You can learn a lot about John Weston from his website.
The Member of Parliament sits on the immigration and fisheries committees. He's helped direct $240-million in federal funding to West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country since he was first elected in 2008. He's an avid cyclist, speaks Mandarin and has three teenaged children.
What you wouldn't learn easily from Mr. Weston's website: He's a Conservative.
As Parliament debates whether to empower backbenchers and which party's MPs are more free from the whip, a look at the digital landscape of parliamentarians shows a major difference between the governing Conservatives and the Official Opposition NDP.
Most Tory MPs don't identify their party online. New Democrat MPs do.
First, the numbers: Only 20 per cent of Conservative MPs display the party logo on their website, according to a Globe and Mail count. Another quarter mention the party somewhere on their site, often only in passing in the MP's biography. According to an analysis from Samara, a non-profit working on civic engagement, about 16 per cent of Tory MPs' websites have a link to the main party.
Many of those links were not obvious. For example, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt's website only mentions the Conservative Party on a page with links to many federal and New Brunswick government services.
The reason for this partly rests in where the website designs come from. Both parties have central resource groups that provide information, campaign literature and the like for the Members of Parliament in their caucus.
NDP MPs, the majority of whom were elected in the Orange Wave of 2011, have almost unanimously adopted the party's templates, which include logos.
In fact, 86 of the 100 NDP MPs currently use the central service, according to Erin Jacobson, deputy director of strategic communications in NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's office. Ms. Jacobson oversees the team who provide resources like website design to MPs in her party.
"Our MPs are proud to belong to the New Democrat team and choose to communicate that through their websites," she said.
A quick trip through the websites of Conservative MPs show a greater diversity of templates, some obviously older designs that haven't been updated.
(The Conservative party does maintain a searchable database on their website of biographies and contact info for MPs in their caucus.)
Mr. Weston, whose website was given the highest marks among Conservative MPs by Samara's analysis, said through his office that he was proud of the website and the information it provided to his constituents.
"Our website is built according to our mission statement, shown in every office, which is to serve the people of our riding passionately and effectively, without fear or favour, in accordance to our values: freedom, responsibility, equality, compassion and integrity," Mr. Weston said in a statement. He did not comment on the absence of the party logo.
Mark Blevis, a digital-communications consultant who often writes about the websites of MPs, says consistency in website design can be useful because it makes it easier for users to find the information they're looking for. (Think of how confusing it can be to walk into a grocery store that puts the baking department in an odd place.)
And, he points out, there is a value in clearly identifying what party an MP belongs to because, come election day, many Canadians cast their ballots based on party – and not who the candidate it is. "It's a public service," he said.
Mr. Blevis does give Conservatives credit for stepping up their digital game. After some rough years, he said, their websites now provide much more useful information than they used to.
Chris Hannay is The Globe's online politics editor.