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January 6, 2006

Campaign Issues and Media Coverage

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell was once vilified for saying that an election campaign is no place to debate policy. For those following the current campaign, it looks like she was right. The Conservatives, Liberals and New Democrats are running what pundits may describe as "perfect" campaigns, meaning that they aren't making mistakes and they are staying on their message. That means no campaign will divert much attention to responding to what another campaign is saying for fear of being accused of losing control of the agenda. In the early days of the campaign Paul Martin received some criticism when he responded to the daily barrage of announcements from Stephen Harper. A consequence of daily announcements from each of the three campaigns is that there is little time for objective policy analysts, if there are such creatures, to compare the positions of each party in a critical but fair manner. A weak effort to do so emerged in the media coverage of the effect of the Liberal vs. Conservative tax cuts, but it quickly faded from the news as other announcements overtook the campaigns.

It is interesting to compare how major media outlets are covering the campaign and what effort they are putting in to simulate debate by comparing party positions on issues.

As of January 5, 2006 the Globe and Mail election site includes links to the party platforms for the 2004 election. You will no longer find them on any of the party sites; parties change some of the planks in their platforms from election to election.

In the past, parties have made platform documents available during the campaign (remember the infamous "Red Books"). In lieu of platforms the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP websites have sections titled "issues", which are the closest we have gotten to seeing a traditional party platform.

The Globe claims that, unlike Kim Campbell, it cares about issues and is delivering that debate to its readers. Others may beg to differ. The Globe's "VoteSmart" coverage lists one issue per week (5 as of January 5th) with links to its articles on those issues. The articles are interesting but they really don't compare and contrast party positions.

Canada.com's election site includes an issues page that looks like a work in progress, listing 8 issues with blanks on some issues for all but the Conservatives. The site includes a link to all 308 federal ridings with some interesting demographics and voting history on each one. Much more detailed information on every riding in the country, including candidate photos and riding history, can be found on CBC's election site.

It's buried on their site, but CBC provides a thumbnail sketch of the position each party takes on major issues. A feature on its site takes reader responses and rates, in the opinion of a CBC web programmer, how often the responder agrees or disagrees with each leader.

CTV's election site provides comparisons on 16 issues compared to CBC's 13, and you can go directly to its issue page from a clear link on their overall election coverage site.

For coverage that you won't see elsewhere, including comments on media coverage, links to political blogs, party sites and other media, and summaries of election news, don't miss the Tyee's Election Central. The daily online paper runs as a blog with the opportunity for readers to comment on its stories.

 

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