Student issues on backburner for Tweed?

File photo. Canada’s Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. (Kumar Appaiah / Flickr)

In the new age of social media and technology, the ease with which we communicate has increased dramatically, as messages can be sent through email, Facebook, and Twitter instantaneously as opposed to through the post, or by fax.

As a result, it has become easier to communicate directly with public figures, including politicians. Many prominent political figures in Canada have become highly accessible through social media, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Party leadership candidate and MP Justin Trudeau, MP Denis Coderre, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Of the three hundred and seven Members of Parliament in Canada, there are two hundred and forty-five MPs who have active accounts on the micro-blogging social network, Twitter. Nearly all of those two hundred and forty-five MPs have public Facebook profiles, with many more having YouTube, Flickr, and Google Plus accounts.

Although it is true that many Canadian political figures have their social media accounts operated by government staffers, the accessibility they gain through their social presence is invaluable.

Trudeau has gained immense popularity through his availability on Twitter (@JustinTrudeau) as he regularly connects directly with his constituents, supporters, members of the media, and the general public. Social media has been instrumental in Trudeau’s campaign for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, as it has given him the platform to express his political views and personality to his nearly two hundred thousand twitter followers and nearly seventy-five thousand fans on Facebook.

Here in Brandon, our representative in Parliament is Merv Tweed, a Conservative backbencher. Mr. Tweed is arguably one of the least-accessible Members of Parliament, as he is absent from all forms of public social media, in addition to having all lines of email and telephone funnel through his staffers before they even have the opportunity to reach Tweed directly.

Miss Carissa Taylor, BUSU President, stated in a blog entry in October 2012 that Mr. Tweed, a Brandon University graduate, had said “he doesn’t come to BU because he feels that as a Conservative, he is not welcome on campus.”

Several reporters for The Quill made attempts to reach out to Tweed in order to setup an interview to speak about issues relating to students and young adults, in addition to the reasons in which he does not feel comfortable on campus.

In the fall of 2012, one reporter called Tweed’s office and was told by an assistant that they would have to wait until Tweed was back in Brandon (being in session in Parliament at the time) so that they could schedule a meeting to decide if they could setup an interview. Many attempts were made to check on the status of that meeting, but little progress was made.

In January, additional attempts were made to schedule an interview with Tweed via email due to the lack of development in previous months. It took over two weeks for an office assistant to reply by phone, and an additional two weeks until a formal request for an interview could be completed.

It has been six months since the initial inquiry for an interview, and three months since the secondary request for an interview. It is unknown whether each request was actually processed, or whether they were dismissed by the assistants.

In April, further contact was made with Tweed’s Brandon office and the statuses of the requests for interview were unknown. Efforts are continuing to be made to schedule an interview for the fall of 2013. Hopefully, there will be progress.  As our national representative, surely it is important for us to be able to speak with Mr. Tweed.  We at The Quill will continue to contact Mr. Tweed to set up an interview.  Who knows – perhaps someday the @MervTweed Twitter account will have tweets …

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 28,  April 9, 2013.