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Justin Bieber performs on March 4, 2011 in Birmingham, England. (Matt Kent/Getty Images/Matt Kent/Getty Images)
Justin Bieber performs on March 4, 2011 in Birmingham, England. (Matt Kent/Getty Images/Matt Kent/Getty Images)

Regional Report

Twitter, Facebook? Why not just call Justin Bieber? Add to ...

It was a question from an unidentified 19-year-old at an all-candidates meeting in Golden, B.C. that highlighted the change the digital age may herald in the 2011 federal election.

"I am a first time voter. If you were to tweet me one message, what would you say?" candidates running in the riding of Kootenay-Columbia riding were asked.

"You wouldn't let your grandparents choose who you date, then why let them choose your government?" suggested a candidate who was not identified in the online report in The Golden Star.

Reflecting the digital divide in the community - and perhaps in the country, some of the candidates were unsure of exactly how long a tweet was, The Golden Star also reported. The newspaper did not indicate whether the candidates were old enough to be grandparents of the questioner.

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Kristi Patton of the Pentiction Western News detected a surge in interest among youth in the final days of the campaign. "Slowly I can see an uprising as the hours tick closer to May 2," she said in a column in the Western News.

CBC's Rick Mercer has inspired University of Guelph students to use Facebook and other social media to create a "vote mob," a form of flash mob organized on Facebook that meets quickly and unannounced for a dance or song.

The columnist speculated whether the vote mob "has just the viral juice to push young voters to do the deed."

She saw other signs of increasing youth engagement in the democratic process. YouTube videos, websites started up by young people urging others to vote, and a Facebook group called I Will Vote may have tapped into what recently inspired U.S. youth to come out and vote, the columnist wrote.

The Internet is obviously key to bringing out the younger generation, she said. "Maybe next time there will be an app for that."

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Analysis of voter turnout may indicate whether social media is useful in an election, columnist Allan Hewitson wrote in the Kitimat Northern Sentinel.

A retired public relations manager, Mr. Hewitson acknowledged that he cringed when he read the 2011 federal election would be the first to experience the full force of social media. He feared that Facebook and Twitter would trivialize an election.

"Watching extended coverage of the English leaders' debate on CBC, I saw evidence that my fear about trivialization was not exaggerated. The prominence in the 24-hour news coverage next day of the oft-reported figure that CBC received nearly 25,000 Twitter comments during the debate was disturbing. It was like reporting the hockey score. Some tweets were shown and, as I feared, most were exceedingly trivial and left me shaking my head," he wrote.

Mr. Hewitson suggested a more effective way to engage young people might be to have Justin Bieber endorse Jack Layton.

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Meanwhile in B.C. provincial politics:

NDP leader Adrian Dix is courting the heartland of B.C. with a promise to take "immediate steps", if he becomes premier, to ensure that logs harvested from Crown land are milled at local sawmills before export.

"The issue will be if we have a government in place that will take steps to protect jobs and protect communities in what will be a difficult time, and ensure that the investment that ought to flow from the increased value of our resource flows to British Columbia, as opposed to Washington or Oregon or overseas," he said in a conference call with reporters outside the Lower Mainland that was reported in several regional newspapers including The Revelstoke Times Review.

The B.C. Liberal government lifted the requirement on forest companies to mill their logs locally. The forests ministry recorded 320,000 cubic metres of whole log exports in 2006 from the northwest, 378,000 cubic metres in 2007 and 534,000 cubic metres in 2010, the newspaper reported.

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