Out of touch: Rural MLA candidates not adapting to youth communication needs

By Ligia Braidotti

It’s election time, and it seems some candidates aren’t prepared to communicate with their young voters as quickly as possible.

The Winnipeg Voice tried to contact 11 MLA candidates from three southern Manitoba ridings this morning. Some didn’t answer their phones and didn’t return the calls by press deadline. Others didn’t even have contact information accompanying their profiles on the Elections Manitoba website.

Who’d think that in the middle of such an important campaign, some MLA candidates wouldn’t make themselves available to talk to the media?

And what happens when the people who want to represent us don’t seem to want to talk to the younger public? They don’t know the real concerns.

MLAs are the bridge between the people and the premier. All candidates promise they will speak up for our concerns, but we can’t believe what they preach if we don’t see them acting.

And it doesn’t stop there, because how people communicate is evolving.

Simply having an answering machine is not enough. The younger generation usually avoids phone calls at all costs. It’s easier to type a few words on a smartphone and send a text or an email.

Having a strong social media presence is crucial. It’s the most efficient way for a candidate to immediately show their voters what they are planning for us.

Only four candidates have a Twitter account linked to their profile on the Elections Manitoba site.

MLA Liberal candidate for Emerson Loren Braul – one of the candidates who didn’t answer the phone today – hasn’t been very active on Twitter. The last time he tweeted something himself was on Jan. 27. Not too long ago, on March 15, he retweeted an article from the Canadian Mennonite University about him being a lawyer.

It isn’t easy to talk to NDP candidates in Manitoba, since they all have the same phone number on their websites. That’s because you have to call the NDP office in Manitoba and request to talk to an MLA. At least it’s a toll-free number.

Two candidates don’t have any contact information on the Elections Manitoba website – no links to websites, Facebook pages or phone numbers. MLA Liberal candidate for Midland Julia Sisler is one of these candidates, and if you type her name into Google, you’ll find her in a list of member of the Young Liberals of Manitoba, but, again, no phone numbers are available.

Green Party MLA candidate for Morden-Winkler Mike Urichuk also didn’t have a phone number on his website. The Winnipeg Voice had to call the party’s office in Manitoba, but they didn’t answer and didn’t have a voice mail.

Progressive Conservative incumbents Blaine Pedersen (Midland), Cameron Friesen (Morden-Winkler) and Cliff Graydon (Emerson), have their office’s number in the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba’s website, but they didn’t answer.

The only two candidates who responded by deadline were Midland’s Stacy O’Neill (Green Party) and Jacqueline Theroux (NDP).

The media is the bridge between the candidates and the readers. If they are not quick to talk to the media about what matters to the readers, will they be quick to talk to the readers themselves?

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