How Canada’s Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s Social Media Engagement is Paying Off

by politicalthing

This blog was originally authored by me and published on the Radian6 website on June 13, 2012. I’m posting it here for posterity.

As summer approaches and the temperatures begin to rise, so too does the level of political drama unfolding in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. The issue at the heart of the drama is the current debate on the passage of Bill C38, the federal budget.

Amid the clamor, Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party of Canada and the party’s lone Member of Parliament, has grabbed the attention of the national media with her list of suggested amendments to the Government’s budget, nearly 300 in total.

Since being elected in 2011, May has built a following on Twitter and is constantly engaging with her community.  I even got a congratulatory tweet from her after snapping a picture of her former campaign headquarters in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. May’s commitment to using Twitter to amplify her voice seems to be paying off during this year’s budget debate.

A Brief History

In the parliamentary tradition, budget bills are typically contentious affairs, as the Government puts forward its priorities for the nation and how it intends to pay for them. This year’s budget bill has been particularly contentious, as the Government has introduced a number of measures that have met with controversy. Listing reforms to environmental protection, employment insurance premiums, and increasing the age when Canadians will be eligible to receive Old Age Security pensions to name just a few, this year’s omnibus budget bill has fueled social conversations amongst Canadians.

Which Political Parties are Leading on Social

Each of the nation’s political parties have taken various stands on different aspects of the Government’s budget and are competing with one another to communicate their points of view to Canadians. Let’s take a look at how their efforts are impacting the conversation on social media.

Canadian Political Party Mentions

Between June 1 and June 12, there have been 18,212 mentions of Canada’s political parties.

Searching the various hashtags being used to discuss the budget bill between June 1 and June 12, it is clear that the governing Conservative Party of Canada and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP) have dominated social mentions. The Liberal Party of Canada, the third -lace party in the House of Commons follows the NDP for social media mentions. Finally, the Bloc Quebecois rounds out the party mentions.

What is interesting here is the share of conversation garnered by the Green Party of Canada. In Canada’s 308-seat House of Commons, May holds the Party’s only seat. Her ability to impact legislation is extremely limited based on the rules of Canada’s parliament. However, to get around this, May has taken to Twitter to amplify her voice in the national political discourse, and it appears to be working.

A Look at the Leaders

The leaders of Canada’s political parties have also been a major topic of conversation related to the budget bill, generating 8,933 social mentions.

Canadian Political Leader Mentions

Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper generates the most mentions in relation to social conversations about the budget. It is his government’s bill and so the Prime Minister’s name is often used interchangeably with the terms “government” and “conservative party”.

This graph further indicates the success that Green Party leader Elizabeth May is finding on social media, beating out the Leader of the Opposition, Thomas Mulcair, in social mentions.  Liberal leader Bob Rae came in fourth.

Politics Amplified

Among Canada’s political leaders, May has brought a unique approach to social media communications. By necessity, she’s had to find a way to force herself into the national media spotlight and social media has been one of her approaches. In doing so, May has created a community of followers and is always open to engaging with Canadians, regardless of the party they support.

Are you thinking to yourself, “Well, this is all well and good, but social mentions do not translate into votes at the ballot box?” Check out this blog for some ideas on how to go about doing just that: