The title of the platform was actually “Creating Opportunity: The Liberal Plan for Canada”. It was dubbed the “Red Book” by Progressive Conservative Leader Kim Campbell2 who said, in one of her low moments in the campaign that it reminded her of “another little Red Book” – that is, Mao Zedong’s. The aspersion slipped by, but the name stuck.
What made the Red Book different was its length (112 pages), its comprehensiveness and the fact that it was fully costed, with the costing verified by an independent economist. Until then, Canadian election platforms were generally vague, rhetorical documents; more like pamphlets than books.
The breadth and detail of the Red Book were deliberate. It meant to show that after being out of office for a decade, the Liberal Party nevertheless had ideas – and a plan – for governing in a new era.
The Red Book set a new standard for election platforms. Since then, the expectation has been that parties’ election platforms contain significant detail, and that they contain that all-important costing page.
As might be expected, no subsequent election platform in this template, with the notable exception of the Mike Harris Progressive Conservative’s “Common Sense Revolution” [see Common Sense Revolution] 1995 platform in Ontario – has enjoyed the success of the original. In an era when the public’s attention span is challenged, party platforms (whether styled as Red Books or otherwise) are getting shorter and shorter.
Image Source: The Hammer