If Twitter is any indication, three of the top issues ahead of the Edmonton election are the future of Northlands Coliseum, the proposed Alldritt Tower and the City of Champions slogan.
“You might think: why these issues? Why not other issues? But there are just certain topics that people are discussing, whether it’s at the kitchen table or at work and with their friends and that spills over to Twitter,” explained Twitter Canada’s head of news and politics, Jennifer Hollett. “These are often either hotly contested or larger metaphors.”
Over the last six months, there were significant peaks in #yegcc and #yegvote traffic on Sept. 13, April 26 and May 30, when council voted on those hot button issues.
“Strategists are constantly trying to figure out what are those issues that are going to connect? Often, they are ones that speak to our values and identity,” Hollet said. “Whether that is a coliseum and there’s nostalgia and people have their own memories and stories or a slogan which really questions: who are we as a city?”
In Calgary, the #yyccc conversation peaked on Sept. 13 (council releases negotiation details between city and Calgary Flames on arena deal), May 15 (council approves first phase of new Green Line LRT) and Oct. 2 (Chamber of Commerce candidates town hall).
When it comes to mayoral candidates, both cities’ incumbents have large Twitter presences. Naheed Nenshi has 377,000 followers and Don Iveson has about 144,000.
“Don Iveson does have more followers than Premier Rachel Notley,” Hollett said.
“He’s also been active on Twitter in a different way, building off the success of another popular Alberta mayor, which is Naheed Nenshi.
“There is something special going on in Alberta when it comes to Twitter in politics. I think that’s because Mayor Naheed Nenshi really set the bar high when he came in as an underdog and used Twitter to not only demonstrate momentum but to actually organize and have conversations directly with citizens.”
In fact, as of Oct. 1, Nenshi was the most-followed mayor in Canada. Montreal’s Denis Coderre had the second-most Twitter followers, followed by Toronto Mayor John Tory, Iveson and Ottawa’s Jim Watson.
“When you think about issues that impact you day to day, it’s the ones that are municipal election issues and that could be anything from potholes to schools to debates on stadiums,” Hollett said.
“There’s just a real place for that on Twitter.”
After Iveson, the Edmonton mayoral candidates with the most Twitter followers are: Fahad Mughal (@fahadmoghal), Bob Ligertwood (@BobLigertwood) and Taz Bouchier (@MsBouchier).
After Nenshi, the Calgary mayoral candidates with the most Twitter followers are: Bill Smith (@TeamBillSmith), Larry Heather (@CalgarySenate), Andrew Chabot (@chabot4calgary), Curtis Olson (@curtisinyyc) and Emile Gabriel (@Gabriel4Mayor).
“Follower growth on Twitter has also broadened the voice of these candidates,” Twitter Canada explained in a blog post Tuesday. “For example, Smith created his campaign account in June 2017. In the past two months, he has seen a surge in audience and now has more than six times as many followers as he did on Aug. 1, 2017. By comparison, Chabot has 4.8 times more followers since that date while Heather has 1.4 times more followers over the same stretch.”
Twitter can also be used to get out the vote.
“If someone identifies themselves on Twitter as expressing interest, you should treat them as seriously as someone you meet shaking hands, if you’re a candidate, or if you’re a volunteer, knocking on doors and someone is saying they’re interested in your candidate.”