Lynda Steele Twitter

global edmonton embargoed over budget tweets.

Many Edmontonians who use Twitter might have noticed that Global Edmonton News anchor Lynda Steele recently deleted her Twitter account @lyndasteele. Ms. Steele was an avid and engaged contributor on Twitter and I assumed that her departure was caused by a loss of interest or time management issues. It turns out that her account may have been shut down because of four ‘tweets’ that were sent between 3:16m and 3:17pm on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 and were related to the provincial budget that was under a media embargo until 3:20pm.

A letter written by Public Affairs Bureau Manager Lee Funke to Global Edmonton explains the repercussions:

A breach of an embargo of any kind is a breach of trust. That is has to do with subject matter that can have market implications makes it all the more serious a matter. The Government of Alberta’s budget embargo rules for media are extremely permissive relative to those of the federal government and some other provinces. In exchange for this flexibility, government asks only that media agree to respect the rules of the embargo.

Global Edmonton breached that agreement. In light of the fact that this is the second budget embargo breach in three years by an Alberta media outlet, we must now consider more severe restrictions on the entire media corps for future budgets and simmer events, including a strict lockup where electronic devices are removed.

The media outlets that are given access to the budget documents before they are officially released have agreed to the embargo on reporting information. The budget is one of the most important centre pieces of a government’s governing, political, legislative, and communications strategy, so it is no surprise that they would react this way towards Global Edmonton (CBC Calgary found themselves in a similar situation in 2008). Having attended each budget announcement (or the Rotunda scrums afterward) since 2003, it is a big event that government and opposition politicians, business groups, and public interest groups craft many of their main messages around.

The question is: why does this embargo breach need to result in more severe restrictions on the entire media corps? Perhaps our government placing too much importance on the budget embargo, and even the actual budget speech. Do these breaches prove that more restrictions are needed or that perhaps the Public Affairs Bureau and their political master need to examine their role as communicators with less of a focus on ‘command and control’ and more of an open 21st century attitude.

(For more on the role of the Public Affairs Bureau, read this exert from Kevin Taft‘s 1997 book Shredding the Public Interest)

Brian Mason Calgary-Egmont Jonathan Denis Twitter

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.

2009 Throne Speech Alberta Oil Sands Barack Obama Les Brost Michael Ignatieff Preston Manning Stephen Harper Twitter

show me a throne speech that isn’t long on promises and short on details.

Alberta’s Throne Speech 2009. Long on promises, short on details, as Throne Speeches always are. Check out David Climenhaga‘s take.

Preston Manning is in today’s Globe & Mail calling for a sustainable energy security strategy for North America. has been launched to raise awareness of the environmentally damaging effects of the oil sands before President Barack Obama‘s 5 hour Ottawa visit with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on February 19.

Edmonton’s Twestival hit the front page of the Edmonton Journal this morning.

In a recent poll, new Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was viewed more positively than negatively in every province except Alberta across all age and gender groups.

– More evidence of the continued implosion of the CanWest media empire. I was sad to hear that the Calgary Herald will be letting go many of its freelance writers, including political writer Les Brost.

– There’s some interesting ongoing debate on the state of Liberal politics in Alberta in one of my previous posts.