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Social media assists Clark
Sandy Wakeling has seen the power of the social network.
It was proven Saturday during the B.C. Liberal convention when his candidate, Christy Clark, swept to power as the new premier.
Wakeling admits, he’s proud of what he’s done.
The Pitt Meadows Liberal started the campaign to draft Clark by launching a Facebook fan page last fall.
That was in early November with the leadership race still in its infancy, a week after Gordon Campbell said he was resigning.
Within days, the number of supporters grew to more than 1,000, which got Clark thinking about moving on from her job as a talk-show host at a Vancouver radio station. She eventually put in her name in early December, weeks after Mike de Jong, Moira Stillwell, George Abbott and Kevin Falcon had signed up, and Wakeling thinks the cyber support was the catalyst for that decision.
“The popular support was definitely something that made her pause.”
“I think social media played a big part in this,” he said Monday.
“Probably a sign of things to come.”
As the leadership race evolved, so too did the role of social media.
The supporters of the Facebook page provided a good base and were asked to become Liberal party members. Once they joined online, all they had to do was vote online Saturday for the candidate.
“It gave us a solid pool of people to turn to pretty quickly,” Wakeling said.
Momentum was built that wasn’t possible with any other medium and allowed organizers to get people engaged – after which you can get them to do things for you, he explained.
Wakeling said Twitter, in particular, allowed campaign leaders to get out their messages, which in turn were being picked up by trolling media.
“The buzz was certainly created in the social media realm. If you wanted the pulse of what was going on in the campaign, you went to Twitter.”
Wakeling noted that if you were involved in any of the campaigns, you could either react to what was occurring in social media or be proactive and use it purposively. In the 2009 provincial election, Twitter and Facebook weren’t even on the radar screen.
“There’s definitely a divide between the old guard campaigners who have been doing this for decades but don’t understand social media,” and those who do, Wakeling said.
As the day grew closer for the vote, texting, e-mails, tweets and Facebook messages were all used in the Get Out the Vote campaign.
“I’m still blown away that we were able to get 75 per cent of our identified vote (provincewide) by 1 p.m.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would lead to this.”
He sees social media tying in with Clark’s goal of a more open and communicative government and says Twitter and Facebook could allow cabinet ministers to communicate directly with voters, just as does U.S. President Barak Obama.
“I think that’s the way of the future.”
Such messaging, though, does have its perils. Any unwise tweet goes worldwide, right away. “The immediacy of the medium is a danger also.”
Wakeling attended Saturday’s convention in Vancouver in which computers crunched the numbers and gave Clark the win on the third computation.
He said about 600 people from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows riding voted and 1,500 from Maple Ridge-Mission.
Asked about Clark drawing the support of only one sitting MLA while Falcon had the support of 19, Wakeling said that endeared her to supporters.
“People definitely sent a message.”
He added that Clark’s campaign didn’t forget non-Liberal ridings such as NDP’s Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, on the assumption, since proven correct, that those residents could be more willing to vote for a candidate without extensive connections to the Gordon Campbell government.
Clark won all but two or three of those ridings, Wakeling pointed out.
Pitt Meadows Coun. John Becker and his wife Terry, along with former Maple Ridge mayor Gordy Robson, his wife Mary and two sons, Gord Jr. and Will, helped out with the Clark campaign.
Terry, who lost the party nomination for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows to Ken Stewart in 2008, said she hasn’t thought about trying again for the nomination.
“I certainly haven’t given it much thought.” But she has no doubts about Clark’s ability to unite the party. As a federal Conservative, she has “no issues” with Clark, usually aligned with federal Liberals, as premier.
“I think she can do even a better job of it.”
NDP MLA Michael Sather, though, has his doubts.
Clark was education minister when she changed the funding formula for schools, restricting the ability to build new ones in east Maple Ridge, he pointed out.
Wakeling said he’d like to carry on working for Clark.
“I’m open to whatever Christy and her team think would be worthy of my talents. I would definitely appreciate carrying on with this team.”
Maple Ridge-Mission Marc Dalton supported Falcon, but says the party has to unite behind the new leader.
“There were four candidates. One candidate got to win. I’m throwing my support behind her.”
Dalton even attended Clark’s last visit at the Maple Ridge Golf Course.
“That was a statement that I would support you, if you win.”
The Liberals will have a meeting with all the MLAs sometime this week, though Dalton didn’t want to give the time or place.
“We understand that we have to be united in order to win the election. We’re all committed to that,” Dalton said.
The party needs to come together, “otherwise, united we stand, divided we fall.”