Thursday, March 31, 2011

On consistency

Most of the stories about the NDP's campaign policy announcements in #elxn41 have included a line or two about previous incarnations of similar proposals. And with good reason: the party has talked about ideas like eliminating subsidies for the tar sands and reining in credit card rates and fees for quite some time, so it shouldn't come as any particular surprise to see them front and centre in an election campaign.

In contrast, having concluded that their problem in 2008 was a combination of unpopular policies and too much eagerness to make them public, the Libs are largely starting from scratch in this year's election - indeed reversing course on a large number of issues compared to last time out. And having been in government for the past give years, the Cons too are mostly introducing new policies dating back no further than this month's budget (indeed, it shouldn't escape notice that they seem to be making far more new policy announcements than they did in 2008).

Based on that difference, the current campaign may make for a useful test of the question of whether a party is best off working publicly on policy priorities over a period of years so as to build both familiarity and popularity, or instead using policy more as something to talk about during an election which may never be spoken about again. And it's worth wondering which of those choices we want parties to make in commenting on policy as it's unveiled.

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