Friday 6 April 2012

Party Policy vs Platform vs Legislation

During an election it can be challenging to know where every party stands on any given issue. What makes this even more convoluted is trying to distinguish between party policy, platform and what might one day be legislation.

Let’s start with “party policy”. Virtually every party has a “party policy document”. These are created by the members. Generally once per year a policy convention (or sometimes an AGM) is held, where members bring forth policy items. They are debated and either defeated or passed. If passed they become part of the party document. It is an ever evolving document.

For example you can see the Alberta Party member policies in detail here by selecting individual .pdfs.
The entire Wildrose Party policy document here.

I will gladly link to all parties’ member policies if they provide me a link.

The sad reality about member policy it can be very nit-picky and every person with a small voice wants to put their brand on it. Another reality is some of it will get to the “platform” level and very little of it will get to the “legislation” level.

“Platform” comes in a couple of forms. During non-election time this is best represented by the opposition caucus websites. Caucus derives their direction from member policy. They don’t necessarily take it verbatim and they are selective in what they will pursue. As elected representatives we entrust them to focus on the ones of most concern to ALL Albertans, not just the members of the party.

I can only show you a cached version of an opposition caucus website as most are either taken down or redirected to campaign sites during an election.

This brings me to the second form of “platform”; the election platform. Again this can have some basis in the member policy, but more often than not it takes into consideration all Albertans. Leaders of parties, candidates, and their advisors take a great deal of time reviewing what they are hearing from Albertans and the feedback through letters, emails and phone calls. They take the time to see what aligns with member policy and what doesn’t. And frankly, if what they are hearing doesn’t align with member policy; the member policy won’t be pursued.

The election platform is basically a promise as to what you can expect from them; should they be elected as the governing party.

"Legislation", is what actually gets put forth to be passed into law. Just by the virtue of how much scrutiny policy and platform get put through, by the time it gets to being proposed as legislation, it should be pretty solid. But not always, as we have seen here in Alberta, some flawed bills can pass. It’s incredibly tedious, but you can see legislative history in the making by reading Hansard.

Where things can be horribly skewed is by the various opposing parties (and their supporters) and perhaps inadvertently by the media; cherry pick from the member policies and claim it is part of platform and therefore will be legislated.

During an election we can and should focus on two things; the party platforms and their past legislative actions. As the saying goes; “past performance is the best indicator of future”.


  1. Jane, here is the link to the Alberta Liberal Platform.

  2. Thanks for the link Linda.

    I note it says 2012 Election Platform. I'm looking specifically for member passed resolutions or a member policy book.