Gearing up for the Ontario election

By: Sandford BorinsEverything is now in place for the campaign leading up to the Ontario election on October 10.The legislature stopped sitting two weeks ago, and the auditor general recently reported on the state of the government's finances. The report concluded that the balanced budget predictions for the next three years are reasonable.The Conservative's have released their platform, and Premier McGuinty is announcing new initiatives almost daily. The second, and more intense phase of the campaign will start in early September, when the lieutenant-governor dissolves the Legislature.In this blog, I will be analyzing the online campaign, focusing in particular on Web sites for the three major parties.This week, however, I want to look at the Government of Ontario portal and Premier's Web site because they are a key part of how the governing party tells its story.The Government of Ontario portal is less explicitly political than the Canada site under the Harper Government (the topic of my blog on April 12). The portal balances political content (news stories, a report on results achieved, and the link to the Premier's page) with content about service delivery, the latter presented in four different ways (Service Ontario, popular topics, life events, and client groups).Early in the Liberals' mandate, the portal looked more like the current Canada site but revisions have led to a more non-partisan appearance.Will the McGuinty government try to revise the portal yet again to play up its political message in the two months before the site is frozen at the official start of the campaign?What impresses me about the Premier's site is its strong use of video. It includes clips of McGuinty's major speeches and public statements going back to the beginning of his mandate. It also contains his video journal (v-blog), with 28 entries going back to March 2006.The clips and especially the blog exemplify Bill Clinton's theory that the biggest candidate – the one who best expresses hope and optimism – always wins. The v-blog would be a great campaign tool, but it belongs to the Government of Ontario, not the Liberal Party of Ontario.Nevertheless, the “Meet the Premier” page on the Liberal party site, (in the fine print at the bottom) links to the Premier's page. How will the Liberal Party try to echo the upbeat message of the Premier's page?Over the coming weeks, we'll be looking at the three major party sites, as they evolve throughout the campaign. But, before getting into the campaign, I'll celebrate Canada Day by taking next week off. I'll be back in the first week of July.

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