Monday, April 04, 2011

Liberal platform launch

A few thoughts on the Liberal platform release yesterday that did a bit of history making with its live online launch. That's a notable innovation in and of itself that can be taken as an indication of openness, accessibility, use of new technology that would carry on into a Liberal government. I hope Canadians took that message from it, it was likely intended.

Following on that point, the basic execution of yesterday's launch has some political significance too. It was carried off professionally and without a hitch. We haven't always seen that on the Liberal side in recent years so I'm sure there were some nervous Nellies out there watching. Any worries weren't founded and it couldn't have gone better. It's a professional operation and the Conservatives no doubt took note. Why is the execution politically significant then? It speaks to the competence of a government in waiting. Are these people handling themselves professionally? Canadians are watching.

If this carries on over the life of the campaign, it will continue to make for a good contrast with the Harper Conservatives. Who handled themselves more professionally this past week? Who was setting the agenda with the daily policy announcements, winning the daily back and forth? It all adds up and while it's difficult to sustain over the life of a campaign and we want to see movement, that ongoing contrast of a well-run Liberal campaign going toe to toe with a massively well-funded Conservative operation will hopefully start to seep into the Canadian consciousness. Get them thinking about moving in a new direction, making a different choice (43% here say they might change their vote by election day). There are intangibles in the presentation over time that sink in and create an impression. Arguably that was one of the biggest takeaways from yesterday.

In terms of policy, the big announcements from last week, the Learning Passport, day care funding, the pension policy, the family care program, those are the big ones fronting the platform and the ones people will most likely be selling on the doorstep. The "go-tos" that aren't so hard to explain and that connect with people.

There was some interest in the democratic reform aspects of the platform yesterday, online. That's important stuff too and there's definitely an appetite for it in the online community and among opinion leaders. Whether there is a similar appetite out there during this election for in-depth proposals on electoral reform for example, not so easy to say. Not that it can't come in the future (because God knows we need a leviathan of reform in this country in terms of the way we govern ourselves) but what's on offer right now in terms of a People's Question Period, having a Prime Minister's answer session, testing online voting, etc. (see the platform for the rest), those will likely ring some bells. Bigger projects like electoral reform need to ripen in the electorate before you foist a program on people.

The platform launch also made for a nice contrast with the Harper approach yesterday. Again, like their income splitting proposal, we saw an unimaginative tax credit on a gym membership or other fitness program for the year 2015 or 2016 if that budget gets balanced. Just an expansion of an already existing idea and kind of a subdued photo op, really, in contrast to the Liberal presentation. The Conservatives with their future-based promises are banking on Canadians not putting two and two together on the present day Conservative spending priorities like the F-35s. The Conservatives also started prattling on in defence of corporate tax cuts by way of response, exactly as we knew they would. There'll be no shortage of coverage of the aggrieved corporate tax cut community. How the corporate tax cut argument will sell during the campaign, however, we have a few indications already.

Onwards to week two...