Whether it's Michael Ignatieff re-tweeting a message from singer Nelly Furtado or Prime Minister Stephen Harper posting self-portraits from the podium on Facebook, it's clear that politicians are finally latching on to social media as a way to engage voters leading up to Canada's federal election.
While all of the political parties are going online in one form or another, there is also a groundswell of activity among the Internet generation to encourage citizens to actively participate in decisions about our country's future. LeadNow is one such organization. The group of young people are creating a "new way for people to participate effectively in our democracy." They list MoveOn.org as one of their influences, a group with much power south of the border thanks to its five million members.
Most recently, LeadNow is asking followers to take part in a national tweet-up (a meet-up organized on Twitter) to watch Tuesday's 2011 Leader's Debate. At five venues across the country, from Montreal to Vancouver, Canadians plan to watch the candidates discuss their platforms and tweet out their reactions. More than 50 people have confirmed attendance at the event out in British Columbia, and the numbers dwindle somewhat as you head east.
Another group, Get Your Vote On, is also aiming to bring people between 18 and 34 into the political process. Their website is fairly static, but their Twitter feed is heating up with lots of information for voters. Both GYVO and LeadNow are affiliated or working in one way or another with OpenMedia, an organization founded by long-time activist Steve Anderson who is best known as a leading voice behind Canadians fighting for net neutrality.
It's tough to say just how much influence these groups will have, but if they continue to organize events and engage people online, they are likely to persuade their communities to get out to the polls May 2nd. LeadNow's co-founder would also like to see politicians pay more attention to the audience his organization is serving.
"We'd love to see the party leaders pick up on the challenge," Jamie Biggar says. "Shake things up and get out and talk to young people about the issues that matter to them, and most importantly, listen to what they say. We'd love to see a public forum with the leaders and youth on key issues like the environment, economic opportunity and equality."