It’s evident that the Don Valley West by-election won’t happen, as we head to a general election on October 14. In posting on the election I will be focusing on communication strategies, namely positive narratives extolling the leader’s strengths and the party’s vision and attack narratives taking aim at the policies or leaders of the other parties. I will also be looking at the online aspects of the campaign, in particular the messaging on and capabilities of the party’s websites, and the use of Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube and Facebook.
In the last two years YouTube has come to play a particularly important role for circulating both political gaffes (for example. former Virginia Senator George Allen’s use of “macaca” and Hillary Clinton’s (mis)remembered dangerous visit to Bosnia) and statements of support (Yes We Can).
Before diving into the election, I decided to step back and look for the presence of recent former prime ministers on YouTube. Not surprisingly, Pierre Trudeau has the strongest presence, with the most popular video, at 80,000 views, being his famous “just watch me” interview during the 1970 FLQ Crisis. There was much less for Jean Chretien, Brian Mulroney, or John Turner. Notably absent were the 1984 leaders’ debate, in which Mulroney clobbered Turner on the issue of patronage appointments, and the 1988 debate, in which Turner powerfully made the case against the Free Trade Agreement. Jacques Parizeau’s notorious speech blaming the sovereigntist defeat in the 1995 referendum on “money and ethnic votes”, however, was there.
I then had a look at Library and Archives Canada’s website. They have a huge visual archive, but the problem is that it is available onsite in Ottawa but not online. There is a gap in political cyberspace between the immediate and quirky videos posted on YouTube and the Archives’ encyclopedic Ottawa-based holdings. The Archive should establish a committee of experts to choose the top 100 Canadian political videos of the last, say, 40 years and post them on the Library and Archives website. It would be a great way of bringing our political history to life.