Tory’s Tories: The Ontario PC Party’s Web sites

By: Sandford BorinsThe Ontario PC Party main Web site is in every respect a state-of-the-art campaign site. Yet it reveals the tensions always present among the three pillars of an election campaign: the leader, the platform, and the party. Finally, notice that several Web sites are involved.The home page has a bold header, a picture of John Tory and his slogan, “I want a better Ontario,” superimposed on random Ontario images (farms, forests, lakes, the Toronto skyline). The centre column links to the platform, A Plan for the Future, and then to Tory's video-blog. The right column has options for involvement – donate, join, volunteer and attend – and profiles candidates. The left column has media and policy updates. Unlike the NDP's, it's clear that this Web site is about winning the October 10 election.In the upper right corner is a link to, Tory's Web site for the technorati, containing his blog, feedback from voters, links to his sites on YouTube, flickr and Facebook, and a competition among volunteers to recruit friends, send letters, etc. The party has at least one focused-issue site,, devoted to a critique on the McGuinty Government's rebranding of the floral emblem.The main site is somewhat better than the NDP's for French presence – at least the entire platform is available en francais – and disability-friendliness, having the capacity to increase font size.Looking at the three pillars of campaigning, leader John Tory is most visible, followed by the platform, then by the party. The problem with the platform is that it's a grab-bag of promises, and the Web site lists policy updates on 13 – count 'em: thirteen – different topics. Leaders who win, as McGuinty showed us in 2003 and Harper in 2006, narrow the platform down to a few key themes and keep emphasizing them. Tory hasn't chosen his key themes yet.During the party leadership contest that Tory ultimately won, a senior Liberal strategist told me there wasn't a lot of daylight between John Tory and Dalton McGuinty, implying that the Liberals would have preferred to run against that unapologetic Common Sense Revolutionary from way back, Jim Flaherty. Tory's challenge is to distance himself from the Common Sense Revolution enough to recapture votes in the centre, while still maintaining support of the right wing of the party. Of course, the Liberals will try to trump this by claiming that Tory really is Mike Harris in disguise.The use of “PC Party” reflects this ambivalence. While “Progressive Conservative” is a mouthful, the site uses the abbreviated “PC Party” 98 times and the full “Progressive Conservative” name only seven times.In her memoirs, Margaret Thatcher remarked that Brian Mulroney, then leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, put too much emphasis on the adjective and too little on the noun. The campaign will reveal where John Tory puts his emphasis, and the way the platform is presented on the Web site should reflect that.Finally, my grade for the site(s): A-But remember that the final exam is on October 10, and in this course, the final is all that counts.Next week I'll be in Ottawa, taking my seven-year-old son on a real, not virtual, tour. I'll be back in August to visit the Ontario Liberal Party Web sites.

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