The truth is, the Alberta PC's have been slow to embrace Social Media. After all: What's their motivation to do so? It's a forum in which you sacrifice much of the control you hope to have over your message (always dangerous for a party that sits in government over a multi-billion dollar economy), to appeal to a mainly younger demographic that is, let's be honest, at least as likely to vote AGAINST you as FOR you (youth, as has been noted before, has a notorious liberal bias). There are risks, for potentially very little reward, and you're already winning huge majorities in the Legislature. Why fix what isn't broken?
And then came Obama.
Barack Obama's victory in the U.S. Presidential Election was a game-changer, politically. Not because of the plethora of politicians who are, privately or publicly, drawing laughable and sad comparisons between themselves and Obama, hoping that just putting their name and his in the same sentence will somehow magically give them a charisma-transplant (I'm looking at you, Jack).
No, the genius of Obama's campaign, and the thing that has changed politics as we know it, was his use of the internet to get out his message. Through the use of Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, and just about every Social Media application this side of ICQ (which I still miss), Obama harnessed the power of Web2.0 and created the new template for future political campaigns.
In short, Obama dropped the atomic bomb - and now everyone who campaigns for anything wants to make sure they have one of their own. And thus begins... the "Race to Social Media".
With this in mind, the Alberta PC's brought in some of the best and brightest to drag them, kicking and screaming, into the Social Media game. After several painstaking months, the end result went on-line this past Monday, with the launch of mypcmla.ca.
The site itself isn't all that revolutionary - there's nothing on it that we haven't seen on a political party's website before. What's notable, though, is the fact that we almost NEVER see something like this from the GOVERNING Party of a province, state, or country. For this reason alone, it's an extraordinary site.
The site features polls, a description of what caucus is and what its role is, a calendar of upcoming events, news releases, and (my personal favourite) the Nine Commandments of Social Media. Most interesting, though, is the fact that there is a personal mini-site for every single member of the government caucus. Trivia, biographies, an ability to contact the MLA directly, and the option of supporting them on Facebook are but a few of the things that one can check-out on the mini-sites. In the future, there seems to be a "bulletin board" or "discussion" feature to be launched - which should be very, very interesting.
If there is one thing missing from the site that I wish was there, it's a statement of policies. Not that I can blame the caucus for not posting policies - the caucus doesn't HAVE policies of its own... The PC Party does - not that you'll find them on the Party website (in order to get them on-line, you'd need a Party V.P. of Policy who was actually interested in doing his job, or returning calls from the 403 area code).
Now, the Alberta Liberals and the Alberta New Democrats have had caucus websites for some time, although the NDP haven't updated some sections of their site in almost a year. Both parties have made mumbling reference in the past week to the fact that if they had the resources of the PC caucus, they'd have much better caucus websites (the NDP website, for my money, is far better than the Liberal one - and the NDP gets far, far less than the Liberals in public funding - it's designated on a per-member basis). I'm sort of curious how the New Democrats can cry about the funding their caucus receives for staff and communications - is it even possible to HAVE a official caucus with designated funding when you don't have official party status in the house? Aren't you just "a couple of members who hang out together" at that point? Can Jonathan Denis (Egmont) and Heather Forsyth (Fish Creek) apply for caucus funding and form the "Acadia Drive runs through my riding" caucus? How about a Snelgrove - Danyluk - Cao - Bhullar - Horner power caucus getting funding for their group, "Tories with Beards"?
In the greater scheme of things, is this website going to help the Tories? Yes, I believe it will. It shows that they're capable of change - of evolving with the times. It makes their elected members more accessible - which certainly has its potential draw-backs, as well, depending on the members involved. But in the end, it helps the Tories in a very important way: 30 years from now, it is their fervent hope that the Liberals and NDP will be griping about "nearly 70 years of consecutive Tory rule!". And while they're door-knocking in the riding of "Calgary-Gaetz Avenue", before they jump on the high-speed rail line to get back to headquarters for the Election Night celebration, the Tory MLAs of 2039 are going to be counting on the 65 year-olds to send them back to office.
Those 65 year-olds are 35 today. And you'd better believe they're members of the E.S. Nation. Computer literate. Net-savvy. And surfing to mypcmla.ca right now, to see if their local Tory is someone they can get behind.
Congratulations to Troy Wason and his team on the launch. Now, about that front-page link to The Enlightened Savage... ;)