Only 4 per cent of MPs’ websites contain information for would-be volunteers — the backbone of political organization in Canada, according to a newly released study by the Samara organization. Nor do MPs seem all that keen on using their websites for political discussion or debate with the public, the study found. Only 9 per cent of MPs’ current websites include space for comments or feedback.
The problems with these websites point to a larger problem about how much the public is tuned out of politics and how many politicians are focused more on sending messages to the voters rather than receiving them. It is well known that politics has a challenge trying to figure out how to engage with citizens in an ongoing way and not just around elections. Most MP websites, and most political websites for that matter, give us great examples of how politicians can think differently about connecting with citizens in between elections.
Almost all the websites I have seen only have very basic information about the MP - his/her biography, an email addresses and an office location. Most do not list much about the MP's activities nor anything on his/her political ambitions or positions. Common website features like Q&A's, polls, ask the candidate, political event listings, seem non-existent on the vast majority of political websites. And social media elements or links are scarce as well.
How do MPs, or any polititians, expect to connect with or engage consituents with websites that lack the features or content that the average 10th grader is capable of ? It's baffling to me that a rhobust web presence is not a higher priority for our political figures. Having siad that, this presents a huge opportunity for those polititians who do launch a good web presence in that they will dramatically stand out from the crowd.
The Samara study further points out that "Members of Parliament are great at offering their constituents the basic information about themselves,, but they perform poorly at offering ways for Canadians to engage with politics or have input on decisions and policy." According to the study, there are ”Four members of Parliament [tha] don’t [even] have any websites at all: Conservatives Jacques Gourde and Richard Harris, Bloc Québécois MP Claude Patry, and Lise St-Denis, elected for the New Democrats but now sitting as a Liberal. Andrew Scheer, the Commons speaker, was also cited in the study for not having a website."
Wow ! Mind boggling to me and to most average citizens, who practically live and work on-line.
So I issue an open invitation to any Canadian polititian who wants to improve his or her online standing and better engage their consituents to contact me. I will be happy to provide my advice and even design and host a web site for them, perhaps even for free in the right situation, as my way of helping to improve the political awareness and process in this country.
So call me Jacques Gourde, Richard Harris, Claude Patry, Lise St-Denis, and Andrew Scheer... or any Canadian polititian for that matter. I'd love to hear from you. I'd love to help you. But given my current take on Canadian politics and the overall disconnection most polititians have with the modern elecotrate, I won't hold my breath.
- Jordan Cooperman