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Contemporary Canadian Govt. & Politics: Political Party Publications

Selected Primary Sources and their Finding Aids: What Was Written -- Political Party Publications

Besides internal documents, political parties produce printed election platforms, campaign leaflets, policy statements, manifestos, and other materials explaining their ideas, especially of course during election campaigns. In an election year (before the widespread use of the Internet), it might have been difficult to avoid seeing these kinds of materials. For a researcher studying an election long past however, it is a different story. Considered too ephemeral or controversial for many libraries, copies of historical political party documents are scarce. Accessing these materials may require extra time for interlibrary loans or visits to Archives.

The following are selected examples of political party documents and their finding aids.

Party Platforms, Campaign Literature, Etc.:

Canadian Party Platforms, 1867–1968. Compiled by D. Owen Carrigan. Toronto: Copp Clark, 1968. 363 p.

This book compiles platforms and policy statements issued by Canadian federal political parties or their leaders who campaigned nationally for the 28 federal elections held in the years 1867-1968. It describes the campaigns and provides election results for each province. Interesting primary source material includes text reproduced from campaign leaflets, candidates' handbooks, party programs, manifestos, and other ephemeral material not easy to find elsewhere. Also includes some summarized reports and speeches quoted in newspapers.

Political Party Web Sites. Most political parties have a web site, with some policy-related material posted. See List of Registered Parties and Parties Eligible for Registration at the Elections Canada site for links to the websites of current federal political parties. (Select "Political Participants" to see the list.)
NOTE: Usually only the most recent documents are maintained on political party web sites.

POLTEXT. Electronic Manifestos. Laval University, Center for Public Policy Analysis. A large collection of federal party platforms and provincial party platforms:

Election 2006 - Harvested Web Sites Collection. Library and Archives Canada. This is a collection of archived political party web sites captured several times during the 2006 federal election campaign to show the evolution of political debate.

Examples of Recent Election Platform Documents:

2006 General Election:
Jack Layton: Getting Results for People: Platform 2006 NDP. 48 p.
Securing Canada's Success. Ottawa: Liberal Party of Canada, 2006. 84 p.
Stand up for Canada: Conservative Party of Canada Federal Election Platform. 46 p.
We Can: Green Party of Canada 2006 Election Platform. 35 p.

2004 General Election:
Demanding Better: Conservative Party of Canada, Platform 2004. 45 p.
Green Party of Canada 2004 Election Platform: Someday is Now. 62 p.
Moving Canada Forward: The Paul Martin Plan for Getting Things Done. 56 p.

2000 General Election:
Change You Can Trust: The Progressive Conservative Plan for Canada's Future. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 2000.
Opportunity for All: The Liberal Plan for the Future of Canada. (Red Book 3). Ottawa: Liberal Party of Canada, 2000. 30 p.
Think How Much Better Canada Could Be: The NDP Commitment to Canadians. Ottawa: New Democratic Party, 2000. 19 p.

1997 General Election:
A Framework for Canada's Future: Alexa McDonough and Canada's NDP Platform. Ottawa: New Democratic Party, 1997. 53 p.
Let the Future Begin: Jean Charest's Plan for Canada's Next Century. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1997. 59 p.
Securing Our Future Together: Preparing Canada for the 21st Century: The Liberal Plan, 1997. Ottawa: Liberal Party of Canada, 1997. 102 p.

1993 General Election:
Creating Opportunity: The Liberal Plan for Canada. (a.k.a. "The Red Book") By the Platform Committee. (Co–chairs: Haviva Hosek and Paul Martin). Ottawa: Liberal Party of Canada, 1993. 112 p.
Making Government Work for Canada: A Taxpayer's Agenda. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1993. 36 p.

NOTE: Some election years the major political parties have published separate platform papers on specific subjects. These can be in addition to or instead of a single platform document.
Search for these publications in your library catalogue using the party name as author. Limit the search to an election year and/or commonly used keywords: plan, policy, platform, etc. or use subject headings or keywords from the subject heading field.

Common subject headings used:

Campaign literature--Canada
Campaign literature--[date]--[party name] (e.g. Campaign literature--1993--Natural Law Party)
[party name]
[party name]--Campaign literature
[party name]--platforms (e.g. Liberal Party of Canada platforms)
Platforms--[party name]
Political Campaigns--Canada
Canada. Parliament--Elections, [date] (e.g. Canada. Parliament--Elections, 1993)

If the party platform was not published as a whole, you may find bits and pieces of it in the party's policy documents adopted at national conventions, its campaign literature (brochures, pamphlets, leaflets, etc.), election promises and comments made by the party leader in speeches, interviews, or televised debates. Use all the resources required to find these different types of materials. (See "What was Said", "Recorded Images", "News Sources", etc.)

Selected Examples of Other Political Party Documents:

Of the different kinds of documents produced by political parties, most of the following (whether internal manuals, research reports, conference proceedings, convention resolutions, or manifestos) provide researchers with information on the principles and policies of the party. The following have been selected just to provide an idea of the documents available:

1953 Campaign Handbook for Progressive Conservative candidates and workers in the federal election. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1953. 136 p.

Adopted Resolutions: Biennial Convention of the Liberal Party of Canada. [Ottawa]: The Party, 1992. 55 p.

Constituency Fundraising and Event Planning Manual. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, [1980], 36 p.

Declaration of Policy by the Progressive Conservative National Convention, Ottawa, September 30th to October 2nd, 1948. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party, 1948. 23 p.

The Federal Constitution of the New Democratic Party: Adopted at its Founding Convention, ottawa, July 31-August 4, 1961. Ottawa: NDP, 1961. 17 p.

Journal of Liberal Thought. Ottawa: Liberal Party of Canada. 3 issues: Summer 1965 - Winter 1966/67.

The Last Straw: Report of the Task Force on Rail Passenger Service.. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1981. 147 p.

Liberal Candidate's Briefing Book 1972. Ottawa: Liberal Party of Canada, 1972. 2 vol.

The Liberal Manifesto. Ottawa: Liberal Party of Canada, [1981]. 35 p.

New Democratic Party of Canada Renewal Papers: Party Principles, Party Mission, Party Relations, Party Structure, Economic Policy, Social Policy, Globalization. Ottawa: NDP, 1995. 56 p.

Notes for Speakers, 1965: A Handbook on Policy. Ottawa: NDP, 1965. 127 p.

Policies of the New Democratic Party, 1961 to 1973. Ottawa: NDP, 1974. 102 p.

Policy Document Adopted at the National Policy Convention held in Quebec City in May 2000: Election 2000 Platform. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 2000. 92 p.

Priorities for Canada Conference: Final Report. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1969. 51 p.

Process of Constitutional Change: A Background Paper. Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1978. 13 p.

Waffle Manifesto for an Independent Socialist Canada. n.p.: New Democratic Party, [1971?], 5 leaves.

Special Collections

The Library of Parliament has the largest collection of campaign literature from Canadian federal political parties.

For each major party and general election, the Library has a collection of pamphlets, folders, and other campaign materials. A typical record looks like this:
[Campaign literature, 1979 General Election: Pamphlets, folders, speeches, etc.] Ottawa: Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, 1979.
Search the National Union Catalogue Voilà, at the Library and Archives Canada site to find these and other published documents in the collections of major libraries across Canada, including the Library of Parliament and the National Library of Canada.

Library and Archives Canada's Archival Collections are the largest single source for unpublished political party documents.

Use the Archives Search page to find the details on these archival collections (fonds). You can search for a political party and see there are many separate collections, mostly of papers donated by individuals involved in politics. There are also collections of the official documents of the political parties covering many years (e.g. Liberal Party of Canada fonds, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada fonds, Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and New Democratic Party fonds, etc.)

Canadian Pamphlet Collection / Collection des brochures canadiennes. Toronto: York University Libraries, 1984. 3 vols

A collection of over 5,500 pamphlets published mainly in Ontario and Quebec, from 1900-1969 is housed in the Rare Books and Special Collections area of Scott Library, York University. It includes brochures, leaflets, propaganda sheets, broadsides, and pamphlets of 100 pages or less, in English and French, on the public issues of the day. A valuable collection of primary material on social and political issues, among others. The 3-volume index lists each item by author, title, date, and subject (using LC subject headings, but not cross-referenced).

Political Party Archives. Some political parties may provide copies or allow access to their documents at the Political Party's headquarters. Contact information for party headquarters is available in the List of Registered Parties and Parties Eligible for Registration at the Elections Canada site: Select "Political Participants". Collections of historical materials are more likely to be donated to libraries and archives, either by the party or individuals involved. For example:

Reform Party of Canada fonds. University of Calgary Archives. See Description of the fonds. 1981-2000. Transferred directly from the party.

Socialist Party of Canada Collection. 1919-1970. McMaster University Archives.