All posts by Jeff Blay

Lavoie: Do You Have A Tribe?

By | Blog | No Comments

By: Joseph Lavoie, Ensight Principal 

As humans, we are all ill-equipped to live on our own. We’re social animals who have coalesced into tribes since the beginning of time. And for literally ages, most of our tribes were organized along (often fluid) geographical lines. Our tribal associations led to the beginnings of agriculture in Mesopotamia; the rise of cities that we would recognize 5,000 years later, and the invention of writing, among other achievements. Even in more recent times, tribes were largely organized by geography—our local places of worship, bowling clubs, knitting groups etc. Geography placed such an important role in our ability to gather that national hobby organizations have long been structured around local chapters—think boy scouts, girl guides, homebrewing clubs etc.

Today, we’re agnostic towards geography. Thanks to the Internet, tribes that would never have existed in a pre-digital age are now thriving online communities. It’s a completely predictable outcome—our natural instinct to organize and identify with tribes runs deep. In our line of work, we often think about the “ audiences” we need to target to get our message out. It can be easy to forget that these “audiences” are real people—human beings who collectively want to belong to something. We’re often too focused on how we get our message in front of the right eyeballs, we forget to take a moment to reflect on what motivates the people we need to reach, and what shared interests they might have. By addressing those questions, we might stand a better chance of making our content resonate.

In the public affairs and advocacy space, tribes are the vocal supporters and fans who believe in our cause (or worse, in a cause that’s mobilizing against us) to the point that they are willing to tell everyone they know about it. And in exceptional cases, they’re willing to step away from the keyboard to express their support in tangible ways: voting at the ballot box, becoming active shareholders, organizing a hostile takeover, demonstrating in the streets, to name a few.

Of course, it’s a cliché to say, but the Internet lets these same activists bring more fuel to the fire. They can use the Internet to self-organize and lend your movement legitimacy, or bring total disruption if you’re on the wrong side of an issue. One hyper-active member can bring more people onside, growing and cultivating an army of supporters. And while activists were once constrained by geography, this has become a thing of the past. This means tribes can become overnight movements that can either build your reputational equity or make your life a living hell, depending on which side of the tribe’s shared interests you find yourself on. The Internet makes the infrastructure easy: all it takes is an Internet connection, a shared interest, and a digital gathering place, and you technically have a tribe. But that alone won’t be enough. A tribe is a living, breathing thing. Something needs to be the glue that holds these individuals together. That could be you and/or your organization.

The Power of a Tribe

But why would you want to build your own tribe? We often tell our clients that one day soon, some outside force will have a direct (and potentially) negative impact on their business. It could be that government is considering new legislation or regulations directly impacting your business. Or the public has decided to side with third-party interests groups targeting you or your industry; or that you’re on the receiving end of a hostile takeover. You’re always at risk. In our experience, most organizations have the appropriate resources in place to do conventional corporate communications, government relations and investor relations, but few, if any, have a program to build a tribe of active supporters. And by failing to build and cultivate tribes, organizations are at risk of being outmaneuvered by tribes with opposing interests. For example, most companies wait until a legislative or regulatory crisis erupts before rallying supporters to their defence. But for such a cry to have any effect, you need to have an attentive tribe at your disposal. In today’s environment, you simply cannot do public affairs well without having a tribe in your corner. But building that tribe is a laborious exercise. So how do you get there?

Identify shared interests.

As with most things in life, the hardest part is starting out. The work of identifying your potential tribe members starts from the inside. Look around. What type of people are working for your organization or your cause? What motivates them? Why do they care about your line of work? Then work your way out. What common characteristics do your shareholders or members have? Why have they decided to align themselves with you? If you already have an online presence, take a look at your fanbase. Ask the same set of questions. Rinse and repeat and you’ll soon uncover common threads—shared interests that unite them. You may even uncover a variety of shared interests, which could be a sign that you have multiple tribes in your orbit that you could foster.

Understand the tribe’s language and speak it. 

In a study by Professor Vincent Jansen from Royal Holloway, even online communities have their own language with a tendency to deliberately use misspelled words, much as people have regional accents when they speak. For reasons I will never comprehend, Justin Bieber fans have a penchant for ending their words with “ee,” as in “pleasee.” Of course, these are literal examples, but each tribe has its own language. They approach issues with a certain view. They have a specific vocabulary (e.g., how some right-wing activists refer to the CBC as the Communist Broadcasting Corporation instead of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or the Toronto Star as the Red Star, for their perceived left-wing bias). If you want to build a tribe, or mobilize one, you’ll stand a better chance if you’re part of the tribe. And that means you have to talk the talk. That’s where public opinion research can be your friend, especially if you tap into big data sources like Facebook topic data.

Map your tribe’s personas. 

Now that you’ve gathered data you need to make it useable. That means fleshing it out and putting it in a digestible format. Using the the findings from our first exercise (finding shared interests), and the cursory information gleaned from the second exercise (getting a feel for the tribe’s language), you now need to gather demographic info that can help you paint a complete picture of all the types of individuals who make up your tribe. Can you distill that information down to easily identifiable personalities—a visual representation of who you need to reach out to with all your outbound communication efforts to make an emotive connection?

Test the messages that motivate action.

Now that you have identified the type of individuals that would be inclined to join your tribe, you need to put content out in the ether and see what sticks. You won’t have a true sense of what actually works until you put content out there, but by now you should have a sense of whether it stands a chance.

Be the glue that holds the tribe together.

As you begin to put out and test your messages, you have a much more important objective: build relationships with the people you’re courting. Keep your tribe informed about new developments; ask them for advice; seek their help when you need them to take action; and give back as much as you can. For the most part, email, private messages, and Facebook pages will be the vehicles through which you contact your tribe members. Too often, we’re so focused on trying to get something out of our “list” that we forget how exhausting it is to be on the receiving end of non-stop asks. A tribe will stick with you if you provide value and if you give more than you take.

Building a tribe and then nourishing it is tough work. It takes a lot of time and patience — two things no one can buy. But, with diligent and thoughtful work, it can be done. And these days, it should be done. Favour can change as fast as tribes can be created, and you never know when you’ll need a community in your corner.

Joseph Lavoie leads Navigator’s Digital Practice and has a decade of communications and public affairs experience. Joseph returns to Navigator after serving, first, Foreign Minister John Baird and, then Prime Minister Harper as Director of Strategic Communications.

Social Media Watch – From Rio to the PMO

By | Blog | No Comments


This week we saw what an international spectacle looks like on social media. The Olympics in Rio are dominating every platform, with users creating plenty of unique content reacting to the games and ceremonies, sharing news articles from the games, and retweeting content from all over the world.

It’s pretty rare that so many countries are actually engaging with similar content at the same time. The effect is noticeable in the amount of potential impressions for Olympic content compared to the consistently strong social media performance of Justin Trudeau, which have comparable author and post totals. The international scope, provides a broader network for retweets and other types of sharing or amplification causing more people to be exposed to a similar volume of content.

Sticking to Canada, when Canadians weren’t drawn in by the Olympics, they were mostly talking about The Prime Minister’s chest. Justin Trudeau normally generates a lot of social media activity, however this week it was notable how much of it was not directly related to any policy. Strategically, he seems to be allowing the Olympics and his abs to distract from tough economic news also released this week. The fact that it’s summer also helps, but it is notable how little traction stories about Canada’s economy were able to generate beside happier stories.

Social Media Watch will be watching closely to see how The Prime Minister adjusts his strategy in the absence of convenient distractions like summer weather and the Olympics. Will he continue to rely on charisma to distract from what is potentially very bad news or try and transfer the good will he’s been building on social media into viral support for his policies?

– Jeff Blay, Communications and Digital Coordinator,  Enterprise (, @JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (

Social Media Watch – Interprovincial Trade

By | Blog | No Comments


Interprovincial trade has been a hot topic in Canada over the past couple of weeks, and many people across the country have taken to social media to weigh in on the issue.

With summer in full swing and federal political issues not as prevalent as they typically are when the House of Commons is in session, Ensight thought this would be a great opportunity to analyze how stories traveled between provinces on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Reddit.

As it turns out, the task was a bit more convoluted than expected. We found Canadian news cycles and topics on all digital media—not just social—tend to mirror geographical boundaries. Or at least they did this week.

Overall, news stories on a national or federal level often receive consistent engagement in every province when accounting for population size. These type of stories generate wide spread chatter by amplifying content through national outlets’ far-reaching social media networks.

CBC, The Globe and Mail and The National Post circulate stories of national interest on main feeds, dedicated provincial channels and reporters’ accounts on every main social network. Huffington Post, Vice and Macleans have similar strategies.

This layered amplification technique, where the same content is circulated by multiple accounts in a short period of time, as national outlets coordinate with provincial and sometimes local affiliates to circulate their content with a country-wide scope in smaller markets, means many Canadians often see the same story multiple times in their feeds.

If that was too much of a mouthful, how about a quick example.

Someone following CBC on Facebook or Twitter who lives in BC, likely follows CBC’s BC channel as well. The main account, for CBC and any national outlet, produces more content than the area-specific account. Since they coordinate retweets or shares, anyone following both sees national stories as content from the national and local accounts but the sharing does not go both ways. Therefore, local stories are rarely amplified on national accounts. For example, it is unlikely for someone in PEI to be invested in Saskatchewan’s provincial election enough to tweet about it.

From a digital communications perspective, this confirms that the established categories for printed news—sorting content by scope and physical geography—still apply on social media. Digital content makes it easier for users to consciously seek out news from other provinces, but that’s not the focus here. In terms of natural amplification or the free trade of digital content between provinces, generally, people get national news from national sources and will only encounter something from an outlet in another province in their news feed if the story is somehow related to them, which in many cases, would technically mean it’s not a local news story.

This was confirmed when we analyzed discussion this week around interprovincial trade.

From July 23-29, the topic generated an estimated 2,912,458 impressions, including 51 per cent retweets, 46 per cent being original posts and three per cent comments.

The data shows there were plenty of accounts sharing news articles and related content, but very little commentary, suggesting the issue is of interest to Canadians, but is not resonating on an emotional level, which is often required to generate significant social media engagement and commentary. It is very difficult to discuss trade deals in 140 characters, so most of the content was sharing news articles with an occasional blanket statement of support for the idea.  

Looking at sentiment around the topic, 58 per cent was positive, 40 per cent neutral and two per cent negative. Neutral posts are related to amplification—retweets and shares—suggesting Canadians are pro interprovincial trade as a concept.

Since the framework of the hypothetical deal is still very much in flux, we’d expect the volume of negative activity to increase as more details are finalized—not because Canadians will suddenly change their minds, but that the volume of negativity surrounding the concept of reducing restrictions on trade between provinces is so low. At present, social media is very much in favour of what’s been reported so far.

As talks progress and people inevitably disagree with some aspects of whatever decisions are made, they’ll voice their opinion on social media. This will cause negative sentiment to increase from two per cent, however, baring some major change in the national psyche, we expect Canadian social media chatter will still favour interprovincial trade.

– Jeff Blay, Communications and Digital Coordinator,  Enterprise (, @JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (

Social Media Watch – Political Barnstorming at the Calgary Stampede

By | Blog | No Comments


The first weekend of the 2016 Calgary Stampede was full of political events and it was evident on social media.

The Conservative Party of Canada held its Stampede Barbecue on Saturday, July 9, where ​former Prime Minister Stephen Harper endorsed Calgary Midnapore MP Jason Kenney as the next Alberta Progressive Conservative leader. This event led all political social media activity connected with the Stampede this past week, with Harper and Kenney generating a combined 3.4 million potential social impressions.

Breaking it down, Harper received the most traction with 1.9 million impressions, which included 62 per cent retweets, 26 per cent original posts, 12 per cent replies and a high volume of positive sentiment, suggesting the majority of engagement was from a friendly audience that helped amplify positive or branded messages.

Kenney gained 1,522,778 potential impressions with percentages similar to Harper—60 per cent retweets, 35 per cent original posts and 4 per cent replies. That said, he didn’t get the same volume of unblemished positive coverage as Harper—likely due to the fact he remains more active in partisan activities and is running a controversial campaign to unite Alberta’s Wildrose and PC parties.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP also generated a fair amount of traction this week—primarily related to the Premier’s Pancake Breakfast, with 96,145 potential impressions. But unlike Harper and Kenney, sentiment around Notley came in at 97 per cent negative. While much of Notley’s activity involved positive photos from her breakfast event, the majority of commentary from users on social media was not favourable.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada were not active through the first weekend of the Stampede. Trudeau’s social content focused on his trip to the Ukraine and the LPC accounts were mostly retweeting content from Trudeau and MPs. Some Liberal MPs did attend and post about the Stampede, but didn’t receive any notable traction.

The Alberta Liberals were more active, posting a number of photos and content from the Stampede that generated 114,664 potential impressions. Forty-eight per cent of were retweets, 35 per cent replies and 17 per cent original posts, showing the party received moderate amplification. Sentiment was 70 per cent neutral, 18 per cent positive and 12 per cent negative.

This social media activity suggests the Stampede is one of the few instances where the Conservative and NDP parties have received more traction and engagement than the Liberals, who have typically dominated digital since the most recent federal election.

– Jeff Blay, Digital and Communications Coordinator,  Enterprise (, @JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (

Social Media Watch – Pride and Politics

By | Blog | No Comments



Pride events are celebratory occasions for many Canadians—a time to come together and recognize the history, courage and diversity of the LGBT community.

But it also has its political connotations, with heightened attention on LGBT issues and challenges from media and government. In recent years, Pride has become a signature political event for parties of all stripes to display their inclusiveness and support for diversity.

Toronto’s 36th annual Pride Parade (#PrideTO), Canada’s largest parade of its kind, had no shortage of political undertones. As NDP leadership candidate and Ontario LGBTQ Critic Cheri DiNovo, who has been participating in Pride events for more than 45 years, tweeted following the parade, “Pride is political or it isn’t Pride.”

Joined by Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Justin Trudeau became the first sitting Canadian prime minister to march in a Pride parade, generating significant social traction and media coverage.

As Ensight’s post-election research suggests, by voting for Real Change, Canadians made a decision to restore the values they view as traditionally defining Canada and our society, including civility, kindness and inclusion.

While he’s participated in Pride events before, by doing so as Prime Minister, Trudeau is once again setting a different tone for Canadian government. And opposition parties followed suit.

This year’s Toronto Pride parade saw unprecedented participation from the Conservatives. Interim leader Rona Ambrose, Ontario Progressive Leader Patrick Brown and declared party leadership candidates Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Maxime Bernier marched with members of LGBTory Canada, an advocacy group that’s sparked a Tory shift on gay rights.


The Conservatives successfully leveraged the LGBTory tagline as a natural amplification point for an existing outreach strategy. As a result, they received substantial traction with 1,799,482 potential impressions between July 3-6—68 per cent of which were retweets or shares, showing their message was being spread by their supporters.

DiNovo, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and members of the Ontario NDP LGBTQ Committee marched on behalf of the NDP, but the party lacked social activity and missed an opportunity to build off a social campaign they launched in June called #endtheban (not to mention a perfect Pride hashtag #NDPride) aimed at lifting restrictions on blood donations of the LGBT community.

During Pride, there were 18 social posts using the hashtag that generated only 383 potential impressions. The top post from an NDP member was from DiNovo—not about Pride itself, but about her support for Black Lives Matter’s protest, which halted the Pride parade for 30 minutes. The NDP’s federal accounts did not post about Pride.

But no politician or party received more attention than Trudeau, whose Pride posts generated viral exposure both in Canada and internationally, including highly-shared news articles from the BBC and Mashable.

Social posts mentioning ‘Justin Trudeau’ garnered 27,607,769 potential social impressions between July 3-6. His top social post was a Facebook video that has been viewed 4.9 million times, while the top five articles related to his Pride appearance gained a total of 137.1K social shares.

As we’ve examined in past editions of Social Media Watch, (see our analysis of Trudeau’s yoga pose) positive news about Trudeau always performs well, often gaining more social traction and media attention than opposing parties or stories that are perhaps more controversial.

As the Conservatives and NDP look towards the next election, they’ll be seeking a leader who can step into the social media environment as capably as Trudeau.

– Jeff Blay, Enterprise (, @JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (


By | Blog | No Comments
(Left-Right) Ian Morton of Scout Environmental, Gail Carmichael of Shopify, Minister Bardish Chagger, NAO the Robot and Brian Loveys of IBM, Lauren Friese of TalentEgg and Don Newman at IGNITE at ARC the Hotel in Ottawa. May 11, 2016.

(L-R) Ian Morton of Scout Environmental, Gail Carmichael of Shopify, Minister Bardish Chagger, NAO the Robot & Brian Loveys of IBM, Lauren Friese of TalentEgg & Don Newman at IGNITE, an evening of lightning talks presented by Ensight, at ARC the Hotel in Ottawa. May 11, 2016.

NAO the robot is a fan of the Trudeau government’s campaign slogan about sunny ways. 

“I’ve been hearing a lot about sunny ways—this is very exciting,” the humanoid robot, powered by IBM Watson, said in response to human companion and IGNITE co-presenter Brian Loveys of IBM Canada. “I’m getting solar panels installed next week.”


Minister Bardish Chagger high-fiving NAO the Robot at IGNITE.

Drawing laughs from the audience and answering questions ranging from politics, artificial intelligence and the Stanley Cup playoffs (not to mention high-fiving Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger) NAO the robot was certainly a crowd favourite at IGNITE, an evening of lightning talks presented by Ensight.

From providing concierge and retail services to harnessing cognitive capabilities to detect security issues and perhaps most impactful, the stages of melanoma cancer, artificial intelligence has come a long way in recent years and NAO is a prime example of what the future holds.

“From all the market evidence and everything that we’re seeing at IBM, this is a key area of investment for us and we see this exploding in the future,” Loveys said in his presentation.

NAO and Loveys gave one of four powerful lightning talks at the May 11 event, which took place at ARC the Hotel in Ottawa and was also livestreamed on Periscope. Three other speakers took the stage to speak on a wide-range of current topics and how innovation in their sector and their ideas can inspire a shift in thought on public policy.

Gail Carmichael, Manager of External Education Programs at Shopify, focused her talk on computer science, coding and women in technology. As more Canadians understand at least some computer science, Carmichael believes there is a major potential for innovation to increase in Canada. 

An important part of this growth, she says, will be introducing computer science earlier on in education, putting an emphasis on problem solving over complex programming, and creating a more inclusive environment in the tech sector.

“It’s really difficult to recruit women and other underrepresented groups and truthfully, it’s even harder to retain them,” Carmichael said, adding that members of these groups face issues like stereotypes and low confidence in their ability. “Ensuring students get insight into what computer science is when they’re in K-12—understanding it’s all about solving problems and not programming per say, is a huge help. Curriculum and pedagogy at all levels has to be carefully redesigned to be inclusive and engaging to a much broader range of students.”

Like Carmichael, fellow speaker Lauren Friese, founder of student and graduate-focused career website TalentEgg, has seen a shift in education—particularly in the millennial generation. Her focus was centred on the challenges post-secondary students and graduates face when transitioning into the workforce.

The Liberals promised to invest $1.3 billion over three years to create jobs and opportunity for young Canadians, while creating 40,000 youth jobs each year for the next three years through a new, annual investment of $300 million into the renewed Youth Employment Strategy. 

“Of course it’s important to increase the total number of jobs available or open to youth in this country,” Friese said.

But in order to truly level the playing field and reward the investment many young Canadians make after high school, Friese says school-like training programs must be made viable for companies that don’t currently have the size or corporate responsibility budgets.

“By creating programs that subsidize the risk of hiring these inexperienced grads and incentivizing their training for employers, by disrupting a system that relies so heavily on the decision-making ability of a high school student, we can promote, instead of discourage, their innovation potential.”

Scout Environmental CEO Ian Morton touched on a completely different set of areas that have been prioritized by the current government—the environment, climate change and indigenous communities.

His company is using innovation to address groundwater contamination issues in northern Canada. He cited the $409 million commitment in the federal budget to invest in waste management issues in indigenous communities and emphasized the need to focus on how to design infrastructure to withstand extreme and changing climates.

“Climate is changing rapidly in these communities and we do not have the infrastructure to support a circular economy—roads, rail and engineered sites,” Morton said. “We need new ideas on waste management, including how to fund programs in the north. Let’s think about how we measure and monitor health in a lot of these contaminated sites.”

Ensight is looking forward to hosting IGNITE again in the future to continue this type of free-flowing policy discussion with government and stakeholders.

Jeff Blay, Enterprise Canada

Twitter: @JeffBlay

IGNITE: Ensight Livestreaming Lightning Talk Series On Innovation and Policy Tonight

By | Blog | No Comments


May 11, 2016

IGNITE Livestream: Tune in on Ensight’s Periscope starting at 6:30 p.m.   @EnsightCanada

Technology and innovation are increasingly at the forefront of Canadian business and public policy, impacting virtually every sector while disrupting government regulation.

Whether it’s apps that offer unparalleled services and convenience for consumers, artificial intelligence developments that will have broad implications across many fields, or ground-breaking solutions that help businesses achieve environmental goals, the intersection of policy and innovation is at a peak.

Tonight in Ottawa, Ensight is hosting IGNITE—a series of lightning talks (an alternative method of articulating a topic in a quick, insightful and clear manner) where guest speakers will discuss innovation in their sector and how their ideas can inspire a shift in thought on public policy.


You can watch the session LIVE on Ensight’s Periscope starting at 6:30 p.m. Click the button below to tune in.


Minister of Small Business and Tourism Bardish Chagger will be on-hand to give a speech at the event and will also interact with featured speaker NAO the Robot—an endearing, interactive and personalizable robot companion powered by IBM Watson.

The session will feature four keynote speakers conducting four separate talks—otherwise known as a data blitz—on a range of current topics related to innovation and public policy.


Gail Carmichael, Manager of External Education Programs at Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify, will host the first lightning talk, focusing on coding and women in technology.

Carmichael has a varied background in computer science education and software development and is a co-founder of Carleton University’s Women in Science and Engineering (CU-WISE) and a long-time contributor to the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

She is currently working on setting up a more formal Canadian branch of Girl Develop It! and continues to participate in many outreach initiatives.


Ian Morton, CEO of Scout Environmental, a not-for-profit organization that develops and implements product stewardship, retail sustainability and public engagement programs, will provide his expertise on market-based solutions for environmental groups.

He is responsible for producing some of the most innovative and effective market-based environment programs on air quality, product stewardship and energy conservation in Canada.

Morton has been recognized by Strategy Magazine for his marketing expertise and was appointed to an advisory panel of eminent Canadians to provide advice and assistance to the Government of Canada on Climate Change.


Lauren Friese, Founder of TalentEgg, a website used by four million students and recent graduates every year to find jobs and navigate the tough transition from post-secondary education to working life, will focused her talk on the importance of getting youth into the workforce.

She is an expert on the millennial generation and the future of work and understands and embodies entrepreneurial drive. From her own post-university experience, she recognized a gap in the market for online career resources, and forged ahead to build a business that is a definitive leader in its category.


NAO the Robot will be joined by Brian Loveys, Program Director of Product Management and Strategy at IBM Watson, to discuss the future of artificial intelligence and what it means for business.

NAO is a humanoid robot capable of allowing humans to construct his own experience with specific applications based on his own imagination and needs.

Loveys is a software and product strategy professional who has most recently focused his expertise on business analytics and cognitive computing with IBM Watson.

Follow @EnsightCanada on Twitter for live updates throughout the evening. 


By | Blog | No Comments

Death and taxes. They are about all that is certain in this world, according to the often quoted words of Benjamin Franklin. In Canada, however, it is now all but certain that there will be legislation in place governing how we as a society safeguard the now legal rights of Canadians to request assistance in ending their life.

Given the introduction of Bill C-14, Medical Assistance in Dying, it is also a certainty that Members of Parliament will be forced to stand and cast a yay or nay ballot. 

Some may argue our elected Members of Parliament should have been involved in the decision about whether or not to allow euthanasia, assisted suicide, physician assisted suicide or medical assistance in dying in the first place, but the Supreme Court robbed them of that opportunity.  Now it is not a matter of if there is legislation, it is a matter of what that legislation looks like come June 6. 

For many MPs, this represents a moral quagmire of a magnitude that many have not yet faced in their elected careers. The question they are confronted with, to borrow aptly from theologian Francis Schaeffer’s book ‘How Should We Then Live?’, is how should we then vote? 

All political parties are giving their members a ‘free vote’, the right to vote with their conscience and not whipped along party lines.  With the exception of the 31 member Cabinet, who will always vote in favour of government legislation, 307 MPs are now faced with a critically important choice.

The easiest way to choose, would be to vote alongside their leaders. MPs could choose to simply side with their party leader and the political party that got them elected.  Additionally, despite this being a ‘free vote’ MPs may worry about the practical repercussions for not supporting their party. 

However, MPs are also elected to be the voice of their constituents in Ottawa, regardless of political stripe.  In the past weeks MPs have been fanning out across their ridings to hold town halls to solicit feedback. But the fundamental problem with these town halls is that they are often only attended by those who already feel most passionate about the issue usually at one end of the spectrum or another. As of yet, no mechanism exists for an MP to poll the average of 90,000 people in their riding. So while soliciting constituent feedback is important, it still remains challenging to determine the mood of the electorate in each riding.  

Ultimately, despite how their leader votes, or the views of their constituents, MPs also need to take into account their own personal convictions.  This is a deeply personal issue, fraught with opposing and passionate debate.  How we as a society treat end of life care is a mark of our humanity and MPs will be cognizant that how they vote on this legislation could be seen as a mark of theirs. 

Since this will be a free vote in the House of Commons, MPs will be entitled to vote with their conscience.  There is an irony here, as one of the chief complaints of the bill is that that many physicians and institutions have asked that their conscience rights be protected should they choose not to provide medical assistance in dying. Therein lies one of the many layers of considerations each MP will deal with as they settle on a decision over the course of the coming weeks.

As sure as death and taxes, the vote on Bill C-14 will soon make its way onto the floor of the House of Commons, and rest assured many MPs are already fully engaged in the process of consulting with their constituents, their leaders and their own consciences. When the matter has been decided by men and women most often seen angling for votes by the average citizen, it will also have reminded us of the complex and fundamental roles they play in our democracy.

Matt Triemstra is a Director at Ensight Canada where he provides public affairs advice. He has more than a decade of experience consulting and working for Conservative Members of Parliament and the Conservative Resource Group on Parliament Hill.


By | Blog | No Comments


As Ensight has chronicled in past editions of Social Media Watch, the Liberals were successful in their social media strategy during the 2015 federal election campaign. Six months into their governing mandate, they continue their momentum.  

Prime Minister Trudeau and company exceeded all opposing parties in post frequency, engagement and traction, while interim Tory leader Rona Ambrose and the Conservatives have emerged ahead of the Tomas Mulcair and the NDP.

Over the past week, Earth Day dominated social media posts for the Liberals. A Facebook video featuring Liberal ministers talking about Earth Day and related initiatives was viewed more than 193,000 times on Facebook and received 1,229 reactions, 1,134 shares and 75 comments.

On Twitter, Trudeau’s tweet announcing Canada officially signed the Paris agreement was the next most engaged post, with 2,208 retweets and 5,059 likes.


For the Conservatives, the majority of this week’s social content was focused on Liberal attack ads. A Facebook post comparing budget priorities received the most traction, earning 2,400 reactions, 1,459 shares and 169 comments.

Although video content didn’t perform as well as it did for the Liberals, it still fared well for the Tories. A series of Rona Ambrose videos generated consistent engagement on Facebook, while Ambrose tweeted a video of her speaking about pipelines that garnered the most traction among Conservative Twitter posts, with 158 retweets and 144 likes. 

While there was no sign of pot-related posts on 4/20, marijuana was the topic of the week for the NDP. Mulcair’s posts calling for immediate decriminalization of marijuana—also criticizing the Liberals for not acting fast enough on the legislation—received the highest engagement on both Facebook and Twitter.

Of all three parties, the NDP had by-far the lowest overall engagement and was also the only party that did not use video content. Aside from inter-party turmoil and decreasing public support, the lack of video is likely a key factor to why the NDP did not perform well on social.


Facebook and Twitter remain the most effective and common platforms for politicians and parties in terms of reach and engagement, but we are beginning to see a shift to platforms more frequently used by younger audiences, such as Instagram and Snapchat.

All three parties and leaders are using Instagram, but like Facebook and Twitter, Trudeau has the largest following (451,000) and engagement levels, followed by Mulcair and Ambrose.

The Liberals were the first to arrive on Snapchat during the October 2015 election campaign, while Trudeau signed up Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 4.07.31 PMfor a personal account in March, but hasn’t yet used it as often as he does other platforms.  Ambrose, the latest to join the Snapchat, launched her account earlier this month. The interim leader has since used the platform on nearly a daily basis and has even set her Snapcode as her Twitter profile image to further promote her account. 

If a recent study released this month, which suggests young Canadians aged 18-24 were crucial to the Liberal majority win, is telling, we can expect to see more politicians and parties incorporate these up-and-coming platforms into their digital strategies in the near future.

Jeff Blay, Enterprise Canada

Twitter: @JeffBlay

Jeff Ballingall, Navigator Ltd.

Twitter: @jeffballingall