When it comes to policy, there seems to be a widely held view that is best for a party to release initiative ideas heading into an election. The logic of maximum exposure, a relatively attentive audience, coupled with the idea that you limit the opportunity for your opponent to counter seems to make sense. However, in the case of a party struggling to find a new identity, where the electorate has questions about direction, is it not better to flesh out the program immediately, rather than wait for the glare of a campaign?
At the Liberal retreat, advice was given that suggested the Liberals needed to articulate a clear alternative. Obviously, the best way to layout a vision, that people can relate too, is a platform. You have a leader that is still a question mark, leading a party that doesn’t seem to resonate, in the sense it lacks a real draw. The anti-Harper is only part of the equation, and this may explain why the Conservative erosion hasn’t brought the usual conversion to the Liberals. The Liberals are stagnant, because there is a idea deficit. Lately, we are starting to see some direction, but I think it an objective truth that most people would be stumped if asked- what do the Liberals stand for?
The Liberals don’t have to release a full platform, but given the circumstances, addressing the current weakness, I can’t think of a better strategy than articulating some concrete policy now. As a matter of fact, the usual barrage of policy we see come election time can be overwhelming to people. Case in point, the McGuinty onslaught, which makes me wonder if the Ontario Liberals are getting full value for the policy buck. Attractive polices are one-day stories, as the next plank is released, resulting in sensory overload. Slow and steady, release and digest, might be a more shrewd strategy.
The Liberals would be well served if they heeded the advice of this week, and put some flesh on the bone. Rather than trying to push voters away from Harper, it is more important to pull.