The rise of social media has given Canadians a way to connect across far distances with friends, celebrities, and politicians alike. Here at Student Vote, we have been also experimenting and connecting with our audience through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and this blog to keep you updated on our work and the world of democracy.
However, we have recently seen several influential people forget the power that an unlimited audience holds. They also may have forgotten that they are elected representatives of the Canadian people.
Many politicians in Canada have websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts to communicate with the public about their party, constituency work, and the business of the government and opposition. It is a great medium which has created an unprecedented level of connectivity between the electors and their representatives. However, it becomes complicated when politicians, people who are elected by the people and paid for by their taxes, let their public personas and platforms meld with their personal perspectives.
On June 26, controversy erupted when Conservative Party Senator, Patrick Brazeau, responded by calling reporter Jennifer Ditchburn of the Huffington Post a derogatory name. She had published a story earlier in the afternoon about his low attendance record in the Senate. The “Twitterverse” went crazy over Brazeau’s comments. He later apologized on Twitter.
NDP MP for Winnipeg Centre, Pat Martin, has similarly come under fire multiple times for using profanity on Twitter. This past March he had an altercation with Laval University Economist Stephen Gordon. Gordon criticized Martin’s anti-globalization stance, and Martin responded with offense which included name calling and a suggested expletive. This is not the first time this situation has arisen with Martin. The Twitterverse again exploded in anger and commentary about the language Martin used in Tweets about last year’s budget. There was commentary that the language was inappropriate to be using towards voters, and was unprofessional and disgraceful to his party and parliament.
Conservative MP and President of the Treasury Board of Canada, Tony Clement also got in trouble earlier this year when rebuking a 15-year-old constituent who had criticized his grammar skills and capabilities as a minister on Twitter.
Certainly there are positive ways to meld the public and personal. Tony Clement often Tweets about his musical interests, and recently he detailed celebrity spotting while chaperoning his daughter and her friends at the MMVA’s. Positively sharing the goings-on in their lives, just like the rest of us do online, can remind us that they are people too and creates a good connection with the public.
We can all get frustrated with our jobs, colleagues, and those who criticize us. However, I believe that when you have a position where you are representing the people of the country you need to watch what you say. Free speech is a wonderful gift of living in Canada, but our representatives don’t need to be crude, emotional, and unprofessional to say what they think. While we try to bring more decorum onto Parliament Hill, maybe our representatives need to start proving they are ready to have meaningful dialogue, and stop the immature babbling.
For more on attendance records, click here.
Megan (CIVIX Intern)
Do you want to receive the Student Vote Blog by email? Sign up here!
About Student Vote
Non-partisan organization engaging young Canadians in the democratic process.
View all posts by Student Vote →