Canada has a national election coming up. At least one blogger has tried to explain the process to our American friends so I don’t have to do that. We haven’t had an election for some time and we don’t have the same kind of advance campaigning ever before so I want to be informed before I vote. There have never been so many options – and we have never had less useful information. Where to find something useful?
I started with TV. The national broadcaster provides one to two hours of noisy chat from politicians and pundits. It’s basically a shouting match in which the moderator joins in. The other major network has a more gentle approach. But what the networks have in common is participants who simply want to slam other points of view. To have any sense of the issues is almost impossible to fathom. The newspapers aren’t much better. Columnists no longer give facts. They go straight to their take on the facts.
And then there are the polls. A pollster on one of the networks had a podcast interview with a senior vice president of Angus Reid. She brought the results of a national poll of 6,000 persons and commented on the segment of “likely voters”. Could you describe “likely voters”, the interviewer asked. “They are people who are likely to vote,” she replied. Hmmmmm.
So I thought of going to the party websites to see what the issues were. Surely this would be a place for reasoned and well-presented platforms. As an inveterate mapper who likes to find patterns and common threads, mapping menu headings seemed like a possible approach. I intended to chart broad issues and see how the compared across the parties.
So in I went. Wow! Somebody started with a really good opening template and everybody else followed – following the leader in ways than one. To be fair, a campaign site is obviously looking for volunteers and donors. But it would be nice to have a glimpse of the party’s platform, before signing on to donate or contribute cash.
I have created several websites using free templates. A first step is deciding the overall organizing structure to help people navigate a site. One starts with a top level menu; and then one can create sub menus allowing readers to drill down. Think of a book library classification system. That’s actually what a branching system like mind mapping does too.
So let’s have a look: Conservatives first (You can go to the real one if you like)
If you want to have a policy you have to go to “latest” on the menu. When I did what I found was a series of announcements. This is a map of the subject matter issues:
Obviously not a whole lot of help on the big picture here. All those Rotarians and Kinsman will like getting some tax relief on their membership fees – but is this what all Canadians were hoping for as a national strategy?
I moved on to the Liberals: (actual site here)
This is just the opening page – right below it is a slide show of quick moving promises relating to specifics. Veterans get a lot of attention. I tried to summarize the potential menu items here as well by using key words from the slides as they moved. But the primary branch words here are my own.
One Thousand dollar tax credits to teachers who buy their own school supplies might reflect the leader’s teaching past, but it seems to be in the same realm as giving tax breaks to service clubs – goofy distractions, not consideration of important issues. Not much convergence on issues re the first two parties either. I moved on to the NDP
Rather interesting that the NDP combines “just not ready” and “change”. We’re all sound biters now. Whoever designed the sitec originally might have thought of not covering the leader’s face with the sign-in option. It almost looks as though someone is trying to shut him up. (Somebody else noticed this before I got arround to publishing and fixed it – good thing). But the positive thing here is that when one scrolls down just a bit – one actually sees a bunch of actual issue topics. It was easy to make my map here:
While the Green Party is not a major player at this point it is only fair to see how they see the issues. I secretly hoped that we might see a different entry design here – but no such luck.
One might also have thought that a green background would be obvious – even just to counteract pre-judging a new party with blue sky thinking. But it is the first time we have seen the use of the word, “vision”. I clicked on it. Going one layer down one actually sees some issue headings under graphic boxes. I’ve mapped these as they appear as follows:
This is a good deal more transparent. I think that some topics could be lowered a level and combined but at least there are some real issues here. Perhaps the most important addition under the pictured options is another message in a box that says, “Read our Comprehensive Plan”.
I did check it out and from the headings, it clearly has an environmental focus but it is not quickly evident how the other issues fold in. But a published plan is a huge step forward.
What are we to make of platforms when we have so much information with so little substance thrown at us every day? I’m in a new riding where the old sectors sent elected representatives from two different parties to parliament. Both candidates are viable alternatives. Henry Minzberg, the noted management conultant says that one way to make change is to ensure that ridings don’t split the vote between two parties to the benefit of a third. There is even an organization focused on avoiding that by constant polling and asking people to rally around one candidate at the end. It’s not going to be an easy few weeks ahead.