A few years back, I wrote my MP to present a polite and reasonable argument in support of gay marriage rights. A few years later, I was living in another riding, and wrote my MP there to explain how I felt about carbon taxes and our environmental policy. Both times, I received absolutely no response.
"It figures," I thought to myself. "They've simply written me off as someone who would never vote for them, and as such, they've simply decided not to listen."
Later, after moving to Medicine Hat, I found out that our standing MP, Monte Solberg, was retiring. Parliament paid him a lovely tribute, mentioning that he'd been voted "funniest MP" by his peers at an informal Ottawa social earlier that year. I found that odd, since anything he'd ever sent to my house, any interviews he'd ever given, and any content on his website were all the same: an exact echo of Stephen Harper's policies, plus a commitment to the people of Medicine Hat. Maybe he was funnier to the people of Brooks? Anyway, my point is this: as important as it is for people to be active in their government, there's often a wall separating people from real communication with their Members of Parliament.
Forward to 2011: I contact Tony Clement, Industry Minister, and jokingly tell him that I'll be his pal if he reverses the CRTC usage-based billing decision. No reply, but I think to myself, "Well, that's understandable. He's a busy guy. I'm sure he saw my message and understands my concern, though."
Really, Mr. Clement had even less reason to be concerned with me -- he *is* a busy man, and I'm a long way from his home in Muskoka. But I feel like I actually have a voice when talking to him. And why is that?
We've become a cynical people. We see every picture of a politician as being painstakingly staged for their benefit. For most MPs with a twitter account, they follow this route: their tweets are a perfect mirror of their press releases.
Mr. Clement, though, uses Twitter like it was meant to be used: as a constant, real-time interaction with the rest of the world. He tweets about things that are important to him, but meaningless to the country's well-being. He occasionally gets into an argument with his followers about Rush, or football. And when he does talk about important matters, his followers know that those are his honest opinions. The perfect example of this is when he recently tweeted that he was indeed prepared to reverse the CRTC decision if they didn't revise it first. This was big news, and the head of the CRTC - the head of the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission - didn't hear about it until he read it in the newspaper. Congratulations on proving your expertise to us, sir.
As a side note, Mr. Clement's been on a hot streak in my books lately. He forces the CRTC to allow a new cellular service into Canada, he prevents the sale of Saskatchewan's Potash Corporation to Australia, and although I realise that our Internet usage is starting to push the limits of our system, Bell's solution wouldn't have helped anyone but Bell. Mr. Clement saw that, too, and acted accordingly. I've never voted Conservative in my life, but I'm half-tempted to send a cheque to his riding in the next election campaign. Perhaps my MP works just as hard supporting Canadian interests, but judging by what he's told me, all I know about him is that he's "committed to Medicine Hat", and that he's better than Michael Ignatieff.
That's why, this Friday, I suggest you sign up for Twitter, and follow @TonyClement_MP. Not only is it the future of Canadian politics, it's how politics should be.
Oh, and follow @Labville, too, while you're at it. That guy's terrific.