“Social media helps to get to know the real people you’re voting for,” said Liberal Party of Canada leadership candidate Justin Trudeau yesterday while chatting with Facebook Canada’s Managing Director Jordan Banks at an event in Toronto.
The “fireside chat” style conversation focused on the future of politics and the social web. Here are some of the highlights.
SOCIAL MEDIA AS A TOOL FOR DEMOCRACY
Trudeau said that social media represents “the new public square online.” While he argued that it’s not necessarily the right forum for deep political debates, he said that he sees social media as a vehicle for sharing ideas and for being authentic and transparent with his constituents.
He also pointed out that social media encourages accountability—not just for politicians but “for Canadians to take ownership of the solutions that our government is developing.” Trudeau said we can do so by participating and contributing to solutions online.
He explained that a big challenge with today’s youth being so plugged-in and having access to so much information online is that it can lead to feeling small and overwhelmed, rather than empowered and having the capacity to make a difference. However, he argued that youth are very much interested in getting involved and many volunteer and participate in NGO and charitable initiatives.
“But they don’t want to hear from politicians about partisan attacks,” said Trudeau. Instead, political leaders need to engage and share their views [on social media platforms and via other channels] with youth about the bigger issues and what their long term focus will be—rather than just their short-term, “band-aid solutions” to problems.
LESSONS FROM BARACK OBAMA
Trudeau agreed with Banks that Obama “used social media incredibly well to get elected [in 2008].” However, he argued that while Obama was able to mobilize people online to vote for him, he didn’t keep them engaged afterwards in helping to make changes. “Once we’re able to mobilize people, we need to determine how we transform the way our democracy works. We need to engage people [using social media], in more discussions and increase their involvement at a more rigorous level,” said Trudeau. Likewise, he explained that the new tools and technologies available should help make constituents more aware of whether the government is doing a good job.
The fireside chat ended with Banks asking Trudeau a series of George Stroumboulopoulis-esque rapid-fire questions. Some memorable questions and answers included:
Q: In five years, RIM will be... A: Still catching up to Apple.
Q: Favourite social media platform? A: Twitter.
Q: Favourite app? A: Tweetbot.
Q: Average time spent on a connected device? A: Too much.
Q: Who would you rather meet: Jobs, Zuckerberg or Gates? A: Steve Jobs. Just for the sheer entertainment value. Plus, he was a true genius.
It was interesting to hear a Canadian political leader talk about social media as a way to create a dialogue with the public to guide policy development. Do you think technology can help bring citizens closer to government decision-making? Please share your thoughts below.
(Full disclosure: Andrea is married to a member of the Ontario Liberal Party.)