Who’s be­ing Naive?

Don’t trust the Liberals to run their own prom­ise tracker

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - An­thony FUREY afurey@post­media.com @An­tho­ny­furey

The gov­ern­ment’s launch of its own on­line prom­ise tracker Tues­day tells us that ei­ther the Liberals are in­cred­i­bly naive or they think that of us. It’s hard to know which is worse.

This ini­tia­tive whereby the very peo­ple mak­ing (and some­times break­ing) these prom­ises claim to ac­cu­rately rate their progress de­serves the same sort of arched eye­brow re­sponse we give to an em­ployee self­e­val­u­a­tion or how a par­ent in­sists that their child is ob­jec­tively the cutest.

A project of the privy coun­cil, the site iden­ti­fies 364 prom­ises and rates them on their de­gree of com­ple­tion. By the tracker’s own as­sess­ment, the Liberals al­ready have a long way to go. While halfway through their four-year term, they’ve only racked up 66 com­ple­tions with a re­main­ing 218 marked as “un­der­way on track”.

It gets worse once you peel back the cur­tain and take a look at how the pa­ram­e­ters are de­fined. It’s not tech­ni­cally a prom­ise tracker. It’s a man­date let­ter tracker. Those are the march­ing or­ders Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau sent to cab­i­net out­lin­ing their tasks for the term.

Al­ready we have a prob­lem. The peo­ple didn’t vote for man­date let­ters. And there’s never been an ex­er­cise un­der­taken to show just how the let­ters over­lap with the elec­tion plat­form.

For ex­am­ple, the vow to cap deficits at no more than $10 bil­lion per year is surely on the tip of the tongue for most Cana­di­ans when they think of bro­ken prom­ises. But that’s not in Fi­nance Min­is­ter Bill Morneau’s man­date let­ter (though it does tell him to bal­ance the books by 2019/2020). There­fore it’s not chalked up as a bro­ken prom­ise.

You’ve also got to love their choice of words. The tracker doesn’t ac­tu­ally men­tion bro­ken prom­ises at all. Rather they la­bel them “not be­ing pur­sued”. How quaint. It’s like say­ing shoplift­ing is goods not be­ing paid for.

They don’t do them­selves any favours with this sort of spin doc­tor lingo. Like un­der prom­ises kept, they give them­selves a check mark be­side “de­velop a non-par­ti­san, merit-based process to ad­vise the Prime Min­is­ter on Se­nate ap­point­ments.” Hang on there. That’s up for de­bate.

There are many ob­servers, Sen­a­tors in­cluded, who feel the Se­nate changes are in fact as par­ti­san as it gets. Yet if the tracker had merely said “re­vised se­nate ap­point­ment process” no one could ar­gue with that.

Re­ally, the main ser­vice this site pro­vides is a win­dow into how the gov­ern­ment thinks they’re do­ing, rather than an ob­jec­tive as­sess­ment of how they’re ac­tu­ally do­ing.

For that, you’d have to go to some­where like Trudeau Me­tre, a web­site that’s been of­fer­ing this ser­vice since 2015. The site, put to­gether by four non-par­ti­san tech savvy po­lit­i­cal ob­servers, of­fers a dif­fer­ent take on the gov­ern­ment’s track record.

Based on both the Lib­eral plat­form and ver­bal com­mit­ments Trudeau made on the cam­paign trail, they say the gov­ern­ment only made 226 prom­ises. And while the gov­ern­ment claims it’s only “not pur­su­ing” three prom­ises, Trudeau Me­tre says they’ve bro­ken 36.

“We’re not naive. As cit­i­zens we know that the gov­ern­ment will try to por­tray them­selves in a good light,” Dom Bernard, the site founder, tells me on the phone. “We know that the $10 bil­lion prom­ise was men­tioned over and over again dur­ing the cam­paign.”

That said, Bernard’s sup­port­ive of the privy coun­cil tracker on the prin­ci­ple that the more the gov­ern­ment makes use of tech­nol­ogy like this, the bet­ter.

“I think it’s great to live in a coun­try like Canada where we can look at the facts and say what we think is true and the gov­ern­ment can dis­agree. But at the end of the day it’s up to the peo­ple to de­cide for them­selves,” Bernard says.

On that note, the more on­line track­ers the mer­rier. (Hope­fully not all com­ing from pro-gov­ern­ment sources.)

It’s not like we suf­fer from a to­tal lack of scru­tiny. While they’re not com­pil­ing a search­able tracker, isn’t prom­ise track­ing what the op­po­si­tion, me­dia and en­gaged mem­bers of the pub­lic do ev­ery­day? It’s all rather amus­ing that the gov­ern­ment felt they could ob­jec­tively add some­thing to the process.

EZRA acayan/getty Images

justin Trudeau

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