Common sense in Canada’s election?

On May 2nd, Canadians will once again head to the polls in the fifth federal election since 2000.

By all accounts, this was a pretty unnecessary election, coming at a time when the country is still struggling to get out of the recession and get back on the road to prosperity.

But there is something even scarier for me about this election; the rise of support for the NDP in polls across the country. Whether that support will actually translate into votes at the ballot box still remains to be seen, but the fact that Canadians would consider voting for a party that has no real experience running a country and one whose platform is clearly at odds with maintaining the state of our economy makes me wonder what people are thinking.

The fact is that both the Liberals and NDP have maintained that they will need to raise taxes in order to pay down the deficit and maintain social programs. Additionally, both parties have pledged to eliminate the planned corporate tax reduction, a promise that will very likely kill jobs and reduce growth in our economy.

By eliminating corporate tax reductions you reduce the revenue businesses bring in. Without that additional revenue, these businesses have less money to put towards hiring new staff, producing more products or expanding and building their companies.

Instead, both of these parties have pledged to eliminate the planned corporate tax cut and use that money, around six billion dollars, towards funding for other programs including some to spur job creation.

But what happens the following year?

Without reduced taxes, most of these businesses will continue to pay higher costs, not only through the current tax rate (if its maintained at the same rate, should either the NDP or Liberals succeed at taking control) but also through the rising costs of fuel which are impacting everyone’s bottom line.

This may cause some of these companies to reduce investing in the economy, some of them to leave Canada for greener pastures, and many of them to close, mostly likely small businesses with limited resources.

At least with the tax cut, these businesses can continue to operate and weather the higher fuel prices, at least until they stabilize and come back to normal.

The fact is that right now what Canada needs is to maintain growth in its business sector, so that jobs can continue to be created, people can continue to spend money on products and the economy can get past the recession and start rebuilding. Neither the NDP nor Liberals are offering or can deliver this to Canadians.

In one more day, we will find out which party will the chart the course of Canada’s economy; let’s hope that its a party that isn’t interested in shipwrecks.

(Photo taken from Elections Canada website)

Go Barack Go!

In a little over an hour, history will be made (well about an hour according to the time on my laptop; I still haven’t been able to get wordpress to show the correct time.)

In the United States, either an African American will take the reins of government, or a woman will become second in command.

Now, I have watched the American election with a lot of interest, not so much because of the impending changes its about to bring, but more because the events and characters in it have been more entertaining than the latest adventures of Britney and Kevin.

But despite all of the rhetoric and name calling, I have to admit that (like most of the world) I want to see Barack Obama become president. For me, that’s a big change, considering that my blood runs the deep blue of Alberta conservatism.

But, the U.S. really hasn’t prospered all that much under “Dubya” and the Republicans, so it really does seem like its time for someone new–and I really can’t see that doddering old fool McCain taking power and then probably just as quickly turning it over to power hungry (and apparently dumber than Dubya) Sarah Palin.

Let’s face it, not knowing who the PM of Canada is and thinking a porn video is actually an expose of you doesn’t make me want you running the most powerful country in the world.

But, there is still an hour left before we find out who takes over the White House and, as the 2004 elections taught us, anything can happen in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

This time around though, lets hope the good guys will triumph and that the Americans will look at the remains of their country and vote for change. After all, what did they gain over the last 8 years?

Go Barack Go!

The politics of blogging…

It’s internship time for us students here in Centennial College’s Corporate Communications & Public Relations program. Most of my colleagues have managed to secure a placement with an organization, agency, or not-for-profit, and the few remaining students who haven’t are in the process of tying up loose ends.

For myself, I have the privilege of working with the Town of Newmarket’s communications department. In fact, I have already begun writing up some materials for them, even though I technically don’t start my internship until March 25. (Even that’s early. Internships are supposed to start March 31, but I am a bit of a PR keener! 😉 )

Anyways, I’m pretty excited to be working with the Town of Newmarket. It’s a growing community with about 80,000 residents, close proximity to Toronto, and a reputation as an environmentally progressive municipality. So, I am sure there is going to be plenty for me to do as I wet my feet working in public relations.

In fact, one aspect I have already started to consider is the introduction of social media as part of Newmarket’s communications policy. It was one of the issues that I talked about in my interview. At that time, the communications team was interested in getting involved in social media, but a little concerned over the two-way aspect of online communications (having audiences be able to respond back on blogs and social networking sites.)

But I think social media is an excellent tool for local governments to use to get closer to their constituents. Blogs give municipalities a way to communicate policies, programs and initiatives to residents and get information and public response back in a timely manner. Furthermore, blogs are the great equalizer, giving residents who normally feel disenfranchised an opportunity to make their voices heard.

In fact, some minority political parties in other countries are already making use of social media. Greensblog is a blog created by the Australian Green Senators. It gives them an opportunity to discuss government issues in a forum where their voices are not quashed by government and opposition parties who outnumber them in parliamentary debates.

Closer to home, even Democratic presidential candidate, Barack Obama is making his views, and the view from his campaign trail, known through blogging. Rival Hillary Clinton also seems to have a blog in her name, though its credibility seems suspect.

But the fact that blogging is now a form of public relations for these candidates—or at least Obama—and for governments at large, is a huge indication that social media is a much more important element nowadays in public communication and interaction.

It’s a lesson it seems Canadian governments still need to learn. A recent post on Simon Dickson’s blog, I’m Simon Dickson, talks about the UK Foreign Office making a major jump into Web 2.0 with the launch of not one, but SIX blogs spanning all levels of the organization.

Over here, however, the only blog I found after several minutes of searching was by Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Well at least someone gets the idea of Web 2.0. But it’s a definite fact that social media should be taken more seriously by governments in Canada as a way to communicate with their audiences.

In fact, two Australian researchers, Barry Saunders and Jason Wilson, recently wrote in their online article, Consulting Bloggers as Citizens, about the importance of blogging for local governments.

“Blogging and other forms of participatory social media (such as wikis) are well suited to consultative policy development. They allow comments and feedback, and thus open up discussion to a range of voices. This in turn allows political debate to move beyond left-right political point-scoring to a more complex, nuanced, interactive process.”

Furthermore, governments, especially municipal ones who have a closer representative relationship with their constituents, can actually use blogs and social media to get accurate feedback and information when developing policies which affect their constituents.

“Blogging is about arguments and discussion – a robust conversation about healthcare reform might be informative, and would certainly gauge the depth of community feeling around the issue. Such an unfettered discussion might help defuse the electorate’s most common complaint about major party politics: “they just aren’t listening.”

Social media is now a tool governments can use to show they are not only listening to their constituents; but that they’re also involved in the discussion. And until governments here decide to get involved, they just don’t hear what we’re saying.