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Friday, April 17, 2009

mla jonathan denis provides an example of how twitter should not be used.

One of the most obvious strengths and weakness of social networks and micro-blogs like Twitter is the ability for users to communicate with a social network in live-time.

A month ago, Twitter became an issue of contention in the Alberta Legislature when Ken Kowalski imposed a blanket ban on the use of electronic devices by MLA on the floor of the Assembly during Question Period. Shortly after his decision, I penned a letter to Speaker Kowalski, asking him to keep an open mind when it came to the limitless potential for Internet and social media as tools to be used to re-connect Albertans with our democratic institutions (I still haven't received a response). While I agree that MLAs should spend their time paying attention in QP, rather than playing on the Internet, the potential uses of these online communities should not be underestimated.

Yesterday afternoon, during a debate in the Legislature, Calgary-Egmont PC MLA Jonathan Denis (@JonoMLA) provided his colleagues with a perfect example of how Twitter can be misused on the floor of the Assembly. During a debate, Denis posted a tweet Twitter criticizing a colleague in the Assembly (it's safe to assume that it was directed to NDP leader, and former bus driver, Brian Mason):

Recognizing the ridiculousness of his comment, I posted a response to Denis:
@JonoMLA And the Finance Minister is a retired nurse and piano teacher. What's your point?
Hours later, when checking to see whether the Calgary-Egmont MLA had replied, I discovered that his comment has been deleted from his Twitter page:

To be fair, I don't actually believe that Denis has anything against bus drivers. His hyper-partisan comment was likely a knee-jerk reaction to one of the all too common rhetoric-laden statements in the Assembly (it should also be noted that the first-term PC backbencher was only 13-years old when Mason was first elected to Edmonton City Council in 1989).

If used effectively, social networks like Twitter can serve as tools to help engage Albertans with their elected representatives and democratic institutions. Grande Prairie Alderman Bill Given (@BillGiven), MLAs Doug Griffiths (@GriffMLA) and Kent Hehr (@CalgaryBuffalo), and Edmonton City Councillor Don Iveson (@DonIveson) provide Albertans with good examples of elected officials who have begun to use these tools for the purpose of positive citizen engagement.

While the deletion suggests that Jonathan Denis recognized that his comment was in poor taste, it becomes small mistakes like these that make it increasing difficult when trying to convince the vast sea of traditional old-school political thinkers of the important role that these online tools and social networks play in the 21st century. Our elected officials will need to exercise some common sense and maturity if they are serious about employing social networks like Twitter to create an atmosphere of positive engagement with citizens.


Ken Chapman said...

A thoughtful and helpful post on SM in politics. Well done Dave. Hyper-partisans are as out-moded as spitoons. Less gamesmanship and more governing would be a nice change in our political culture going forward.

Anonymous said...

"Prior to serving as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Mr. Denis was an associate with a national law firm specializing in government relations and the president of a national communications firm. He was also a director of the Institute for Public Sector Accountability."

In other words, he's never known the sort of hard work a bus driver or a nurse has to deal with. His CV is void of anything substantive outside of political life, so he won't add much real world perspective to Cabinet should Stelmach ever add him to it (and I doubt Ed would).

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of how @mypcmla used to get into arguments with other Tweeters, and that was supposedly being done by a communications person

ch said...

Wow! Bad move by Denis. Thank god for the salt of the earth populist PCs that protect us from Liberal elitists. Thank God for screen shots.

Anonymous said...

I rarely post on anyone's blogs, as a matter of personal preference. However, I feel I must wade in on this one to correct numerous inaccuracies.

First off, my twitter post yesterday does not mention anyone's name, be it Brian Mason's or otherwise and that's quite a leap of logic that Mr. Cornoyer has made. The reality is I was making a inside joke with a friend of mine in response to a joke made on me in good taste. To suggest otherwise without even asking me for a comment suggests hyperpartisanship not on my behalf but on the part of this blog.

As for Mr. Anonymous, to state that "[my] CV is void of anything substantive outside political life" is incorrect. I was a lawyer for eight years in Calgary and also President of two small businesses, both of which I recused myself from when I was elected in order to give my constituents full time effort.

Lighten up, friends. I don't make similar hyperpartisan attacks to anyone else. Accordingly, this will be my final comment on this hyperpartisan thread.

Jonathan Denis MLA

eh said...

It may be the wrong way for MLAs to use twitter, but when it happens it fills my cynical heart with glee. :)

Anonymous said...

Grow up, Jono.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Denis, How is this blog post hyper-partisan? I see no evidence of such.

Dave has provided some well thought out commentary and has even recognized that you retracted your comment. He is admitting that politicians, like yourself, sometimes make mistakes. You are human.

I fully agree with Ken Chapman's comment. Falling back into the predictable political behaviour of lobbing insults at those you disagree with is an outdated model of politics. "Hyper-partisans are as out-moded as spitoons."I am glad that you deleted your comment, but please attempt to act with more maturity and respect in the future. Our democracy will be better for it.


Matt A.
Calgary, Alberta

Saskboy said...

However, you know what they say about any publicity being good? In that vein, I'd like to note that the Flames are unlikely to advance in the playoffs, and are only marginally better than the Vancouver Canucks.

Anonymous said...

Driving a bus is hard work? Actually, if you have power steering, it's eight hours of sitting on your ass driving in circles. Might be why the majority of bus drivers I have seen are a touch overweight. Just because it's blue-collar, anon at 10:40, doesn't make it hard. You are right though, nursing is hard.

How about you all cut Jono a break? Maybe it wasn't funny, but I'm sure he meant it to be. Mr. Mason, on the other hand, says the most offensive things in Question Period, imputing motives to others and calling them such things as "knuckle-draggers" and apparently, that's OKAY with you.

Either you hold everyone to the same standard, or you shut the fuck up, hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Anonymous said...

Ok, Mr. Denis. If you claim DC made a leap of logic (not sure it has much to do with logic, but...) in assuming you were talking about Mason, who were you talking about, if not Mason?
Second, he's really not under any obligation to ask you for comment before posting. If you think otherwise, you're not following the culture of the blogosphere very closely.
Third, Matt A. is right. There's really nothing very partisan about Dave's post. And he's not shy about recognizing that Mason or other opposition MLAs can be overly partisan too. But when somebody responds as defensively as you have, I'm reminded of the old adage about "protesting too much." Fourth, Ken too is right...except that he may be neglecting the fact that governing (or seeming to govern with reduced partisan purposes) IS the new game. Surely we don't all actually believe Obama's "post-partisan" rhetoric, do we? Unless post-partisanship is reduced to mere procedural niceities, it's as big a myth as the end-of-history / end-of-ideology garbage of recent years. All of which has been thoroughly debunked.
Finally, while these technological tools do have tremendous potential, every tool also has limits and their potential for reinvigorating democracy can indeed be overestimated. I suspect the potential of new technologies are often overestimated by the first generation of adopters. History may tell.

Tezcatlipoca said...

Bus drivers are not allowed to work 8-hour shifts (in Edmonton anyways). It's a safety hazard. Maybe the rules have changed, but a person simply can't run a bus for the same ~40hours a week most "normal" people work. It's not because they're lazy, it's because they have to pay attention /all the time/, otherwise people die. Give credit where credit is due, and let's be civil.

a point about things said in QP: I have heard Mr. Stelmach say that "no good ideas have come from the Liberal party" yet in his tenure as Premier at least one Liberal motion was passed (mandatory drink minimums) and they're working on another (banning cell-phones while driving) both of which were originally proposed by Liberal MLAs, shot-down by the PCs, then re-introduced by the PCs. I guess I just don't understand politics :/

Anonymous said...

Oh, for pity's sake. Fine, being a bus driver basically involves driving in circles for whatever length of time the union negotiated in the last contract, while remaining alert enough not to kill, injure, maim, or make nauseous any passenger or innocent bystander. Apparently, I am as unfunny as Mr. Denis. I fear for our future if all of you are really so serious and so unwilling to believe that humour may, sometimes, be just a little offensive. I'm going to go have a beer now, and watch Family Guy, if that's okay?

Anonymous said...

Great post, Dave. More respect and maturity is something that is needed in our politics.

Anonymous said...

How is this blog post "hyperpartisan"????

Kyle said...

The leader of the NDP is a retired bus driver.
The Premier is a retired farmer.
The Finance Minister is a retired nurse and piano teacher.
The leader of the Liberals is a medical doctor.

Politicians can be more than Lawyers and Economists, Mr. Denis. Is humility a virtue?

joël said...

Does anyone happen to have a timestamp for the tweet in question? I'd like to compare it to the Hansard to see who was speaking at that exact moment.

joël said...

Whoops, crafty folks with their macs and clocks in the upper right. It would appear that between 4:20 and 4:30, Stelmach and Mason were having an exchange. Inside joke indeed, Mr. Denis.

The Accountability Avenger said...

At the exact time Jonathan Denis posted his comment Premier Stelmach and Brian Mason were having an exchange in the Legislature about the Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy.

Great inside joke. It's in Hansard.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, lighten up, Dave. Haven't you heard all those recent jokes about bus drivers and economics? Hilarious.

Ken Chapman said...

I am no Twitter expert but isn't the Direct Message function the way you talk to someone directly and personally using Twitter?

Glad Jono has joined the conversation on this blog but if he did not want the Twitterverse to know what he was saying he should have DMs his inside joke.

Ironically when I practiced law, my little three partner law firm represented Brian Mason in suing the city. They said he could not run for Council while being a bus driver employed by the city.

We won the case for him and I was proud of the victory particularly as a Progressive Conservative helping a citizen protect their rights against abuse by political authority. Brian happened to be an NDP at the time and we represented him because it was the right thing to do - regardless of partisanship.

Still looking for good government and not better political gamesmanship from our elected representatives. Who's democracy is it anyway?

Anonymous said...

Good post dave.

The MLA commented and a lot of people have weighed in on this, even thou the issue is rather trivial.

This has demonstrated the power of social media in engaging citizens and keeping publicly elected officials accountable for their actions.

It's these types of things that will catch the attention of Kowalski's and others!!

good stuff!


Chester J said...

Haha! An inside joke at the same minute Brian Mason, a former bus driver, is arguing with your Premier?

Pretty weak, Denis. Even for you, a second-rate lawyer who worked for the Saskatchewan Liberal leader until she was turfed by her own party for being too close to the federal Liberals.

A Brief History of Jonathan DenisFor those unaware, at that point Mr. Denis decided to move to Alberta and accept the opportunity all opportunists do - to join the party of convenience. After the Craig Chandler was dropped by the Conservatives, Denis was made the nominee for Calgary Egmont, where he was elected by the smallest margin of any Conservative candidate since the riding's inception. He's now settled in nicely to the role of legislature sycophant and ideologue.

Both roles were in full display with this Twitter post.

/HistoryThe coverup explanation was particularly funny. I'm sure you're gonna go far, Jono.

The Dane said...

Sorry, I'm with Stephen Marche here, I don't understand how this has "demonstrated the power of social media" in anyway. I think Twitter is, like so-overrated.

If I was Jono Denis, I'd be careful about getting into a tit-for-tat with Daveberta. There's an expression about wrestling a pig... (not that I'm calling Dave a pig, but I'm sure he'd love a rumble about twitter with a Tory).

Anonymous said...

Actually, Denis's margin of victory was 2,200 votes - with a three-way vote split on the right.

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is rather trivial and is getting way too much attention. But I have to say the point missed here is that this blogger says that Denis was talking about Brian Mason and that seems to be a leap of faith off of a cliff.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a law suit over this posting.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone in the Stelmach PC Party should be lecturing anyone on economics.

not a genius said...

the pettiness of this original posting shows why Jonathan Denis is going to have a long political career, and why the Liberals lead by the rabid socialist Swann are about to be flushed down the toilet. Desperate partisans always turn to personal attacks as a last resort.

Anonymous said...

I find it rather ironic that there's so much controversy over such a
trivial comment. Lighten up everybody!

On a not so trivial issue, free speech is great, but there are obvious
limits placed on it. Aren't lawyers supposed to keep their client's
affairs confidential...even if the information is public, isn't the
lawyer swore to silence Mr. Chapman?

Anonymous said...

Original Anon here. I guess it's been pretty firmly established that Mr. Denis is full of sh*t and that he was obviously reffering to Brian Mason on his original twitter post. It requires the mental gymnnastics of a pure partisan to believe that Mr. Denis just happened to be twittering about a different bus driver's economics while Mr. Mason was speaking in the house.

Ken Chapman, are you sure about your story? I had always heard the Brian Mason actually lost his court case to have municipal employees allowed to run for public office. Despite losing his case he left his ETS post to successfully run for Edmonton city council. His own bio in various places on the Net backs that up and says the law was changed shortly after the case was lost. So while the goal was achieved, the case itself was lost.

True or false? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

I think if anyone is full of s____ it's this blog. There's nothing that connects a purely generic comment to Mason or another specific MLA. Interesting how this blogger doesn't sport any evidence besides his own theory, or even respond to any of the posts against him. This post as seriously harmed ""'s credibility.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the post should be retitled, "self-important blogger provides an example of how his blog should not be used and another self-important blogger tries blatant self-promotion in the comments section." Dave, if you were a man you would have called Denis on it and kept it between the two of you. Ken, it's your democracy, pal, and no one else measures up.

Anonymous said...

Second Anon again here. I just took a look at Hansard from Thursday. Denis's name isn't anywhere in a speech or vote that day, meaning he probably wasn't even in the house. This whole topic is nothing more than an attempt at "gotcha" politics by this blog. Maybe pick a real issue, like the budget deficit or the deinsuring of some health services.

Chester J said...

So, how many of this flurry of anonymous comments at the end were Jonathan Denis himself? Anybody want to take bets?

For myself, I would bet all the money in my pockets that Denis was at least half of them, and almost undoubtedly the lawsuit one - which was hilarious!

lyrical said...

Though people could be out attending a rally, digging a garden, playing sports, listening to music, reading a book, visiting friends, volunteering in their community, passing a law in the legislature, it seems they would rather pitter with Twitter.

Word verification: human

Taking Bets said...

Chester J: how much money do you have in your pockets right now? I'd like to take the other end of that bet, specifically, that the lawsuit one is not by Denis --> who'd admit that they're "full of sh*t" and are "pure partisan".

Anonymous said...

Denis was in the House that evening. At 5:20pm Hansard has recorded him interrupting Liberal MLA Dave Taylor:

"Mr. Denis: Table it."

Lorne said...

The reason this twitter bothers me is that Mr. Denis and others in this comment que undervalue the general personhood of the bus driver. Edmonton Transit is a "French Foreign Legion" of careers and backgrounds. Here is a brief list:
A PhD., a lawyer, a failed PC candidate, geologist, pastor, anthropology professor, tradesmen, former GOA employees, musicians, retired military and active reservists, retired police, violin maker, educators, students, business owners, pharmacist and nurses, to name a few.

People come to this career for many reasons (burnout, Alberta disadvantage, flexibility), but let us not devalue the contributions of those who provide for their families as a bus driver. It does not surprise me that a PC would sterotype and undervalue a labourer.

Lorne said...

Mr. Mason has much in common with daveberta. They both have studied political science at the U of Alberta. They have both served in the U of A student government as vice-presidents.

Mr. Mason was a bus driver for a short time. I would believe that he took the position because it provided for his family. It was apparent from his days at university that he wished to become a career politician. He tried for the Amalgamated Transit Union presidency while a bus driver but lost to a longstanding and popular president at the time. This actually helped his career because in his next attempt he became a city councilor and you all know the story from there. Brian has milked his bus driving roots for all he can, but it was a very small part of his story and it was not long enough a service from which to retire, as Mr. Denis has assumed. I assume that Mr. Mason took an economics course or two while at university.

Mr. Mason took a much harder route to public service than Mr. Denis. In a province where winning the candidacy for the PC or Conservative party almost assures a victory and pension, Mr. Mason has gone the toughest route possible.

I do not agree with Mason much of the time but I do appreciate that he, along with the rest of the opposition, keep the issues of Albertans front and center in a difficult political environment.

Kyle said...

Lorne said: "Mr. Mason has much in common with daveberta. They both have studied political science at the U of Alberta. They have both served in the U of A student government as vice-presidents."

Dave is also a 20-something university student and blogger. Mason is a 55-year old former city councillor, MLA, and party leader. The comparisons are endless!! They are practically the same person!!!

Anonymous said...

I still don't see the connection between the twitter comment and Mr. Mason.

Anonymous said...

And the legislature ends at 4:30 on Thursdays. No one was there at 5:20.

Kyle said...

Anonymous 1:20PM: Check Hansard. On April 15, 2009 the legislature "adjourned at 5:58 p.m."

BW said...

Daveberta! I've found your new header quote!

"...this will be my final comment on this hyperpartisan thread." Jonathan Denis MLA

Anonymous said...

How do you even know that was Jonathan Denis who said that? All of these leaps of logic tarnish the otherwise good reputation of this blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how anyone with half a brain cannot see that Denis was talking about Brian Mason.
How many former bus drivers were in the legislature talking about economics at the moment that Denis made that comment? I can only think of one.
To think he was talking about anyone else shows a complete inability to perform even basic reasoning.

Anonymous said...

Let's set this straight. I don't like Denis or a lot of the things he says - way too right wing for me, just like most of the government. But the last poster has his head up his ass. The post doesn't mention any MLA or anyone in the legislature. Both you and the person who wrote the blog entry should be a man and apologize.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 11:20: Are you kidding me? It's talking about a retired bus driver at the exact same time as a retired bus driver is speaking in the legislature on the EXACT topic that the tweet mentions.
How stupid do you have to be to not see the connection.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't the same time. I checked Thursday's Hansard and Denis wasn't even in the house, so there goes that argument. I looked through past Hansard and he makes stupid wise cracks about vans and other vehicles all the time that are probably only funny to him. I think those jokes are stupid, but seriously, talk about trying to embarass something for something he didn't say. An apoloigy is owed to Denis, even if his humour is bad.

Brian Mason said...

I'm sorry to be late coming to the party, this is (was?) an interesting thread. There are a few things I would like to clear up, however.

First, I don't think you could call bus driving hard physical labour, but it is stressful. Transit Operators have high rates of cardio-vascular and gastro-intestinal disease as a result. Shifts average 7.5 hours/day, but some exceeded 8 hours, at least in my day. A large number are split shifts, to accommodate the morning and afternoon rush hours.

I worked for Edmonton Transit for 8 years. Overall, I enjoyed it, esp. the people, and was glad to have the job during the recession of the 1980's.

Second, it's been 20 years since the case about civic employees eligiblity for municipal office, so I can forgive Ken Chapman's faulty memory. The case was a Charter challenge to the Municipal Government Act, which lumped municipal employees in with bankrupts, criminals, the insane and judges, as ineligible for municipal office. The province was the defendant, not the city. And we lost. The Court of Appeal couldn't hear the case before nomination day, so I had to quit my job to run. The Act was subsequently amended to make municipal employees eligible.

Third, don't be too hard on my friend Jonathan Denis. He's a bit more partisan and right wing than most Tory MLA's, but he's a likeable and friendly guy who loves to argue politics. I think if socialists didn't exist, he would have to invent them just to have someone to argue with.

Interestingly, we had a vigourous debate on economics right after adjournment on the same day as his now infamous tweet. It seems we disagree on the value of corporate taxes. Imagine that!

Anonymous said...

This whole thread is an example of why people don't vote. Brian Mason himself has the most intelligent comment. He doesn't even accuse Denis of referring to him, but the blogger does. What Denis said might have been in poor taste, but he didn't mention Mason so I don't know what the issue is besides petty sniping.

If I met this blogger, I'd tell him to ask Denis for an interview and put the item to bed.

daveberta said...

Thank you to both Mr. Denis and Mr. Mason for commenting on this very interesting thread.

The clear point of this post was to demonstrate, through an example, productive and non-productive ways in which our elected representatives can use social media to positively interact and engage with citizens.

I give Mr. Denis full recognition and credit for removing a comment that was made in poor taste (because it was made in a public forum, it is irrelevant whether it was an inside joke or not).

If Mr. Denis' was indeed referring to another retired bus driver who lectures others about economics, then I am willing to admit I was incorrect. I have no shame about being wrong in a blog post. Let's lighten up a bit.

I would encourage Mr. Denis to continue to use social media like twitter to promote citizenship, rather than further the all to present unproductive and divisive hyper-partisanship that distorts much of the discourse in our elected Legislature.

As I wrote in this post, there are some great examples of MLAs, Aldermen, and City Councillors of all political stripes who effectively use these mediums to reach beyond the traditional realm of hyperpartisanship, and to connect with real citizens.

Ken Chapman wrote, "Less gamesmanship and more governing would be a nice change in our political culture going forward," and I agree. That was the point of this blog post.

Cheers and thanks for all the comments,


Anonymous said...

MLA Denis: Please read this blog post again because your response makes it obvious that you completely missed the point that Daveberta was making.

"Our elected officials will need to exercise some common sense and maturity if they are serious about employing social networks like Twitter to create an atmosphere of positive engagement with citizens."This does not include "inside jokes."

You are an elected member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, please try to act like you respect the position.


David Bremmer
Calgary-Egmont Resident

Anonymous said...

Why would he delete a harmless inside joke?

Anonymous said...

Maybe he realized people like this blogger could misconstrue a joke in good taste? Dennis did nothing disrespectful at all.

John Moore
Calgary-Egmont resident

Anonymous said...

Oh also - who gives this blogger a monopoly on what Twitter is for?

John Moore

Anonymous said...

Quick question, Dave or any other blogger, could you please answer? How do we know it was really Jonathon Denis or Brian Mason who actually wrote those posts? Isn't a justifiable concern with online social media the privacy issue? What's to stop someone from pretendig to be someone else for the purpose of ruining their online reputation? or their reputation in general?

Politicians give up a lot of their freedom when they become elected. We hold them to such a high standard that it is almost laughable. I fear social media is just another deterrent for those of us who wonder why elected people are called names and treated so rudely when we may have the desire to run for office in the future.

Justfiably anonymous

Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting discussion. I'd think Denis' better response would have been "sorry, oops", but hey, that he was listening to a lecture from a different bus driver about economics at the same time Mason was making one in the legislature is good enough explanation for me. Or maybe making a joke about the same topic with a friend at the same time. But then again, I did vote for Stelmach in the last election so I'm not always on top of things.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he didn't apologize because he was a victim of "gotcha politics" for simply making a joke.