, 11.26.2017 02:35 PM

Can a single page win an entire election?

If it can – and it might – PC leader Patrick Brown may well have won the 2018 provincial election this weekend.

One sheet of paper: seriously. Here it is.

It’s the cover of Patrick Brown’s PC party (because they truly are his party, now) platform, the People’s Guarantee. It is actually brilliant. Let me explain.

I helped out a bit on the development and rollout of the Liberal Party of Canada’s now-legendary 1993 election platform, which came to be known as the Red Book. But, as the guy running the ’93 war room, my task was mainly to defend the Red Book.

The reasons why the Red Book was successful, and why it needed to be defended, are myriad. But Brown’s little book (with the cheeky socialist-y name) shares certain characteristics with the Red Book. There are five.

  • Most folks won’t ever read your policy book. They’re too busy or whatever. But the existence of the book reassures them that your team has spent some time thinking about the challenges of their daily life, and has some good ideas. That’s why Chretien would hold it up so often – he knew that most Canadians wouldn’t actually ever read it, but they approved of the fact that he had one. It worked.
  • Keep it simple, stupid. James Carville’s famous aphorism is a staple of political life. So, Chretien was very good at reducing the complexities of his platform to three or four memorable soundbites. The genius of the PC platform is that they actually printed them right on the cover. That’s something we should’ve done in 1993. It ensures the stuff they want you to remember will be remembered.
  • That picture. It’s a good one. Patrick Brown doesn’t test well with women. There’s something about his physicality that is off-putting to women. My personal theory is that runners – and Brown is a runner – always seem to have that sleek, shiny, too-perfect, hair-never-out-of-place thing about them. So what did Brown do for the most important photo of his life? Big smile, sure, but no tie, open collar, a face and a hairdo that have been in no way airbrushed. He looks normal. He even looks likeable.
  • The promises. Cut taxes and Hydro? Big deal. Everyone is promising that. But a historically-huge investment in mental health? Uploading Toronto transit, and reversing what Mike Harris did? Big child care savings for poorer families? Dental care for seniors? That’s Liberal and liberal stuff, boys and girls. This ain’t the PC party of Harris no more – it’s the PC party of Davis. Deliberately.

Oh, and one more thing, which was actually found on another sheet of paper: the PCs had a former federal parliamentary budgetary officer check out their numbers and declare them sound. I laughed when I saw that.

A few months ago, you see, I ran into Brown’s diminutive genius Chief of Staff, Alykhan Velshi, and told him the smartest thing we did in 1993 was get our Red Book numbers validated by a major Canadian accounting firm. We stuck their “sound accounting principles” letter right at the front of the Red Book. That way, when our numbers were attacked by the governing Conservatives and the NDP, we’d have an effective response. It worked, too.

So there you go: two pieces of paper, not one. But impressive, just the same. Will those two sheets of paper help the PCs finally win?

Lots of stuff helps you win an election campaign: good advertising, a well-organized tour, a commanding debate performance, impressive candidates, a war room that leaves no charge unanswered. All of those things matter.

But this weekend, I think Patrick Brown’s PCs made themselves the party to beat. I don’t ever count out Kathleen Wynne, but – as of now – nobody should be counting out Patrick Brown, either.

Two sheets of paper. Impressive.


  1. Matt says:

    I think making it look like a magazine rather than a typical political party platform book was clever.

    And knowing the vast majority of people never actually read the platform book, putting the “big five” planks of the platform on the cover was pretty smart too.

  2. Brian says:

    They have done a good job…especially the part about omitting what services they’ll have to slash to pay for everything.

  3. BlueGritr says:

    June 2018: who runs the better campaign? Who shapes the ballot box question to their advantage? Giving the edge to Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals.

    • Pedant says:

      Part of me thinks it would be appropriate for the Liberals to win again. Ontario is in a debt crisis and who better to wear it than the party that created that debt?

  4. doconnor says:

    All those smile lines makes him look kind of insane and having “Mental Health” in large letters next to his name brings it instantly to mind.

  5. Ned Ludd says:

    Best piece of advice Mr. Brown has received was from his sister who got him to change his hairstyle.
    Sorry folks, but it’s all about the optics today, shallow as that maybe. Proof positive is our current PM.
    And if I were Andrew Scheer, I’d be calling Mr. Brown’s makeover team, stat.

  6. Brian K says:

    I’m your typical Red Tory or Blue Liberal or whatever. To my mind, that means pragmatism over ideology, free enterprise, public support for people who need support, and a government that aspires to operate efficiently. I’ve supported Wynne in the past, but it feels like the Liberals are now without a clear agenda or direction. It’ll be interesting to see how Brown performs in the campaign…I’m certainly willing to give him a look.

  7. Pedant says:

    75% daycare refund? FFS, the Feds’ helicopter money isn’t enough? Are we at the point where parents no longer have to have a financial plan for raising their children? Nobody forces people to have more children than they can afford.

    Far too left-wing for my taste, but I guess voters like me have no choice but to stick with him.

    The “5 Guarantees” is clearly taken straight from the federal Conservatives’ 2016 campaign. They too had 5 key planks, among them the GST cut from 7% to 5% (again, the number 5) – Harper spent much of that campaign flashing the open palm of his hand to signify FIVE. The Liberals mocked him for the simplicity of his message but it worked.

  8. Mario says:

    The magazine concept with policies on the cover is marketing 101. Don’t have to open the policy book and it cover is approachable.

    My nine year old daughter read the cover to me.

  9. Dork in East York says:

    Agreed. He’s also doing a great job in keeping the nutty social cons quiet. This was a very strong roll out by their team.

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