Alberta’s election online: Off to a slow start

By: Sandford BorinsAlberta Premier Ed Stelmach did what was widely expected and called an election for Monday March 3. Having in mind my monitoring of the U.S. presidential candidates' Web sites last month and the Ontario and Saskatchewan party Web sites in the fall, I visited the Alberta party Web sites, and – at least at the outset of the campaign – they don't measure up.The best of the lot is the Liberal Party. The site focuses on the two-word campaign theme, “It's Time” and has an implicit narrative formed by juxtaposed photos of party leader Kevin Taft, the legislature, and the scenery.Taft's schedule is laid out in some detail for the next week and there is a video on the home page, with links to a YouTube channel that has 14 videos posted.Policy positions in 19 different areas are set out in more detail than those of the other parties, but the Liberals haven't yet made the necessary choice of two or three positions to focus on. There is a blog, but it just asks the visitor to e-mail the party his or her thoughts on various policy areas.Finally – and this is a major gap for a party hoping to unseat a well-entrenched government – there is no attack narrative.The Alberta Progressive Conservative Party home page has the look of a sophisticated Web site in terms of visual presentation and the essential components of an election campaign such as a theme (“Change that Works for Albertans”), opportunities for engagement, and links to social networking sites.When you click on the links, however, you discover that there is little or nothing there. There is a YouTube channel but it has no videos yet. There are few press releases or events listed. There are no blog entries yet. There is no video on the home page. And there are no critiques of the opposition. The most I can say is that when the campaign gets going, the PC's may start filling in the boxes.The Alberta NDP site is very rudimentary. It has a picture of leader Brian Mason, a slogan (“On Your Side”), a list of 10 reasons to vote NDP, and four priorities, albeit given a very cursory presentation. It lacks video, a YouTube channel or any other social networking capability, blogs, and any attack narrative.Finally, the Wildrose Alliance, the new “true blue” alternative, headlines its site by celebrating the recent formation of the alliance and showing off its policy positions. But it doesn't mention the election. Is it in the game or not?Perhaps my judgments are unduly harsh in light of the campaign having just started. The Ontario and Saskatchewan party sites, however, were much more highly developed on day one. Maybe the problem is Alberta's one party dominance.But the whole point of online campaigning is that it provides a low-cost alternative campaign medium for under funded political long shots. At least so far, however, the long shots aren't making good use of it.I'll keep watching to see if the Alberta election campaign either on the ground or in the air comes to life and report back at least once before Election Day.

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