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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Engage Canada: We're Still Not in the Picture

Dear Canadian middle class:

The Conservatives are shafting you.  Get mad!  Tweet a prepared message to your network letting everyone know how bad and truthy they are!

This non-partisan, independent project aimed squarely at Canada's middle class may call itself Engage Canada, but so far it's making no attempt to actually engage Canadians.  Instead, we have a familiar barrage of attacks, prompts and self-promotions.

Where's the engagement?  Where are the channels to solicit ideas from Canadians?  To empower Canadians to fact-check for themselves?

There are so many great examples Engage Canada could copy, if engagement is their goal.  Look at what Ontario did with Budget Talks, encouraging Canadians to come forward with their own policy ideas.  Look at Ontario's Open Data Directive - a shared doc on Google Drive that literally anyone can comment on (essentially, co-writing a government directive that will be sent to every Ministry and agency).

With the push towards Open Data, data visualization and so on, there are powerful platforms available to help Canadians make sense of facts ranging from traffic patterns to foreign investment. Heck, people are making decent money creating government data-based tools like Map Your Property or  

Private sector partners (especially looking at you, Cisco, Microsoft and Socrata) are pushing for open data and tech in schools and communities that would help empower even the most marginalized residents to get some real skin in the nation-building game.  Civic engagement groups like Rexdale Lab are working hard to find innovative solutions that bridge the gap between community and policy.

Look at truly non-partisan efforts like Shape My City, trying to build communities of cross-pollinated engagement online that lead to real-world activity or Neptis Geoweb providing platforms for people to map out real-world health, traffic, employment, etc. patterns and the policy that impacts them.

An initiative really meant to engage Canadians would be inspirational, aspirational, and encouraging - not narrowly focused on making one party look bad.

Truly engaging Canada isn't about them, Engage Canada, nor is it about you - that's how traditional partisan wedge-politicking operates and it's why so many Canadians have lost faith in government as an institution.

So long as Engage Canada looks at the people as a passive audience to be cherry-picked from for support instead of a community to be actively brought into the nation-building process, we're still not in the picture.

UGC, folks.  Learn to love it.  It's the non-partisan independent projects that do who will win in the long term.

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