On the campaign trail: Meet #elxnnw's virtual mayor, council and trustees

Julie Maclellan

We’ve arrived – almost.

As the campaign winds down, I thought it only fitting that I use this final pre-election blog post to name my new mayor, council and school board.

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Yes, that’s right. I’m picking the new leaders of this city. The catch is, I’m basing my picks purely on candidates’ use of social media over the campaign. I am ignoring every other factor – door-knocking, signs, brochures, all-candidates meetings, debate performance, endorsements (or lack thereof), presence in the community, name recognition and the host of other things that go into helping people decide who to vote for on election day.

Because social media has been my bailiwick throughout this campaign, I’m strictly basing this one on social media performance. So, regardless of who you are and what you stand for, you’re all being judged on the same criteria. Who emerges on top strictly depends upon how I judge your online performance over the past five weeks.

And yes, it’s purely arbitrary, as determined by me. There is no formula, no algorithm, no scientific method whatsoever to these decisions. With all that having been said, here’s how I’m calling Julie’s Virtual Election:



Interestingly, it was the school board candidates who tended to perform the best overall on social media throughout this campaign. Generally speaking, trustee hopefuls have the biggest presence on social media and the highest levels of engagement (with some exceptions, of course).

Those who have followed my blogs throughout this campaign won’t be surprised to read that I’m going to give the first three spots on this virtual school board to Kelly Slade-Kerr, MaryAnn Mortensen and Jeremy Perry. All three have been active and engaged on social media throughout the campaign.

MaryAnn and Jeremy, in particular, have come on strong in the latter stages of the campaign. MaryAnn has been answering questions galore and engaging in discussions all over the place. Jeremy gets an extra nod for his decision to “live tweet” his door-knocking (which was actually quite fascinating for this #elxnnw nerd).

With four more spots to fill, I have five candidates who could conceivably take the spots: Cort Caldwell, Jonina Campbell, Casey Cook, Michael Ewen and Mark Gifford.

Each candidate has some different strengths to commend them. Casey and Michael have gone in bursts – being extremely present and chatty at times and almost absent at others. Cort definitely started out extremely strongly on social media but has grown a little quiet in the campaign's latter days. Mark was the reverse, tending to gain strength rather than lose it. Jonina, meanwhile, was consistently present but never quite centre stage.

Cort, Michael and Mark all get bonus points for taking @CanSpice’s bait on Twitter and answering his tongue-in-cheek questions for trustees. (Jeremy, I must note, also answered them.)

In the end, I find I must give the four remaining spots to Casey Cook, Michael Ewen, Mark Gifford and Cort Caldwell.

But it was awfully close. Jonina Campbell may wish to ask for a virtual recount.


Julie’s Virtual School Board: Slade-Kerr, Mortensen, Perry, Caldwell, Cook, Ewen, Gifford.



The council race has been an interesting one to watch, since some candidates have been exceptionally good at social media and others have been utterly invisible.

There are a few no-brainer choices.

Locking down the top spots are Patrick Johnstone and Mike Folka, who have been virtual stars from beginning to end – showing personality, providing us with plenty of information about themselves and where they stand, and generally engaging with voters. (Plus, Mike has been shameless about posting photos of his super-cute children, which always helps to up your standing. Cute kids are the campaign equivalent of cat videos – it’s just not the internet without them.)

Both of them have also generated a great deal of chatter and support from the #NewWest Twitter crowd.

Not too far behind come Mary Trentadue and David Brett, who have been solid and consistent throughout, if perhaps slightly less omnipresent than the two front-runners. (An extra boost to Mary for earning the above-mentioned cute kid points.)

Now here’s where the race opens up a little, since there’s no one single candidate who has really done enough to merit being a social media star – although there are a few who have at least put out the effort.

In contention for the final two virtual council seats are Tej Kainth, Jaimie McEvoy and Harm Woldring.

Tej has had a slightly less visible presence than I expected she might, but she’s been good at using her catchy #sparkthevote hashtag and she’s been picking up steam in the latter days of the campaign.

Jaimie hasn’t been extremely visible, but when he has popped in, he’s shown a good sense of humour and engagement level. Plus, he gets extra points for having cool campaign shoes and for posting a William Shatner photo. (Not quite as good as cute kids, but bonus photo points nonetheless.)

Harm, meanwhile, has been dogged in using his Twitter feed to drive home his message about the need to support small business.

In the end, I’m going to give the nods to Tej and Jaimie, since the social media world tends to bias in favour of catchy and fun. Plus, I like green shoes.

But Harm’s in with a chance in 2018 for sure. All he needs to do is add some kittens to soften up his campaign, and he’s golden.


Julie’s Virtual Council: Johnstone, Folka, Trentadue, Brett, Kainth, McEvoy



This one is most decidedly a two-way race: Jonathan Cote versus James Crosty.

Yes, Wayne Wright and Vladimir Krasnogor do have some social media presence, but not to anywhere near the level of the frontrunners.

In any case, both Jonathan and James have been keeping it interesting throughout the campaign – and what makes it doubly interesting is the fact that their styles are so totally opposite.  Jonathan is all about community, accomplishments and warm-fuzzies, while James has been the mayoral race’s attack-dog throughout the campaign. Both have used Twitter, in particular, to great effect.

Where Jonathan has the edge over James is the fact that his campaign is more multi-faceted – he’s also a big Facebook user, he has a well-developed website, and he has posted a series of informative videos, among other things. He gets bonus points this week for posting the video footage of the one millionth step in his campaign – and, yes, for the beyond-all-cuteness photo of one tuckered-out young Cote sleeping under the “Vote Cote” blanket. As social media images go, it was masterful.

Plus, Jonathan undoubtedly generates the most chatter and has the most supporters on Twitter – indeed, if Twitter were the real world, he’d be the mayor in a landslide.

Though James has put up a valiant fight, I’ve gotta give this one to Virtual Mayor Jonathan Cote.


So there you are, New West, the winners of #elxnnw – at least, my virtual version.

On a personal note, some of the above-mentioned people will be getting a vote from me on Saturday. Some won’t. And some are still on my “maybe” list.

I, for one, am eager to see how many of the above-named winners also turn up as winners in the real world. Certainly, there are many, many more factors that go into a successful campaign – but social media has definitely played a part in this 2014 race. It just remains to be seen how big of a part.

Regardless, I must say that keeping watch on the social media campaign trail has been an entertaining and educational exercise.

To all the candidates named above, and to all who have put themselves out there on social media: Thank you.

You have informed me. You have entertained me. You have made me think. And, most of all, you have convinced me that there are people worth voting for in this election.

Good wishes to you all as the city heads to the polls on Saturday – and may the city be all the better for your efforts.

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