Canadian politicians keep their promises more often than you may think, Laval researchers say

Click to play video: 'Do politicians keep their campaign promises?'
Do politicians keep their campaign promises?
WATCH: Do politicians keep their campaign promises? – Mar 5, 2020

Politicians certainly make a lot of promises on the campaign trail, but whether or not they’ll actually follow through begs the question: do politicians keep their promises?

In 2013, a group of professors at Laval University in Quebec City launched the “Polimetre” to answer that question with hard scientific data.

The Polimetre tracked promises of the Pauline Marois, Philippe Couillard and Stephen Harper governments and are gathering data — and updating the website regularly — for the current François Legault and Justin Trudeau governments.

The results?

“Political parties, once in power, do seek to implement their promises, which is surprising because we weren’t expecting that,” said Lisa Birch, director-general at the Centre for Public Policy Analysis.

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She said that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, during its first term between 2015 and 2019, kept 90 per cent of its promises.

“I think there’s sort of a negativity bias in that we retain more of the few key promises that were broken as opposed to a detailed analysis of all of the promises that were made by a government,” said Birch.

Birch explained how the Polimetre web tool works for citizens exploring the website.

“You can go and click on the promises kept and you will find the exact wording of each promise as we found it in the platform documents,” she said.

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She said her team wants to develop this tool further. They recognize that not all promises are made equal, so they’re looking at rating the importance of electoral promises, as well as whether every promise is one that should be kept.

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“If a promise was made, but without considering all the scientific evidence of what works and what doesn’t work, maybe the best thing for the government to do is explain why that wasn’t the best promise,” Birch said.

“When I was hired, I really fell in love with the project. I like to say I’m paid to inform myself about politics,” said Antoine Baby-Bouchard, a research assistant and self-proclaimed political junkie.

He said keeping a promise might not keep a government in power, but the important thing is that everyday citizens have easy access to accurate information.

“Political platforms are long and complicated and (for) normal citizens, I believe it’s impossible to know all the policies of political parties,” he said.

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