In my last post I indicated that the Legislative Assembly of Ontario had yet to set up a twitter account. However, I was just informed this was not entirely true since the Assembly’s Parliamentary Protocol and Public Relations office recently created one(@ONPARLeducation) to promote the Assembly’s Education Portal. It also serves to raise awareness of the Legislature’s history and to promote its public education programs, such as tours, art exhibits, and the Legislature’s model parliament. The account was created in January 2014, and tweets in both English and French, making Ontario’s Legislature just the second in Canada, along with the Senate, to tweet in both official languages.
Below is an updated chart with the now (hopefully) complete list of Canada’s legislative twitter accounts. More details on the patterns shown and the challenges legislatures face in using social media can be found in the original post.
In recent years a great deal of attention has been paid to what Canada’s federalandprovincial politicians say on twitter. But what about Canada’s legislatures themselves? Slowly but surely some of Canada’s federal and provincial legislatures have set up their own twitter accounts. However, the majority have yet to take the plunge, and there is tremendous variation among those that have in terms of the frequency of tweets, number of followers, and commitment to bilingualism.
Twitter can be an important tool for legislatures, allowing them to express information in a way that is unaffected by partisan spin. However, it also presents a number of challenges. In a recent blog-post, British academic Cristina Leston-Bandeira explored how social media (Twitter and Facebook) are being used by legislatures world wide, and the challenges that they face in doing so. While noting that the Inter-Parliamentary Union has called for its members to expand their use social media, she also stresses that the spontaneous, personality-driven character of social media makes it hard for most legislatures to utilize. In particular, legislatures are procedurally-driven and represent a wide range of opinions, not a single voice. The operation of regularly updated social media feeds also requires a sustained investment of resources. Overall, she concludes that most legislatures use social media primarily as a broadcast tool for reporting on parliamentary activity.
As can be seen in the table below (compiled on 24 March 2014), twitter coverage for Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial legislatures is far from universal, with just under half operating an account. Most surprising is that while the Senate and Library of Parliament are both on twitter, the House of Commons has not yet followed their example. Similarly, two of Canada’s three largest provinces (Ontario and British Columbia) also lack a twitter presence.
While I do not currently have the time or resources to subject these twitter accounts to the kind of content analysis undertaken by Dr. Leston-Bandeira, a brief non-systematic review of each account would appear to support her finding that they are primarily used for reporting on parliamentary activities. However, the table shows some sharp differences in the number of tweets and followers for each legislature – differences that cannot always be explained by the length of time the account has been active or the population of the province.
[Note: a condensed version of this post appears on the Samara Blog]
A few weeks ago UK political scientist Phil Cowley undertook a simple project that used crowd-sourced information to explore what questions Brits had about their country’s cabinet. In other words, he went to Google, typed in “is [name of cabinet member]” and reported the top result suggested by autocomplete. Seeing that no one had yet replicated his findings for Canada, I figured I’d give it a try while watching some Olympic hockey.
Cowley’s experiment was a variant off of the “why is [US State]” meme, and some of his results are similarly bizarre or funny. More surprising though was that for a third of British cabinet members, the top suggestion was whether they were married. Also interesting was that for five cabinet members, the top suggestion was not actually an “is [name]” question. Instead Google substituted “who is [name]” indicating that people used the site to find out who the cabinet minister was, not things about them. There was also one cabinet member whose name produced no suggestions at all.
And so what of Canada? The top autocomplete suggestions for “is [name]” are listed below, and are separated into Ministers (senior cabinet members) and Ministers of State (junior members) according to the order of precedence. This was done since Cowley only covered the 21 senior ministers who make up the British cabinet (junior ministers are not considered cabinet members in the UK). For interest’s sake, I’ve also included Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. I did my best to achieve an unbiased result by signing out of Google and clearing all browser history, cookies, etc. before entering the names.
Earlier this week I had an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen in which I argued that Canada could avoid its current controversies over prorogation by adopting the approach used in the UK.
Such a change would also have the added benefit of strengthening the opposition, both by giving it more leverage to pass amendments and by reducing the number of days when Parliament is not sitting. If you’d like to know more, you can find the full piece here.
Today I attended the 2013 Manning Networking Conference as part of Professor David Rayside’s project on religion and political parties. My main interest was to see how religion and social conservatism were incorporated into the discussions alongside other streams of the conservative movement. Generally the results were quite mixed. On the first panel there was a great deal of common ground between social-conservative Andrea Mrozek, Executive Director of the Institute for Marriage and Family, and libertarian Matt Bufton from the Institute of Liberal studies. Both agreed that the state can be harmful for the family, and that a strong family helped to reduce the need for government.
However, this kind of agreement was largely missing on the afternoon panel on ‘Conservatives and Cities.’ On one hand the Manning Foundation’s David Seymour argued that city planning should be replaced with a much-more free market approach. On the other Ray Pennings from the Christian inspired think tank Cardus countered that at least some planning was needed to ensure that cities are inclusive and reflect social values.
Religion and social conservativism were also major themes in Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s discussion of the Conservative party’s efforts to reach out to new immigrant communities. He described his efforts to meet community leaders in religious institutions and show how their values of law, order, and family were Conservative values as well. However, Kenney also highlighted his decision to ban face coverings from citizenship ceremonies, one that clearly has a much larger impact for one religious community than others.
Overall though libertarianism was by far the most dominant variant of conservatism at the event – although the crowd may have been skewed by the many in attendance who said they came specifically to hear Ron Paul. The former congressman received a rock-star like welcome and earned repeated rounds of applause during his speech, including somewhat unexpectedly for his call to legalize hard drugs.
On Friday, March 5th I attended a symposium at the University of Toronto to celebrate the work of Professor David Rayside, who will be retiring at the end of June. During his career Professor Rayside not only produced several outstanding pieces of scholarship, but also worked to make U of T a better place for faculty and students.
I’m very proud to have spent the past three years as a research assistant for Professor Rayside’s project on religious conservatism and political parties in Canada, and know that retiring is unlikely to make much of a change to the pace of his work.
Professor David Rayside, Jerry Sabin and I have put together a panel on the recent Alberta election. The discussion will take place on Monday, May 14 from 2:00 to 4:00 in Sidney Smith Hall at University of Toronto, room 3130.
The Alberta election produced a surprising victory for incumbent Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford despite all polls prior to the vote predicting a majority government for the Wildrose Alliance and its leader Danielle Smith.
The panel will generate a lively discussion on what the election results mean for the future of the province, its links with the rest of Canada, and the public opinion industry. In addition to our work exploring the role of faith in Alberta party politics, Professor Chris Cochrane will present on the perils of election prediction, and Gregory Eady and Yannick Dufresne will share their findings from the Alberta Vote Compass project.