A09(b) - Political Communication in Canada
Date: Jun 13 | Time: 08:30am to 10:00am | Location:
Mapping Canadian Leaders’ Use of YouTube: Tamara A. Small (University of Guelph), Andrew J.A. Mattan (Carleton University), Aidan Harris (University of Guelph)
Abstract: YouTube, the online video sharing social media platform, was established almost two decades ago in 2005. Worldwide, YouTube is a very popular social media. In Canada, it ranks as the second most used social media site after Facebook (CIRA, 2023); just over seventy percent of Canadians use YouTube regularly (Dixon 2022). Attention on YouTube within Canadian politics grew recently with Pierre Poilievre. For instance, his 2020 YouTube video, “Here is the clip the CBC didn't want you to see.” has garnered nearly 4.5 million views to date. During his bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Poilievre made extensive use of YouTube videos in order to by-pass the traditional media and speak directly to its base (Harris, 2023). Despite this, YouTube is understudied in political science, and academic attention to it is disproportionate to its influence in general society compared to Twitter (Jansen and Small, 2020; Munger and Phillips, 2022). It is worth noting that while YouTube is understudied, some Canadian scholars have examined political uses of online video on other platforms (Lalancette, Drouin, and Lemarier-Saulnier, 2014; Lalancette and Tourigny-Koné, 2017). Given this gap, this paper seeks to map the use of YouTube by party leaders in Canada. Taking up Gerring’s (2012) call for “mere description” in political science research, this paper will address three questions: to what extent do leaders use YouTube? What is the nature of the videos posted? And what factors (e.g., type, length, party) impact their viewership? Through the creation of a typology of leadership YouTube videos, we seek to make a theoretical contribution to this understudied area of digital politics.
Setting the Agenda in Canadian Leaders’ Debates: Spencer McKay (University of British Columbia), Jacob Robbins-Kanter (Bishop's University)
Abstract: Debate organizers enjoy considerable power to set the agenda for debates because the topics and questions that structure leaders’ debates constrain the capacity of leaders to set the agenda. The chosen topics and questions do not merely influence the content of the debate itself, but also indirectly shape the post-debate discussions in the broader public sphere. In this paper, we examine the topics and questions that have appeared in all Canadian leaders’ debates from 2008 to 2021. First, we investigate the extent to which debate agendas reflect substantive policy issues. Second, we investigate whether the topics have changed over time in a way that reflects increased demands for inclusion. In particular, have issues related to women, LGTBQ persons, Indigenous peoples become more common? Third, we examine the extent to which debate agendas reflect broad public concerns.
Harper and Trudeau’s Prime Ministerial Communication Styles in Retrospect 2006-2023: Executive Leadership Closing Down Democratic Two-Way Communication: Peter Ryan (Mount Royal University)
Abstract: This paper analyzes how the leadership and communication styles of Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau differ in terms of their overall strategies and tactics in a retrospective of their tenures from 2006 to 2023. Bernier, Brownsey and Howlett’s Executive Styles in Canada (2005) described the spectrum of executive styles from leader-centered to a decentralized team-based approaches for governing from the political centre of power. Consistently, Donald Savoie’s work as a dominant theoretical source has also focused on the centralizing of the levers of power in the PMO, as developed in his Governing from the Centre (1999) through to his Government (2022), where he presents several means by which prime ministers have retained power, while limiting democratic input from citizens. Leaders have several options to shut down media contact via centralized control of government and partisan channels, whether through strategic technology use like Harper’s Message Event Proposals (MEPs) or his limited 24/7 online partisan videos, during the pre-“app” era of permanent campaign tactics, or in contrast, Trudeau’s open uses of town halls and social media dominance to circumnavigate the media to directly communicate with citizens. The PMO’s communication strategies are evaluated in this paper to identify how leadership styles from the center have limited democratic input over the past two decades; to do so, Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four models of public relations that describe various management and organizational practices are used to categorize the PMO online channels, speeches and news releases, to present opportunities for opening government to public engagement that is less partisan and polarized. Overall, both prime ministers later in their careers chose communication styles that have limited media and public input, during times of lower voter support in the polls.