New Brunswick PCs in line with modern campaign strategy with late platform reveal, expert says

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WATCH: Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs revealed his party's platform at an event in Fredericton on Thursday. His party was the last to release a platform, and according to one political scientist, that strategy is becoming increasingly common in political campaigns. Silas Brown has more – Sep 10, 2020

With just four days until the province heads to the polls, the Progressive Conservative party has unveiled its platform.

PC Leader Blaine Higgs was the last to reveal his platform, but according to one political scientist, the last-minute platform announcement is becoming an increasingly popular strategy in Canadian politics.

“This has become a part of a lot of modern campaigns in Canada both at the federal and provincial level. I think that campaign strategists have realized that platforms matter a lot less than they used to,” said Jamie Gilles, professor of communications and public policy at St. Thomas University.

“One of the reasons is that voters are moved by slogans, by the image of the leader and that often parties will push back the release of their platforms until the final days of the campaign.”

Read more: ‘It does not reflect well’: N.B. political parties under scrutiny after failed vetting process

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When asked why the party didn’t put out its platform until the dying days of the campaign Higgs said that most voters are likely already familiar with a large part of it.

“(The) platform that was really released back in March as a budget, spoken about in detail during the state of the province in January and was a commitment that we made in 2018,” he said at the reveal event in Fredericton on Friday.

“I think it’s important that people see that we are doing what we said we would do.”

Higgs has been very open on the campaign trail that a PC government would look to continue the work started over the previous two years, albeit with majority powers.

“Complicated platforms don’t win you votes, so keeping the platform simple and in this case the PCs, the Higgs government ran on their record,” Gilles said.

“I think that’s been the message: if you like the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, consider giving us your vote.”

Read more: Vickers, Higgs spar over economy as N.B. election campaign nears home stretch

The strategy to forgo bold policy visions for status quo stability is one that can yield dividends, but also comes with it’s share of risk. Gilles says that other parties have rightly pushed Higgs to define why he needs a majority to accomplish his political goals, and if Higgs decides to implement a divisive piece of policy that was not in the platform, the electorate may react poorly.

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“Why do you want a majority? What’s the point of this? This campaign announcement today didn’t provide that many details about what it means. What’s the bold initiative or set of initiatives that the PCs are going to focus on over the next four years,” Gilles said.

“Where he could get in trouble is if he gets a majority government and then decides on a bold initiative or series of initiatives, without informing the public in advance and not having it in the platform … it can come back to haunt them.”

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