The internet and social media like Facebook are changing the face of municipal elections – fully nine of the 10 city council candidates boast Facebook pages devoted to their campaigns.
Incumbent Kevin Chernoff said he’s never seen an election like this one.
“It is fascinating to see how social media is shaping Municipal Elections campaigns across the Province - mine included,” Chernoff said. “I don’t think digital social media, as of yet, will totally replace some of the more traditional forms of campaigning, but it definitely is making an impact in shaping the way we interact with people.”
He said he sees enormous potential for local politicians to speak to exponentially larger audiences through the use of new media.
“Social media also allows us access to a much younger segment of the population, who are engaged, but not normally through traditional media,” he added. “They would be more inclined to post to a status comment than write a letter to an editor.”
Three-term incumbent Deb McIntosh won her first election in 2002, and she said this is the first time she’s ever seen the internet used to campaign.
“(In previous elections), going online wasn’t even a consideration,” she said. “But I started using Facebook about two years ago, and found it a great way to connect with people I wouldn’t have, otherwise.
“It was a logical next step to apply that to my campaign.”
She said social media and the internet are only one piece of a larger campaign puzzle that includes door-knocking, forums, radio, print, etc., but she’s discovered some unexpected advantages to an electoral web.
“People speak way more freely on the internet than they do face-to-face,” she said. “And people show up there who would not show up to a council meeting.
“It’s an unthreatening environment to offer feedback, ask questions and engage.”
She said she intends, if elected, to take it another step as a councillor.
“I do think we, as a council, really have to look at social media beyond the election, and start using to get the word out about what we’re doing and why, and to receive community feedback.”
Incumbent Gord Turner is the sole council candidate to eschew a campaign Facebook page.
“I don’t need it,” he said. “I don’t think it will get me any votes – most of the people I interact with don’t use that media, or use it very infrequently.”
Interestingly, neither mayoral candidate has a Facebook page or other internet campaign tool, either.
Incumbent mayor Lawrence Chernoff said he doesn’t oppose the idea, it just doesn’t suit him.
“I don’t generally use Facebook, and I don’t Twitter – it’s just not my thing,” he said. “I do more face-to-face than anything, whether I’m campaigning or not.”
Mayoral challenger Gord Zaitsoff was unavailable for comment.