|Despite best intentions, I am by most definitions a political animal. Delighting in politics since the age of ten, I have this definite need to get in there, to do more then this ritual "participation" of voting. Last spring's provincial (British Columbia) elections drifted into my area of expertise -- networking / website design -- and served as an immediate excuse to get involved, resulting in this article. While much of the information is necessarily out of date (J Reynolds won the election, and several of the candidates interviewed below will not run again), it is still a rather intriguing capsule of information in this, the first rays of an altogether different dawn.
I would like to know what make of computers and operating systems (ie, Microsoft vs.
Macintosh vs. Unix) was used in the construction and hosting of your website, and
why you consider a website to be a viable resource during (and after) your campaign,
plus any real-life examples you might have. I would also like to know if any of my Candidates
were personally involved in the design and content. Since some of these questions
may be too technical, I've sent copies of this message to your "website designers" as well.
As we near the end of this hectically short election, I'd like to know your closing
thoughts, final comments et all, to take with me to the polling booth.
I ask these questions out of personal curiosity, but your interesting answers will
reach some 100 to 600 people here in the Powell River area.
Thanks for your time,
Joseph McLean, founder & chief webspace designer SFIS
This is a test message of sorts, an impromptu survey sent to all candidates in my
riding (West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast). My goal is to test the strength of your
online presences -- this time around, every party has a website, but are they being
used to their *full* potential? I'd be interested to see who writes back first -- and no
auto-generated messages, please! By understanding how each party approached the
task of "internet presence", I hope to gain a clearer view of your approach to the
I would like to know what make of computers and operating systems (ie, Microsoft vs. Macintosh vs. Unix) was used in the construction and hosting of your website, and why you consider a website to be a viable resource during (and after) your campaign, plus any real-life examples you might have. I would also like to know if any of my Candidates were personally involved in the design and content. Since some of these questions may be too technical, I've sent copies of this message to your "website designers" as well.
As we near the end of this hectically short election, I'd like to know your closing thoughts, final comments et all, to take with me to the polling booth.
I ask these questions out of personal curiosity, but your interesting answers will reach some 100 to 600 people here in the Powell River area.
Thanks for your time,
Joseph McLean, founder & chief webspace designer SFIS
[note, there are *two* PC websites reviewed, one the national party and one belonging solely to local candidate Dave Thomas]
Time until response (smaller is better) [all responses written by campaign workers except the final one] Reform........ 3 hours Natural Law... 5 Liberal.......12 Green.........24 PC National...30 [national party] NDP...........31 PC Dave.......46 [local candidate] Size of Message (higher is better) Natural Law...8 kilobytes Liberal.......6 PC Dave.......5 Reform........5 NDP...........4 PC National...3 Green.........2 Understanding of Website Displayed in Message (star rating, out of 5 -- extrapolated further down) Natural Law...5 stars Reform........4 PC Dave.......3 NDP...........3 Liberal.......2 PC National...1 Green.........0 My Review of Websites (star rating, out of 5, extrapolated further down) [Websites were reviewed prior to learning what computer environment they were created in, to ensure no bias on my part. Primary considerations included content, speed, interface, interactivity and ease of use] Party.......Rating....Environment........Address............ NDP...........5 stars..Macintosh...http://www.ndp.ca Natural Law...4........Macintosh...http://www.natural-law.ca Liberal.......3........Windows.....http://www.liberal.ca Reform........2........Unix........http://www.reform.ca PC Dave.......2........Windows?....http://www.dlt.org (Dave of PC) Green.........1........Windows?....http://www.greenparty.bc.ca PC National...1........Windows.....http://www.pcparty.ca (PC proper)
D e t a i l s :
/ John Reynolds http://victory97.reform.ca/jreynolds/
Reform offers full PDF files for download & printing -- professional, and good. They're also the only site to use bloody FRAMES, and they use the really archaic kind -- awful! The site's "Secure ID Badge" is the funniest of all, supposedly a "high security badge reserved only for sites that are authorised to use the name represented by the site". You guessed it, that's an internet scam, and Reform quite simply fell for it. Design generally average, content was very large, featuring a minisite (as opposed to a single page) for each candidate, including Reynolds. Reform's was the fastest as well, being hosted on a high end SunSparc -- speed is obviously their strong point, they were also the first to respond to my midnight query, in a message posted at 3:00am!
Mr. McLean: Thank you for your email message. As an aside, while I knew that all of the major parties have a web site, I do not think that all of the candidates in our riding have their own web site (not counting a solitary page on the party's main site). Obviously our candidate (John Reynolds, Reform) has, and I think the PC candidate has, but that is all I know of. Our web pages were constructed on a UNIX system (by hand, I have no patience for HTML editors) with the photos scanned in on a Windows machine but colour corrected and adjusted on a UNIX machine prior to being sent by FTP to the server. As you are no doubt aware, web sites are an extremely cost-effective method of providing detailed information to constituents. The other major advantage is the ability to post time-sensitive information (for example, we put a warning up on the weekend telling visitors that Monday would be their last chance to participate in the Advance Poll should they be out of town on election day). Because we have so much to do apart from the web site we have not had the opportunity to exploit the technology to the extent that we would have liked to have seen but in future we would want to have forms that visitors could complete to easily communicate back to the candidate. We would also like to have mailing lists that people could subscribe to for periodic information from the candidate. John and I discussed the material that would go up (in general) and he reviewed some of the pages in detail and made specific suggestions prior to them being put up.
Our Website was constructed using PC / Windows systems.
The Website has been a great communications tool during the campaign. It has allowed
us to present all 301 Liberal candidates, with a brief profile and contact information
for each. It is also a great way to make our platform, Securing Our Future Together,
available on-screen, and for downloading. We have answered more than 500 questions
from Canadians since the campaign began, and responded to many more requests for
information or documents. During the televised debates, many people wrote in to
offer their support to the Prime Minister and the Liberal team, particularly on the issue
of National Unity.
Between elections, Websites increase the opportunity for contact and exchange of information
between citizens and the political parties, as well as government and bureaucracies.
Press releases, speeches and documents are readily available to Canadians from all parts
of the country.
Candidates have been involved in developing the content of their Candidate Profile
pages. Volunteers and members of the party have been responsible for assembling
the information that is available on the site.
It is only natural for the Liberal party to be so supportive of Websites and Information
Technology. The Liberal government is currently linking all of Canada's 16,500 schools
and 3,400 public libraries to the Internet, through our SchoolNet program. Our Computers
for Schools Program provides surplus federal government computer equipment
to Canadian secondary and elementary schools. The program aims to distribute 100,000
computers to schools by the year 2000. The Community Access Program is a Liberal
initiative that supports community-based efforts to establish Internet access in rural
Canada. Projects are developed at the community level and funded on a shared-cost
basis. The 1997 Budget provided $30 million over the next three years, to connect
as many as 5,000 Canadian communities. These programs represent a commitment to making
Information Technology available to Canadians of all ages and in all regions.
Closing thoughts to take with you into the polling booth? We believe that the Liberals
are offering Canadians a government with a truly national vision, one which is responsible,
both fiscally and socially. We're not saying that everything is perfect. There's a lot
to do, particularly in the area of employment. But our plan is balanced
and forward-looking and our team is talented and experienced. We hope Canadians
dear joseph, thanks for the e-mail. i'm happy to see you taking such an interest in my web site. the truth is that I have been so busy that I didn't have as much time to devote to the web site as I had wanted. my intention was/is to make the web site fully interactive, because the internet is a great tool and will, i believe, be an even more important tool in a democratic society in the future. the content and concept for the website came from me, but a friend of mine, Mike, is the guy that actually did the hard work of putting it together. I have posed just three questions (issues) at this time, to show people how the web site would work if I were elected. i would include many more topics in the future. i wanted you to be able to e-mail me your comments on each subject as an option, along with "agree" and "disagree", but i still have some work to do on the web site. i know it's still a little hard to work with. I use e-mail every day in my work, usually downloading three times a day. however, during this election campaign, it seems i only get in front of my computer once every three days! it's a huge territory to cover. did you come to the meeting in powell river? the meeting the following night in west van was by far the biggest and most controversial. I thought you might be interested to read the following press release that came out of that meeting. thanks again for your comments. let me know what you think about the interactive web site concept. Regards, Dave Thomas PC Candidate West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast PC PARTY NEWS RELEASE MAY 28, 1997 REYNOLDS REFUSES TO FORFEIT PENSION WEST VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - At an all-candidates meeting in West Vancouver last night, Reform Party candidate John Reynolds refused to opt out of his gold-plated federal pension if elected. Reynolds will be eligible to receive the pension in less than six months, thanks to his previous service as a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament. Reynolds is currently receiving a British Columbia pension for serving in the B.C. Legislature. When asked by an audience member if he would sign an affidavit declaring he would forfeit his pension, as have 50 of 51 Reform M.P.'s, Reynolds rejected the idea. Later in the meeting, a second audience member questioned him about giving up his pension and Reynolds again turned down the opportunity to put it in writing. Under the current eligibility requirements, only John Cummins of Delta-South Richmond and Reynolds, if elected in West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast, would qualify for receiving the federal pension. The point was also raised that in 1989, Reynolds approached Senator Gerry St. Germaine about adjusting the pension eligibility rules. In 1990, Reynolds also lobbied Senator Marjory LeBreton for a Senate appointment. "The pension issue is one that the Reform Party has been trumpeting about for years," said West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast P.C. candidate Dave Thomas. "Preston Manning claims all his candidates will give up their pensions and do politics differently, but the candidates seem to have different ideas. Reynolds had an excellent opportunity to opt out of the pension plan, in front of West Vancouver voters, but he turned it down. The fact that he is already receiving a government pension from B.C. and will be double-dipping if elected, makes it all the more appalling."
Good evening... Did we pass your test??? We are using Windows 95 and Windows NT. Our site has been up since 1995 and will stay up after the election. It's an excellent communications tool. No candidates were involved in the design of the web site. >And as we near the end of this hectically short election, I'd like to know >your closing thoughts, final comments et all, to take with me to the >polling booth. Simply, the choice is clear... make a statement on voting day... elect the team that will keep Canada together, the Jean Charest team!!!
Dear Joseph, Thanks for your message. Closing comments? We see in this election many people feeling disenfranchised. In effect, under the current system, it is quite likely the majority of voters will lose since no candidate is likely to get a majority. So we Greens feel it is time to move to a proportional representation system so that every vote will count both during and between elections. Incidentally, all the other candidates in our riding have said they support this idea. So what are we waiting for? :-)
Hi, the site was designed on a Mac... our server is on a Unix ... i do liason with the site on a PC. >and why you consider a website to be a viable resource >during (and after) your campaign, plus any real-life examples you might >have. Viable? Hard to say whether it really is during this campaign. I don't know if there's a real live cyber-vote out there. But it's helping people get our platform and our message. That's important. It's a service to people who have internet access and want to find out more about us. We're averaging well over 10,000 real live visits a day (about 60,000 "hits"), so I think it's outstripping expectations. No one really knew how much of an impact it would have. This was the internet's virgin electoral trip in Canada. From now on, it will have a much bigger role, I'm sure. >And as we near the end of this hectically short election, I'd like to know >your closing thoughts, final comments et all, to take with me to the >polling booth. If you care about things like jobs, health care, education and overal security of living -- sending the NDP to Parliament is the strongest message you can make. The Liberals have shown over the last 3 1/2 years that they can't be trusted to follow through on their promises, like the GST, job creation, and a more caring society. And when the only opposing voices are Reform, Conservatives, and the Bloc, the Liberals are pulled even further to the right. We need balance back in Ottawa. Therefore we need more NDP MPs there to fight for what ordinary Canadians care about.
Dear Joseph: Here are my responses. I have also forwarded to BC so it can go to our candidate in your riding. > By understanding how each party approached the task of "internet >presence", I can get a clearer view of your approach to the future. Good! >I would like to know what make of computers and operating systems (ie, >Microsoft vs. Macintosh vs. Unix) was used in the construction Our design and email handling etc. is done almost entirely on Macintosh, 2 Mac 8500's , a Quadra 630 and a Motorala 180 mzh Mac clone. I use Claris Emailer to handle all email. We use Claris Home page for basic documents. >and why you consider a website to be a viable resource >during (and after) your campaign, plus any real-life examples you might >have. 1. Our message is available 24 hours a day , 365 days a year at very low cost versus conventional publicity. 2. Immediacy of message. We can post a press release or a tour announcement and reach more people faster than fax or even email. 3. We found during this campaign that journalists came to our site for background information. The sites provides much more information than we could every conveniently fax to them as background information. 4. Immediate response to public. We can answer questions and provide information very quickly. No time delay as with postal mail etc. 5. NLP is an International movement. There are parties in over 70 countries. The Canadian party is one of the most advanced. Our website is being used by our sister parties throughout the world and by public in those countries (not many have websites or have websites as large as ours) 6. Internal use. Our candidates and members use the site to keep up to date. Inform themselves of policy etc. 7. Direct contact with candidates. All our emails asking policy questions are answered by candidates. We forward them to a team of candidates. Responses are usually within 24 hours. 8. Feedback. We got immediate feedback on what the public thinks of us. We pass this information onto the party leader and candidates. 9. Web is very safe way for the public to review material. They don't worry that they are going to be talked into something or put on a database. Practical examples during this campaign: 1. Many emails requested information on their local candidate, how to reach him/her etc. or how to get information. We responded very quickly, often forwarding the message to the local area so they could get a local response. In one case I forwarded an email to a candidate who was able to drop by the person's house later that night to drop off campaign materials. 2. Reuters, and several news media requested interviews through our web site. 3. We received by email requests for speakers at debates, requests to become candidates, requests to help campaign. We were able to respond very quickly. We really liked the ability to forward the request to the local area. 4. Several emails said that they had reviewed the material on the website and would now be voting for us. Regards using the web to ful potential. We have 5 people working on design, content and management and about 5 answering email. All our people are unpaid volunteers (including myself) and most are working part-time. The core team works in one place with 2 or 3 others who collaborate at distance. The cost of creating our site for this campaign is about $6,000. Most of which is food and rent and long distance phone calls. We would to have liked done more but it is a miracle what we have achieved with a volunteer staff and little resources.
Email Addresses of Candidates: [Liberal and Reform never responded, use general party addresses shown]