CITIZEN PARTICIPATION COMES WITH A PRICE?
The UCP Caucus runs surveys to gather citizen responses to policy options and political issues they believe Albertans are or should be interested in. It is always good to have some input on policy issues, and the UCP, like all other political parties, what’s to show they are “listening.”
There is more to understand about these surveys that are sponsored by a political party. As a citizen, you need to be well aware, better informed, and appreciate the consequences of your participation in political party surveys. First, you can’t submit a response to a UCP Caucus survey without disclosing your name, email address, and postal code. You would think they would make providing that information voluntary, not a condition of communicating with them.
Many Albertans are not comfortable with this disclosure of private information as a pre-condition for public participation This discomfort is well advised. I suggest this privacy concern about turning over personal information is well-founded. This is because political parties are exempt from the strict legal requirements of prior informed consent in order to gather and use private information on the Internet. Part of the motivation for political party surveying like this is so they can harvest personal data and use it for whatever political purposes they may wish.
Citizen participation with the UCP, through survey submission, means it is not unlikely you will receive fund-raising requests in the future. You may be sent partisan propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation for political purposes.
WHAT’S THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN?
If your citizen participation is through social media posts and comments, Letters to the Editor. emails or letters to government departments, phone calls to constituency offices, and comments on UCP MLA Facebook pages, you may suffer consequences. Citizens are often Blocked by MLAs on their Twitter accounts and Facebook Groups. You may be trolled on Twitter, harassed on Facebook, and even see direct efforts at intimidation by Bots and partisan political operatives. This happens if you are aggressive and assertive in your communications. and is typical tactics by an Authoritarian government like the UCP. Note that you should be blocked if you are abusive or threatening in your communications with the government or politicians.
Some clever citizens use false or “proxy information” when they submit responses. For example, an impish tactic I know that has been used is submitting Premier Kenney’s name, email, and the Legislature’s postal code when they submit their survey response. This may avoid future harassment but it also likely will have no positive policy input impact either. The responses can be downloaded, cleaned and culled so your responses do not get considered. So while it’s clever it’s not effective.
THE REBOOT ALBERTA CITIZEN’S JOURNEY
This is part of the Reboot Alberta Citizenship Journey. It starts with helping Citizens becoming more aware of the policy. processes and politics around matters that concern them. We work to give links to Citizens for reliable authoritative sources of relevant commentary on matters of personal and public concern. We seek to empower more effective Citizen engagement to press for change in public policy, programs, and processes. Finally, we encourage Albertans to become assertive and activist citizens and create conditions to influence political culture changes that support democracy.
Full disclosure, I also run surveys in the Reboot Alberta platform using email addresses of citizens who knowingly provided them for these purposes. I also require email addresses be provided as a condition of membership in the Reboot Alberta Facebook Group. This is because Reboot Alberta is working towards developing a community of Engaged Alberta Citizens who want to Actively Assert themselves in Alberta’s political culture as Citizens, without having to become a Partisan to have influence.