Face to Face meets Cyberspace in Thunder Bay Politics


THUNDER BAY – It is often the quietest, least reported, and most effective campaign tool for a political candidate. It is cost effective, and yet often ignored by many sitting politicians.

What is it? It is door-knocking.

It is Face-to-Face engagement with the voters. Through this, a candidate can gain a far different perspective than is offered by any other form of campaigning.

Candidate for Mayor Keith Hobbs has been logging a lot of miles this summer listening to voters on their doorsteps. It is allowing the first-time political candidate the opportunity to have people form their own impressions of the former Thunder Bay Police Sargeant.

It also allows a political candidate the chance to explain and answer questions from prospective supporters who might not ever come out to a campaign meeting or public forum.

In Current River, Councillor Andrew Foulds has been busy listening to his constituents on their doorsteps too. In the last civic election, Foulds invested in a door-knocking campaign that saw him defeat a long-time Councillor in Dick Waddington.

It is entirely likely that federal MP John Rafferty’s success over former Thunder Bay MP and Mayor Ken Boshcoff was a result of his extensive door-knocking efforts. Rafferty logged a lot of kilometres in his campaign, many of them on foot engaging voters.

A solid effort pre-writ can make the actual campaign far more effective. The candidate who has taken the time to meet the voter on their home turf is far less likely to have their support change by the other campaigns once the “official campaigning” has started.

Over the past five years in Thunder Bay several things have happened that are impacting change.

First and foremost is the growth of the Internet in our city.

TBaytel has stated that 85% of the homes in our city have access to the Internet. That means, for both political candidates and for businesses there has been a revolution and evolution in communications.

The revolution is that today, as much as proponents of the more traditional media still believe in its impact, the Internet is rapidly making major inroads into presumed impact.

The power of the editorial page is likely less today than in the past. People are making their own decisions based on gathering their own information. That is why especially in Thunder Bay, door-knocking has become such an important factor for political change.

As well, people are, with the Internet, reading varying opinions from all over the country and world, visiting the websites of elected officials, and candidates, and trusting their own interpretation of information rather than the opinions of others.

The evolution could be from John Rafferty, Bruce Hyer, Andrew Foulds and Frank Pullia who, as elected officials have been fairly regular contributors to the “Leader’s Ledgers” on NetNewsledger.com. Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Michael Gravelle and occasionally Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro.

Keith Hobbs, as a candidate for Mayor has also been a regular contributor, outlining his ideas online. It is likely as the civic campaign continues, other candidates will come forward too.

When politicians and candidates share information with the public on a regular basis, what it does is offer the opportunity for more open dialogue between our elected representatives and those who we choose to represent us.

Engaging with the public and listening to the feedback from the public is going, in my view, going to be increasingly important as we head into the future.

In the past, plans have been developed consulting with industry, with special interests, and experts. When residents look at the results of those plans and our economy, it is entirely likely that the real 21st Century Political leader is going to start engaging the public, and the many individual experts who they represent.

In today’s world, communications is instant, and engaging the public by politicians is going to be increasingly important. Those who choose to engage the public and listen to the public are the ones who are likely to be the most successful.

That might come on Facebook, could come via email and websites, but increasingly it is coming at the doors of voters.

In the past, “name recognition” seemed to top the list of reasons why people would vote for a candidate. Today, that is changing, and likely will make for a lot of “October Surprises” in Thunder Bay.

That of course is just my opinion, as always your mileage may vary.

James Murray

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