Online Political Activity in Canada: The Hype and the Facts

Online Political Activity in Canada: The Hype and the Facts

How do Canadians engage with the political content provided by governments, political parties and parliamentarians in Canada? Employing data from the 2014 Canadian Online Citizenship Survey, this article explores how Canadians use digital communications to become informed about, discuss and/or participate in politics. The results suggest that less than half of respondents use the Internet to engage in Canadian politics and while governments, politicians and parties have made extensive forays into cyberspace, politics is a minor online activity for Canadians.

Over the last two decades, there has been a revolution in communication technology with the widespread adoption of computer networks and digital technologies. There are very few areas of society, economics and culture that have remained untouched by these technologies. Not surprisingly, digital technologies have also infiltrated the world of Canadian politics. They have changed how representative institutions communicate and respond to citizens. In the mid-1990s, government departments, political parties and parliamentarians across Canada began creating websites in order to inform and, potentially, engage citizens. More recently, social media, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have become mainstays of political communication in Canada. Indeed, as of October 2014, 80 per cent of federal Members of Parliament were using Twitter. One can also follow tweets of the Senate of Canada and the Library of Parliament. While we know much about the online presences of governments, political parties and parliamentarians in Canada,1 less is known about the extent to which Canadians engage with the political content provided by these different actors.2

Balancing Family and Work: Challenges Facing Canadian MPs

Balancing Family and Work: Challenges Facing Canadian MPs

Many Canadians struggle to balance their families and careers. A 2011 Harris/Decima poll, reports that 47% of Canadians struggle to achieve a work-life balance, and family is often an important aspect of that balance. Certain professions, including that of MP, make achieving such a balance more difficult than others. This article looks at the overall nature of the strain on MPs the two strategies that MPs employ to adapt the challenges of the job, and potential reforms that might work to assuage some of the strain placed on MPs and their families. The data for this paper comes from a series of semi-structured interviews conducted by Samara, an independent charitable organization that improves political and democratic participation in Canada, as part of its MP Exit Interview Project. This paper used transcripts from the interviews of 65 former MPs who left public life during or after the 38th and 39th Parliaments. These men and women served, on average, 10.5 years, and together represented all political parties and regions of the country. The group included 21 cabinet ministers and one prime minister.

In his penetrating exploration of “the dark side” of political life in Canada, Steve Paikin saves the family for his book’s penultimate chapter. Paikin’s narrative stands as a stark warning to those entering politics and hoping to maintain a healthy family life. He tells the story of Christine Stewart, a Liberal MP elected in 1993, who attended an orientation session for rookies. “Look around this room,” warned the session’s guide. “Because by the end of your political careers, 70 percent of you will either be divorced or have done serious damage to your marriages.” Paikin reports that Stewart felt she would be the exception to the rule; instead, her seventeen-year marriage came to an end during her time as MP.