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Canada's Federal Election: The Social Web's Time?

Despite the hopes of many, including me, I can't see this being the Canadian federal election in which the social web breaks out as a place for campaign organization, debate or exploring party platforms and policies, as the Obama election campaign was a couple of years ago.

Very few federal politicians (other than federal industry minister Tony Clement) have dipped their toes in the social web, never mind have some sense of its core values of relationships, transparency, and realness . . . themselves values not coincident with politics or political campaigns anyway.

Some will tweet more. There will be a few lackluster Facebook pages. A few candidates will post YouTube videos of themselves dressed casually, attempting to look 'down home', but with the same core goal of pushing the partisan-elect-me-cause-the-other-guys-suck messaging that debase politics. And some campaign organizer or party flack is going to make the mistake of trying to game the social web a la Rob Ford in the Toronto mayoral election. But likely no breakthrough social web performances.

Part of the reason is that no Canadian political party actually speaks to the nation's youth (except the earnest young 'old souls' of party youth wings) or captures its imagination. Despite the efforts of such groups as Apathy is Boring, which uses and art, music and technology to 'educate youth about democracy', politics in Canada is not cool.

The root causes, though, are probably three: lack of imagination and creativity; conviction that politics played the old way (canvassing, partisan messaging and stage-managed debates) is still best; and terror of talking with constituents in forums other than door-to-door canvassing or town halls, which are conversations not on the public record as is the case in threaded online forums, tweets, blog comments or social network 'walls'.

I hoped to be proved wrong about this, and I will be tracking, and writing about, the social web in this campaign to draw attention to those who give it a try or fall flat on their faces. The goal though will be to argue for using the social web as a campaign strategy not because I have evidence it is more effective (although I believe that) but because it can and should be a place to advance civic discourse.

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