% 11%
Electoral Reform 86% 6% 8%
Stopping the TPP 89% 4% 7%
Building a Fair Economy & Stopping Tax Evasion 87% 6% 7%

In general, the majority of the Leadnow community felt that our approaches to campaigning on Leadnow’s priority areas are about right. That said, we’ve noted the areas where people disagree, and as an organization driven by you – the community – we deeply value feedback, especially when people think we may not be getting things quite right.

We see that the uncertainty and disagreement with our approach on climate change and clean energy was greater than in the other campaign areas. Leadnow’s staff team working on climate and clean energy is reading through the individual responses from those who told us they disagree with our approach to understand why, and develop a plan to address those concerns in the campaign.

Overall, we’re happy to see the broad agreement with our approaches to campaigning on these important issues, and we’ll be working to have an even bigger impact through the second half of 2016.

Next Steps: Climate Change & Clean Energy


In line with this feedback, the immediate next steps for the climate campaign will focus on stopping those pipelines and oil tanker plans – especially the Kinder Morgan pipeline where the government has launched new consultations and plans to make a decision within a few months. We’ll also be working to raise awareness of the contradiction in the government’s stated plan to meet evidence-based climate targets while building new oil pipelines.

Your Leadnow community has already had a strong presence at the government’s national climate plan consultations, with hundreds of people turning out to pack town hall meetings across the country. We’ll ramp that work up in the fall as the government moves closer to proposing a comprehensive climate plan.

Next Steps: Electoral Reform


We see that you want us to focus more on education. We’ve just launched a new website at with educational resources, and we’ll work to develop more. We’ll also encourage people to attend consultations to call for proportional representation.

Next Steps: Stopping the TPP




We see that you want opportunities to be part of online actions and you want us to focus on engaging MPs before any parliamentary vote. We’ll look to ramp up that work over the coming months, while pushing for a strong mobilization to the government’s final TPP consultations.

We also see strong support for a campaign to stop CETA. We’ll look for opportunities to campaign to stop CETA, and in the meantime we’ll talk more about the problems that both of these lopsided and outdated agreements share.

Next Steps: Building a Fair Economy & Stopping Tax Evasion



We see overwhelming support for both of these ideas. We’ll look for key moments to push for both!

Final Thoughts

A huge thank you to the thousands of people from the Leadnow community who took the time to respond to this summer survey.

Last fall thousands of you responded to our survey shortly after the 2015 election to call for a “support and push” approach to the Liberal government, and to pick electoral reform, climate action and the TPP as the top priorities for Leadnow community campaigns in 2016.

Now that we’ve launched those campaigns and we’re over half-way through this government’s crucial first year we needed to check-in with you to see if we’re taking the right approach, and if you want any changes.

We’re seeing broad agreement that we’re on the right track – with more people agreeing that we should push the Liberals for greater progress on these priorities than suggesting we should push less. We’ll take that feedback, and the specific feedback on each of these campaign areas as we refresh the campaign plans for a busy fall – and continue to organize “rapid response” campaigns in moments when the community can have a big impact by working together.

The Leadnow community is member-driven and independent of any political party. That gives us all an important role to play in this new political context – holding the government accountable to follow through on their positive promises, pushing them to do better where they can go further, and standing up when their actions would hurt progress on the Leadnow community’s pillars – a strong democracy, fair economy and clean environment for all generations.

Thanks again. Our small staff team relies on your feedback to ensure that we’re organizing campaigns that bring us together for lasting change. The government is going to be making key decisions on all the priority areas this fall – and we’re excited to see what we can accomplish together. 

None of Leadnow’s work would be possible without the support of our amazing community, and especially our generous donors. If you can, please chip in a few dollars to help power our work through 2016. Many hands make light work. Click here to donate today.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

Note: Please see the bottom of this page for an important update.

As many of you may be aware, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect on July 1, 2014. Your email inbox has probably already been flooded with a number of requests from various organizations and businesses seeking express consent to continue receiving their email communications. The potential fines under CASL are hefty: up to 1 million dollars per CASL violation for an individual and up to 10 million dollars per violation for a company or organization. Is everyone paying attention now?

Leadnow is committed to complying with this new legislation and we would like to share our plan with you. However, as you might expect from Canada’s leading online advocacy organization, we also have our own opinions about this new law and we feel that it is just as important to share our thoughts about CASL. To check out the legislation, please see:

Why does Canada have CASL? Who does it apply to?

Canada is the last of the G8 countries to introduce anti-spam legislation. Who likes spam anyway? No one that we know of! (Well, except these vikings.) Spam can fill up your inbox rather quickly and become time-consuming as you sort through legitimate email and delete frivolous and sometimes even harmful spam. We know: unlike many organizations, at Leadnow if you reply to an email we send out, it goes to a real inbox, and a real person reads it. We respond to hundreds of important emails that you send us each week, while also filtering out a lot of spam messages.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation is supposed to be part of the answer to the spam problem. And yet, despite possible best intentions, we believe that this legislation is fraught with ambiguity and uncertainty, especially for non-profits like us that do not have charitable status. Let us explain why.

CASL is supposed to target business and organizations that send commercial electronic messages or CEMs (please see the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)’s FAQ for a definition of CEMs). On first glance, it would appear that messages sent by most non-profits would not be considered commercial electronic messages, however only non-profits with charitable status are explicitly mentioned in the legislation as being exempt from most of the requirements of CASL. The rest of us have been scrambling to receive legal advice on whether our email communications might be considered commercial electronic messages – and so far it seems that this advice varies from lawyer to lawyer. Also notably, the new legislation exempts political parties from the definition of commercial electronic messages. Hmmmm, does anyone else find this to be problematic?

The Ontario Nonprofit Network made a submission to Industry Canada in February 2013, asking for Industry Canada to take into account special considerations for charities and non-profits. At that time, charities were also going to have to come into compliance with CASL. Specifically, they asked that:

The Ontario Nonprofit Network submits that Industry Canada should exempt from the
consent and content requirements, electronic communications sent by, or on behalf of,
registered charities and registered nonprofit organizations.

The 13-page submission (pdf) outlined some of the challenges that small to mid-size nonprofits will face in becoming CASL compliant, and some of the definitional issues within the CASL legislation, as well as the important distinction that nonprofits are not commercial in nature but community focused. Sadly, the only exemption that was applied after this submission was for registered charities.

I’ve heard CASL has a bunch of complicated compliance timelines. How do they work?

To further complicate matters under the new legislation there are a number of different timelines that relate to consent. In order to receive CEMs, everyone needs to give express consent by July 1, 2017. People who have been receiving communications from an organization before July 1, 2014 may be assumed to have given implied consent which will expire in July, 2017 so organizations will need to obtain express consent before then. After July 1, 2014 all new supporters/contacts of an organization will need to give express consent. Or, if for example someone made an inquiry about your organization after July 1, 2014 then you have six-months to obtain express consent. OR if a new contact has given what you think is implied consent after July 1, 2014 then you have two years to obtain express consent. If the different definitions of consent and associated timelines are confusing to you, imagine how confusing they might be to manage with different email lists in one database!

It’s worth noting that the majority of the organizations who stopped asked for new consent and then stopped emailing the rest of their existing lists after July 1st, 2014, did not need to take such drastic action, even if they do in fact send CEMs. They could have continued to rely on this implied consent for their existing lists for 3 more years. Essentially, many non-profits burned their lists to the ground and decided to start from scratch, a tragic weakening of Canada’s non-profits’ ability to engage Canadians in their vital work.

What’s doing about CASL?

Thankfully for, we have more high-tech capacity than many non-profits to manage our databases and lists due to the support of people like you who believe in the political advocacy work we do promoting a stronger democracy, climate justice and a fair economy. Thanks to you, and especially to our monthly donors who provide our core funding, we can continue our work and be in compliance with the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation. It is important to note that our email communications will likely not be considered commercial electronic messages, since we’re not selling or promoting products with our emails, but rather are asking people to engage in issue-based campaigns and/or donate to support our work as a registered non-profit. CASL only applies to CEMs, so if you’re not sending CEM’s, you don’t need to worry about it.

Our lawyers have informed us that it is extremely likely that e-mails asking for people to sign a political petition will not be caught by the definition of “commercial electronic message” and will therefore be exempt from the prohibitions contained in CASL. Political petitions are not “commercial activities,” they are political activities, and as such, sending a message asking someone to participate is not a message “soliciting participation in a commercial activity.”

However, while we believe we’re right, [and the update below reinforces this belief] we won’t know for sure 100% what is and isn’t a CEM until the new laws are tested in court. We need to be careful not to risk hefty fines at such a critical time both in terms of our limited resources as a non-profit, but more importantly, in terms of the democratic advocacy work we are currently focused on as the 2015 federal election moves closer.

(It’s also worth noting that CASL is complaint-based, and we expect that highly effective independent campaigning organizations like Leadnow are more likely to be targeted by a government that has already shown itself willing to bully and harass charities in order to suppress legitimate dissent and advocacy that is entirely legal and permitted under Canada’s charitable laws.)

At Leadnow, we feel that the new legislation is an undue and unreasonable burden on non-profits who are primarily focused on community building, not on commerce. While this might be a fight we would like to take on politically, we feel that the best path here is to continue our advocacy work for a better Canada on the many important and diverse issues we’re already working on, and to come into compliance under CASL, based on the cautious approach that Leadnow’s advocacy emails might be found to be CEMs if challenged in court. [Please see the update below, which has relaxed our position on this somewhat.]

We are confident that we do have implied consent from our supporters and contacts prior to July 1, 2014 and we will be asking for your express consent before July 1, 2017. We will be actively seeking express consent from new supporters after July 1, 2014. At all times, you can unsubscribe from’s email communications. We will always have an unsubscribe link in all of our email communications, and we will never send spam, sell your email address, or share any of your information without your permission.

Thank you for reading about our perspective on CASL, and thanks so much for your support for our young, effective online advocacy organization! We appreciate all that you do to make our country a better place. Please keep this in mind for all the other small non-profits who are striving to build stronger communities and give them your express consent to follow up with you when they ask. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

Important Update On CASL and Not-for-Profits

Great news everyone! The Government of Canada has updated their website on June 30th to include this important update for not-for-profits and CASL:

“CASL does not apply to non-commercial activity. Insofar as not-for-profit organizations do not engage in commercial activity, CASL won’t apply. This means that messages sent by not-for-profit organizations that strictly seek a donation, ask for volunteers or invite neighbours to a free community event are not covered under the scope of the Act.

CASL will apply to not-for-profit organizations sending commercial electronic messages, which are essentially messages that advertise, market or promote a product, good or service or messages that solicit participation in a commercial activity.”

We wish that had been posted earlier, as thousands of dollars and likely weeks of work could have been saved by Canada’s non-profit sector seeking legal advice and adjusting their systems. Better late than never. remains committed to assuming compliance with this new legislation; however, in light of this new information, we are even more confident that our electronic communications are not considered commercial electronic messages (CEM) according to the FAQ from the Government of Canada website, and therefore are exempt from Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation. You can read the full FAQ here.

The CRTC has also updated their FAQ page with examples of what is considered a CEM and what is not.

Leadnow has also obtained a legal memorandum prepared with the specifics of our organization that clearly outlines that our e-communications should not be considered CEMs by the CRTC. We will ensure that any potential future CEMs will only be sent within compliance of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation.

The main difference this update has made for us is to slightly relax our approach. Our plan remains to still obtain express consent to send CEM’s from Leadnow supporters gradually, over time, since there is still uncertainty about exactly what might be found to be a CEM if tested in court. We still want to be cautious, and we believe that certain types of fundraising emails, or a campaign with a commercial element where – for example – if we were to organize consumers to shift to a more environmentally responsible electricity supplier to help increase demand for clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, might be found to be CEMs.

While this update hasn’t changed our approach much, it is a massively important clarification for small non profits and community groups that lack our technical infrastructure to carefully manage different forms of consent over different timelines. Most of those groups who emailed you saying you’d never hear from them again after July 1st may well have unnecessarily diminished their ability to organize and campaign. They can – in fact – keep emailing their supporters, even those who didn’t respond, as long as they’re careful to read the clarification, and not send anything that could be considered a CEM. They may well still not know this. Please spread the word.

Please note: This blog post is provided for information only, since many people have been asking us about CASL, and we felt it would be a useful public service to share our approach and what we have learned. While we have received advice from lawyers that has helped to inform our opinions, the authors of this blog post are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. If in doubt, especially given the massive potential fines under CASL, please consult your own lawyer.