The Globe and Mail’s Chris Hannay (@CHannay on Twitter) has hosted a series of live chats with political figures over the last week. I had the opportunity to participate in two — yesterday’s chat with interim Liberal leader Bob Rae and today’s with former Reform Party leader Preston Manning. In both cases, my submitted question made it to the chat.

Bob Rae


Bob Rae has participated in many discussions about the ever-increasing role of digital and social media in democratic engagement and political communication. In fact, he participated in a parti

Yesterday’s live chat was titled. How has social media changed politics? My question to Mr. Rae was…

As much as the public is critical of the current government for its control of social media content and messaging, is it realistic to expect a Liberal or NDP government would be truly open, ‘transparent’ and engaged over digital channels in the same way they would be as opposition parties?

Mr. Rae’s response?

theres always a temptation once in office to do business in a partisan way, but all I can say is that is such a cynicism about politics today that I believe governments have to do more to change their ways. I think our own party will have to make some clear commitments going into the next election, and be judged up or down by how we do in implementing them

Unfortunately, my follow-up question didn’t make the cut. I issued a request of Mr. Rae to share his three suggestions for Canadians who want to get the attention of MPs over social media for the purpose of having a dialog or working toward a particular outcome. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to meet with Mr. Rae and ask him that question directly.

You can read the entire chat here.

Preston Manning


The theme of Preston Manning’s chat was Should special training be required for Parliamentarians? Still, I managed to squeeze in a question about social media.

In your view, to what degree should MPs be engaged with citizens over social media? Do you believe there is a bona fide role for the tools in shaping discussion, debate and decisions for constituencies and in Parliament? (with particular attention to engaged rather than just having requisite accounts and using them to issue statements or broadcast activities)

Mr. Manning’s response?

It seems to me that social media will have an increasingly important role in revitalizing democracy and improving communications between elected officials and their constituents. But the growng influence of social media can also have is downside that needs to be guarded against – some of the political commentary on social media is even more partisan and polarizing than politicla discourse in the conventional media or in parliament.

Yes. I agree… “more partisan and polarizing” has definitely become an issue with online political chatter. I’d like to have more time to speak with Mr. Manning to discuss ways this could be addressed.

Mr. Manning also shared this important insight:

I am a great believer in “issue campaigns” to get some issue that is important higher on the national or provincial agenda than it presently is. An issue campaign is run like an election campaign with a campaign team, a communications plan, fundraising, volunteers, etc. But its aim is not to get someone elected but to get an issue or some solution to an issue higher on the politicians agenda. These issue campaigns are better run by coalitions of interest groups rather than political parties and they are also a great training ground for those who want to later get into electoral politics.

You can read the entire chat here.

Thanks, Chris, for arranging these chats and for keeping the conversation going.