MPs napping through the Web revolution

Despite the growing numbers of Canadians who use the Internet on a daily basis, federal MPs are surprisingly absent from the Web.

Only 58 per cent of Canadian MPs have official Web sites, according to a survey released by the Ottawa-based Centre for Collaborative Government. The research, which examined how MPs use their Web sites to connect with constituents, also revealed that only 27 per cent of those with Web sites used interactive tools such as online feedback forms or surveys that allow citizens to express views directly to their MP.

“MPs do not seem to recognize how much these tools are changing the way Canadians make decisions on important issues in their lives,” said Donald Lenihan, director of the Centre for Collaborative Government.

In total, only 174 of 301 MPs had functional Web sites. Fifty- six additional MPs either had a Web site under construction or indicated plans to build one. But support staff in 71 MPs’ offices stated they had no plans to develop a Web site in the near future. And Canadian MPs are missing the fact that they can use online tools to improve fundraising, campaigning and selling party memberships, Lenihan says. By contrast, in the U.S., Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura used his site during his 1998 campaign to mobilize unprecedented voter support by building an online network of nearly 5,000 active participants.