My fifth Advent Policy Brief is a hopeful one; I hope I see living platforms adopted by mainstream political parties, and I think I will.
The problem is obvious. The platforms political parties take to doorsteps are communications products designed by a handful of extremely invested people. Platforms are the promises made in public so that observers can hold elected governments to account. In no party are platform documents or priorities beholden to member-approved policy.
Party policy books are gestures. Proposing, amending, and voting on member-submitted resolutions draws attention to issues, builds consensus, and sheds light on the ideological undercurrents of a party, but victory at a policy convention is hollow. Party policy is not binding, but it is telling. Issuing and archiving policy statements is a community-building process; it makes it easier to find people who care about the same things you care about.
If a resolution at a policy convention is noteworthy/newsworthy, it's because it's offering insight into the ideological camps within the party. Declarations around issues like abortion and queer marriage for example, but the tension isn't always about social policy. The LEAP manifesto almost resuscitated a socialist pulse in the federal NDP, and the federal Conservatives infamously rejected a motion acknowledging that climate change is real.
Enter living platforms. Let's keep a document of priorities that must be reflected in the national campaign platform and by extension in parliament, should that party form government. No fewer than 10 and no more than 20 points that shine constant lodestar for the party faithful and onlookers alike: A living platform puts the soul of a party on the table for everyone to see. Each policy convention would be an opportunity to reset the living platform priorities.
Living platforms would give actual meaning to the party policy process.