ontario news watch

Liberals tap text messaging platform to directly connect with Canadians

OTTAWA — The Liberal Party of Canada has adopted a new digital tool to more directly reach supporters and potential voters — the same one increasingly used by celebrities to interact more intimately with their fans through text messages.

The party boasts that it is the first political party in the world to use Community, a social media platform that touts itself as enabling “instant and direct communication with the people you want to reach, using the simplicity of text messaging.”

It’s used by a host of actors, artists and musicians, including Canadian stars Shawn Mendes, Shania Twain, and Justin Bieber.

And it was used last fall by former U.S. President Barack Obama to help promote his memoirs and drum up support for Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.

The Liberal party has published a phone number and is urging Canadians to text with their thoughts on issues and their ideas for improving federal policies.

Party spokesman Braeden Caley promises that each text will receive a personal response, be it from a cabinet minister, an MP, a candidate, a senior member of the campaign team or maybe even from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.

The first response from the party will be a survey, designed to elicit the priority interests of each person, the issues that move them.

That will then enable the party, for instance, to share important announcements on various issues with those who’ve expressed a specific interest in them. Or it can use text messages to alert people when events are being held in their areas or to connect them with volunteers in their ridings.

“As we all work to finish the fight against COVID-19, Canadians are starting important new conversations about the kind of future we want to keep building together. This is a new and creative way to stay in touch with Canadians directly, and sharing an idea will be as simple and fast as sending a quick text,” Caley said.

“The idea is for there to be a rich conversation that continues and continues to get ideas from Canadians, share ideas with them about how they can get more involved on those issues and stay connected in a new way with a political party they’re seeking to support.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also deployed Community, inviting Canadians in March to send him text messages.

By that point, Caley said the Liberal party was already running a pilot project with the text service in British Columbia. It launched the service nationwide on Wednesday evening, the only political party in the world to do so, he said.

In a recent fundraising pitch to supporters, the Conservatives signalled that they too are planning to up their direct messaging game.

“That’s why we’re planning one of the most ambitious voter-facing communications plans ever executed by a Canadian political party,” it said, without providing any details.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2021.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press