Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Keith Fountain Demonstrates How to Blog

If you want to see how a politician can effectively use a blog to discuss an issue with constituents, have a look at Keith Fountain's recent blog entry.

In this entry, Keith talks about public service reform, in the form of a letter to a constituent. There are a few things to note:

1) He discusses the issue on his own terms. There's nothing about PS reform currently on the CPC website, so he's not really echoing any national talking points here. In this case he's on a par with Richard Mahoney's exercise diary, except that Richard has yet to discuss issues there.

2) He couches his argument in terms of his own experience. Remember that Keith is himself a former civil servant, so when he talks about the conditions under which mid-level public servants work, he knows whereof he speaks. In Ottawa-Centre, where the public service makes up a big chunk of the voting population, that kind of constituent identification is very important, akin to Paul Dewar playing hockey.

3) He's not hard-selling. Note that in his language, he's not trying to work in points to blast the Libranos with. He calls the Liberal policy on PS recruitment short-sighted, and mentions the sponsorship scandal, but note that there's no attempt to foist the "corruption" argument. That's because it's not needed in this context. It's this type of measured response that moves this entry away from the "flogging" viewpoint that less-experienced web-diarists can take.

This blog entry, in short, demonstrates how a candidate can discuss a sensitive issue without going overboard on the partisanship.

And note one other thing: there is public (albeit moderated) commentary. While Ottawa-Centre's two other candidate blogs offer e-mail feedback, Keith's allows for public conversation, one of blogging's greatest advantages. It shows how Keith deals with his audience, both allies and adversaries, which is a good thing to know about a candidate.

Of course his site isn't perfect. It doesn't reach the French constituents, unlike Richard Mahoney's, and there's no events page to list where people can meet him, unlike Paul Dewar's. But of the three candidates, based on experience alone, Keith has the firmest grasp of blogging's potential in an election campaign.