This post has been updated. Again.
With less than a week to go before election day, the Conservatives are releasing their party platform -
it was to be released following leader Stephen Harper's speech to the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club in Toronto - but so far, no sign of it, and now the Conservative.ca website seems to be experiencing some trouble, so watch this space. - called The True North Strong and Free - is now available here in PDF form - but caution that the site is still having trouble.
As the prime minister has alluded to recently, the platform does not represent a major departure from the "modest" announcements of the past few weeks. But there are some new items: more money for technology and innovation funds that will help hard-hit manufacturers, and a decision to drop controversial changes to the television and film tax credits that had brought accusations of censorship from filmmakers.
The Liberals released their full election platform Sept. 22. The previously announced Green Shift is still there, along with details on the party's other major campaign announcements: increased infrastructure spending; plans to increase day care funding to the provinces; extending coverage for drugs for catostrophic illness; changes to funding for post-secondary students; and increased funding for arts and women's groups. The platform, titled Richer, Fairer, Greener, costs out the Liberal promises within a balanced budget. The full 72-page platform document is here - though demand must be high (among media?) because the Liberals' site has slowed significantly.
The NDP released their platform Sept. 28, a Sunday, and received a good amount of Monday-morning press for the platform's previously-unannounced promise of a new child benefit for low-income families - up to $400 a month per child for children under 18. The 46-page platform document - which by the cover could be called the "Orange Book" - vows to return the corporate tax rate to 22.12% (the level before the Martin government) and recover unpaid corporate taxes in order to increase social spending while maintaining a balanced buget.
The platform touches on many of the issues that have played out in headlines leading up to the election: food safety, regulation of the banking and finance sector, consumer protection and the doctor shortage, as well as the NDP's core values: affordable housing, supports for workers and income supports. The party includes "explanatory tables" to support its math.
The Greens released their "Looking Forward" platform online Sept. 17. The platform, which goes well beyond the party's environmental image, includes a promise to raise the GST by one cent and pass that money on to cities; a plan for investment in "green" industries; plus policy on health care and measures to address poverty. The Greens' platform launch included a separate website called www.votefortomorrow.ca that lays out the highlights of the platform, and the full 160-page platform document as a PDF. The party has also released a budget plan (both a snapshot PDF version and a longer, detailed document). The Green budget promises a balanced budget but no reduction in the federal debt over the next four years.
The Liberals have rolled out a new Internet campaign that attempts to yolk Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the unpopular image of outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush on two familiar fronts: the economy and foreign policy.
The campaign isn't subtle: with a logo that combines the two leaders' names like a U.S. presidential campaign ticket, bushharper.com is backed by an ad campaign running on online news sites. The site itself is thin, offering nothing more than two Internet videos of TV-ready ads and a satirical welcome message from a cackling Bush sound-alike.
After enduring months of attack ads aimed at their own leader, the Liberals are hitting back by tapping the well-worn narrative that Harper is too close to Bush. Anti-Bush has played well for the Liberals in the past.
The micro-blogging site has really come to the forefront as an opinion-sharing/commenting tool for live events like the TV debates, and users are finding innovative ways to take the site beyond simple text messaging:
- Elect-o-opinion is a site by two Montrealers that trolls Twitter for messages by and about the five main Canadian parties.
And for the record, here's a morning-after look back at how the big three parties used their own Twitter feeds last night. No real debate on who gets it:
The Conservatives @ twitter.com/PMHarper
English language debate starting in 15 mins!
The Liberals @ twitter.com/liberaltour
Great debate! Dion the clear winner, Harper looking deflated – again about 13 hours ago from TwitterBerry
Debate underway – Dion will remind Canadians Liberals are only Party with a plan for the economy about 14 hours ago from TwitterBerry
Leader just arrived at the NAC. HUGE crowd of Liberals cheering him on. “Dion, Dion, Dion!” about 15 hours ago from TwitterBerry
The NDP @ twitter.com/jacklayton
The only leader who can defeat Stephen Harper - http://www.ndp.ca/page/7159 about 12 hours ago from web
Duceppe wrong on NDP Afghan vote - http://www.ndp.ca/page/7156 about 13 hours ago from web
Dreadful state of living conditions in Aboriginal communities: http://www.ndp.ca/page/7153 about 13 hours ago from web
Dion's Dubious Commitment to the Kelowna Accord: http://www.ndp.ca/page/7149 #ormistondebate about 13 hours ago from web
The facts on gun crime in Toronto-Danforth http://www.ndp.ca/page/7148 #ormistondebate about 13 hours ago from web
Dion, Layton, Harper debate fiscal effects of their platforms. Here’s the effects of the three plans: http://www.ndp.ca/page/7145 about 13 hours ago from web
Harper claims his party was “committed to our public health system” the facts: http://www.ndp.ca/page/7142 #ormistondebate about 14 hours ago from web
FACT CHECK: Dion wrong on NDP tax rates plan - http://www.ndp.ca/page/7137 #ormistondebate about 14 hours ago from web
FACT CHECK: Bloc not the only party with a Buy Canada policy - http://www.ndp.ca/page/7136 #ormistondebate about 14 hours ago from web
FACT CHECK: Harper says he is making important investments in science and technology in Canada http://www.ndp.ca/page/7135 #ormistondebate about 14 hours ago from web
UPDATED: Liberal Martha Hall Findlay, a former leadership contender, is trying her hand at Twitter. twitter.com/MHallFindlay
Liberal blogger Jerad Gallinger (j-rad.ca) digs up another 2003 speech by then-Opposition Leader Stephen Harper that allegedly borrowed lines from another right-wing political leader. Only this time, the right-wing leader was former Ontario premier Mike Harris, and the borrowed lines constitute less than a paragraph.
The Harper speech was a response to the federal budget, hardly a hot-button issue such as supporting the war in Iraq.
The Dominion Insitute's Democracy Project is trying to encourage young people to take an interest in the election campaign through an initiative called Youth Text 2008. It's a simple plan: connect young people to the political parties via text messaging.
Youth Text 2008 provides SMS short-codes for the four main national parties (all registered parties were invited, the insitute says), so young people can send questions directly to the parties from their cellphones - and get an answer within 24 hours. Texting the word "party" signs the user up to receive regular information and alerts from the party and the opportunity to take part in electronic polls.
The codes are:
Conservatives 898272 (TXTCPC)
Greens 898476 (TXTGRN)
Liberals 898542 (TXTLIB)
NDP 898637 (TXTNDP)
(The service is free, but standard text message charges would apply - check your cellphone plan.)
The Dominion Institute is a charitable organization founded in 1997 to promote civic participation and knowledge of Canadian history through such initiatives as the Memory Project, which preserves the stories of Canada's war veterans.
But for all the institute's work in attracting the attention of young people, it released a sobering survey today showing that fewer eligible young people intend to vote in this election than in 2006, when only 44 per cent of
peoplevoters under age 24 actually cast a vote.
MORE (WE MISSED IT THE FIRST TIME): The parties' attempts to reach voters through new media conduits is failing, according to another Dominion Institute survey that Political Decoder Linda Diebel wrote about last week. Just 9 per cent of respondents said the parties had reached out to voters through social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter, according to the survey. Certainly most of the parties, with the exception of the Conservatives, were slow off the mark in adopting the new media approaches in this election - but that has changed over the course of the campaign. Maybe this is the campaign that gets the parties over the hump - strange as it may be to have to say that in 2008.
The micro-blogging site Twitter is filtering its users' messages to collect ones about the U.S. election candidates - creating a real-time feed of what Americans are saying (on Twitter) about the election. Check it out
Campaign 2.0 will check with Twitter to see if such a feed is planned for the Canadian election.
UPDATE: No answer from Twitter PR. I'll "nudge" them.
An online "Anyone but Harper" movement is underway on Facebook groups, left-leaning blogs and websites such as, wait for it, anyonebutharper.ca. In addition to creating and hosting satirical videos attacking Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, this site is attempting to coordinate strategic voting to defeat Conservative candidates - and has a widget on its site that tells you which party has the best chance to do that for a given postal code, based on the results of the previous election.
Further to the previous post, the NDP is not the only party going beyond their main brands (conservative.ca, liberal.ca, ndp.ca and greenparty.ca) to create websites with separate domain names (web addresses) and specific goals.
In some cases, the separation from the main party sites gives some leeway to be a bit more, uh, creative in attacking one's rivals, and also to put forward different image in a key area. Here's a look at the other sites (so far):
www.notaleader.ca - The satirical site poking fun at Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, which at one time offered tools to allow users to make their own satirical "ads."
www.thegreenshift.ca - The site that launched the party's environmental plan and a short spat with an environmental consultancy of the same name, since resovled.
www.scandalpedia.ca - The Libs' own satirical poke at the Conservatives.
www.thisisdion.ca - An image makeover for their leader.
UPDATE: www.bushharper.ca and www.bushharper.com - Liberals' attack ad site comparing Stephen Harper to George W. Bush on the economy and foreign policy. A late addition, probably won't be around for long...
www.votefortomorrow.ca - The party's
recently released platform.
With two former candidates already done in by Internet posts and another under fire for comments posted earlier this year on Facebook, it might appear that the online campaign has been a disaster for the NDP. They've certainly been bitten by the "publish and perish" bug that thrives thanks to the low barrier to entry of the Internet, where everyone is free to say whatever they want and often do.
But from a party organizational point of view, the NDP's use of online tools and strategy has been very good, to this observer.
Leader Jack Layton early on in the campaign compared himself with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as an agent of change. Whatever one thinks of that comparison, the party has certainly taken a few pages from the Obama campaign's successful Internet strategy:
- Vistors to the party's main website (ndp.ca) are met with a fullscreen invitation to donate to the party, before clicking through to the main site. Obama set a new standard by raising millions from small contributors over the Internet during the U.S. primaries and used a similar splash page.
- Layton, like all the major parties' leaders, has a Facebook page - but unlike Prime Minister Stephen Harper, he didn't cut out comments on his site. That decision came back to haunt him briefly during the controversy over the Greens' exclusion from the TV debates, but made him look democratic and flexible when he responded to this negative reaction from his own "supporters" and dropped his opposition to Elizabeth May's participation.
- The NDP was quick to follow the Conservatives in using "micro-blogging" site Twitter to send out campaign updates - but the NDP has garnered more followers than the other party and has used the short-message service more effectively. They've incorporated a Twitter alert box on their website - and more importanly, are using Twitter to promote speeches and events carried live or archived on their multimedia site www.orangeroom.ca
- As a separate brand, orangeroom.ca it is clearly aimed at a younger, more Internet savvy audience. But beyond style, it gives supporters the tools to contribute their own blogs, videos and photos to the site - as the tagline says, "Create. Share. Be a part of it." Like the Conservatives' now discredited notaleader site, some of this is silly stuff, like a caption contest to put words in Stephen Harper's mouth - but mostly it looks like a sincere attempt to increase grassroots participation in the NDP campaign. Supporters can even sign up to be "rapid-responders" to combat attacks by rival parties - again, a page taken from the Obama campaign's handbook.
It's hard to know how all this will translate into votes on election day. Television ads still seem to reach the largest audience, and the televised leaders debate is still seen as the chance for a party to make a move or reverse a failing campaign. Various tracking polls have the NDP polling anywhere from 17 to 21 per cent of decided voters this week (it received 17% of the vote in the 2006 election).
But in the online arena, the NDP are out in front in terms of harnessing the democratizing tools of the Internet for their own advantage.