We are onto Day 7 of the 43rd General Election and the parties are all spread out around the country trying to win over peoples votes. A big piece of that attempt is a party’s platform, which not only tells people what they are hoping to do if they get to government, but how they will pay for it and the choices they will make to get there. A good platform and platform launch is a sign of a professional campaign that’s running well and goes a long way to prove if that party is ready to make those serious decisions.
It was with that in mind that I watched the Greens release their platform yesterday. After a rough first week of the campaign for the Green team, this launch offered them a chance to distract from the lacklustre candidate vetting that has dogged them so far. A strong launch with all ducks in a row would go a long way to making a lot of people feel better about possibly voting Green. So how did that go? In short, not so good:
You could call yesterday a failure to launch, as there were some big gaping holes that came out of this event, some that are just simply unacceptable in 2019. First, they started by admitting to a major mistake that brought attention all its own; they didn’t have a full costing of their budget ready for the release. Not presenting a full costing of their platform at their launch is a serious mess up, regardless of the reason why. If the costing wasn’t ready, a professional party would never have gone ahead with the launch. They would have waited until that piece was in place, especially given that Ms. May has been crowing to everyone who would listen that her party would have a fully costed platform, with a full costing done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Trying to sluff that off as some kind of minor thing just speaks to how bad a mistake that was.
That’s not where this story ends, oh no no no. Their platform is being criticized by some in labour, like the United Steelworkers, who said that it in their policy offering “workers are an afterthought.” Indigenous writer Robert Jago pointed out segments of the Greens Indigenous platform that looks to be plagiarised from the works of various Indigenous, with whole paragraphs seemingly lifted word for word with no credit or attribution. It looks like they tried to pass of the hard work of others as their own, which is a strange way to show respect for Indigenous peoples if you ask me.
On top of that, some parts of their platform were completely contradictory, as Alex Usher pointed out in one particular section on Universal Basic Income (UBI). The platform says that there will be no clawing back of existing programs with the additional income from UBI, but at the same time says that those “earning above a certain total income” would pay it back in taxes, which seems to be the very definition of clawing that back. So either that was a bad mistake in their platform, or a deliberate attempt to pull one over on Canadians.
But the biggest whopper that came out of this is a mistake that really blew my mind. As CBC reported last night, the Green platform began with a personal message from May that tries to compare the fight against climate change to the Allied efforts to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in the Second World War. She wrote about Dunkirk and the attempts to evacuate British soldiers from the beaches there, a harrowing story for sure. But as the tweet above from historian James Holland shows, May got her facts wrong and totally bungled the story. In the CBC piece, Holland referred to May’s intro “rubbish” and “embarrassing.” He later went on to say that “it’s just sort of fake history on a catastrophic level”, then asks “why would you write about this without checking the facts when it’s not your core subject?” That’s a great question, why would you not check your facts before printing anything in your platform document, let alone something that is so demonstrably wrong.
That is a lot of gaffes for any platform launch and they really don’t speak well of the Green team. Their biggest challenge in this campaign has been to present themselves as a professional party that is ready to be a serious factor in Canadian politics. They have tried to make a virtue out of the fact that they don’t have so many professionals, but unfortunately for them, G7 governments are not run by volunteers. They are run by professionals who get their facts right, make sure that everything is lined up and that they put their best foot forward. Canadians expect their parties to have a certain degree of professionalism to them and to be ready if they are called on. Unfortunately for the Greens, this platform release and the first week of this campaign have shown them to be left wanting on that school. As the campaign goes along, the Greens have shown so far that they need to do a better job of doing their homework and that they are not quite ready for prime time.