Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Politicians and the people, minus the media

Certainly there are issues to be raised with many of the answers Stephen Harper gave when his YouTube video "conservation with Canadians" last night. I'm sure others will raise those issues; perhaps I will too later.

One thing that occurred to me though, as I read the Harper interview transcript, and reflect back on the online town halls that Michael Ignatieff did with Canadians earlier this year, and that's the one glaring thing that was missing from all of them.

What we got in each of those forums were questions from Canadians on a wide-range of policy issues. Foreign affairs, the role of parliament and prorogation, drug policy, climate change, child care, post secondary education, the list goes on.

What didn't we get? Questions on the horse race. On polling. On electoral gamesmanship. No "will you force an election" or political "whose is bigger" questions. To judge by nearly every press conference I've seen with Harper and Ignatieff, with nearly every pundit panel on the political talk shows, with most analysis pieces from the columnists, you'd think electoral chicken and the horse race is the issue of most concern to Canadians.

When Canadians get the chance to question their political leaders directly though, that's not what we get. We get questions on issues of policy that are important to them for a rainbow of reasons.

Both the Facebook townhall and the YouTube Q&A formats are obviously imperfect. No opportunity for follow-up, to follow a line of questioning, to really question an answer. Obviously such experiments, while well intentioned and useful, are never going to replace the role of the traditional media.

The media would be wise, though, to take a lesson from the questions that Canadians put to the leaders in these forums. After all, the Canadians asking those questions are their readers, viewers and listeners as well. And they should be just as interested in what they're concerned about as the leaders are.

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Bailey said...

Good point. Hopefully the media will learn a lesson.

CanadianSense said...

We saw the Marjuana lobby attempt to dominate the debate.

We had Gilles Duceppe requesting his supporters flood the channel.

We had a few good questions.

The National's take was PMO is bypassing Liberal Media.

Americans are ahead in use of social media.

Let's hope the Liberals can follow up and repeat this without the the Marjuana lobby flooding the channel.

Omar said...

The Marijuana lobby flooding the channel? Canadian Sense, a substantial number of YouTube channel users would be better described as Marijuana Nation. To believe that a mere lobby group was on there advocating for marijuana rights is, well, silly.

Unknown said...

Great post.

I don't know if we will live long enought for the media to learn a lesson.

The marijuana issue loomed larger, and was a blend of what CanadianSense was saying, and what Omar was saying. It was not a silly comment.

Anyway, it was interesting. The questions were not all soft questions,the media missing was a plus.

CanadianSense said...


count the number of question from the marjuana lobby.

What portion is that special interest lobby participated in the Youtube excercise and what their % in population as represented in Canada?

So a "special interest" group fuelled by their Agenda is a factual claim.

Please link the numbers of your "nation".

Bailey said...

Although, I have to say the one issue I do have with the whole YouTube Q&A is that while the media and others is focusing on this as a way of bypassing traditional media, nobody is commenting on the fact that this is the role of Question Period in Parliament. And that's what he is really bypassing.

Sure, for Obama it makes sense for him to do something like this since really on a day to day basis, the US public does not have a means to ask questions to him. But in Canada, we do have access to ask the Prime Minister questions on a (semi) daily basis through our elected MPs. I haven't really seen this brought up anywhere.

Omar said...

A link? Sorry, I'm afraid you will just have to trust me, my freaky little friend.

Saskboy said...

Excellent point, the average Canadian wants to know what a politician will do about pot legalization, not if they are going to "force an election".