Municipal Politicians Need to Open Up

Dear London-area politicians,

You need to open up more. WAY more. The lack of communication we get at the municipal level is abysmal. Compare yourselves to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin, MP Tony Clement, former Toronto Mayor David Miller, or MP Glen Pearson, and you’ll see the difference between your approach and theirs.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty

In fact, Glen Pearson blogs, tweets and even uploads videos to YouTube! He’s a pretty good example of what more politicians ought to be doing long before they run, during a campaign, and especially after being elected.

Do I expect the politicians themselves to always be the ones communicating with us via the various channels? No, of course not. I know full well their staffers will be doing some of it, and that’s fine. The difference is accessibility, and at least attempting to appear to be a normal person that just happens to be in an elected position of power vs. someone in a position of power telling you what they believe you should be thinking about.

I adore the fact that Dalton McGuinty has a Twitter account, and will tweet about seemingly innocuous things like coming home from his recent trip to China, where his dog showed more enthusiasm for his return than his kids did. It’s real, we all feel that way sometimes, and he actually replies to many tweets himself (according one or two directed at me).

There are a few area politicians who are leading the way, like Nancy Branscombe and Judy Bryant; unfortunately they are the exceptions to the rule in our area.  Middlesex Centre Mayor Al Edmondson, whom I’ve exchanged emails with in the past, has a website that was launched for the recent municipal election that hasn’t been updated since the election. Newly elected London Mayor Joe Fontana recently deleted his Twitter account after saying, during the campaign, he intended to continue communicating with citizens via his Twitter account (which lead to the events surrounding my previous blog entry).

I know what some of you are thinking: Who cares? Why should politicians blog, tweet, or have Facebook pages?

Middlesex Centre Mayor Al Edmondson

At a purely selfish level (for them), to help them get re-elected. If you’re a politician, and you strong believe you’re still the right person for the job, you need to get your positions, accomplishments, and message out there in as many ways as possible. If you think I’m wrong, you might as well not run in 2014. Get done what you can now, then get out.

In four years Twitter, Facebook, blogs – or whatever other medium comes in to replace or supplement those communication platforms – will be far more important than they are now. Much of the electorate in the London area is still catching on to social networking/media sites (for reasons other than sharing funny cat videos), but I myself maintain two Twitter lists full of London-based accounts – right now they track 840 individuals, businesses and organizations.

That’s 840 Londoners on Twitter who talk to 10 friends, who talk to 10 friends, etc. – the math starts to add up quickly! Oh, and that doesn’t count the Londoners with “protected” accounts – you can’t add those to Twitter lists. So the number’s probably closer to 900, if not more.

On a more altruistic level, politicians need to open themselves up in order to show they can take criticism and praise with equal grace, to show they really do care about their constituents whether it’s a riding or a ward, and to help increase their profile overall. It’s important to know who you should speak to regarding issues in your community regardless of the issue falling under municipal, provincial or federal jurisdiction – having name recognition makes your constituents feel better about having a real voice at city/town hall, Queen’s Park or Parliament.

I’m talking to London, Strathroy, Mt. Brydges, Kilworth, Komoka, Dorchester, Arva, Ilderton, St. Thomas, Glencoe, Newbury politicians… get more engaged; whether for the more selfish reasons I outlined above, or more community-building and altruistic reasons. At the moment, I’m not overly concerned why you do it – just do it.