I've been blogging about New Brunswick politics for 15 months and some odd weeks and have had a relatively stable following for the past while. Here on my primary blog, I consider a post a success if I get 10 comments, I don't believe I have ever had much beyond 20.
A post I wrote earlier this week about the Fredericton Conservative nomination race did above average at 15 comments. The post I wrote on the results however has attracted 38 comments (and counting).
Canada has tended to be a few years behind the U.S. in political innovations. In the U.S. we have seen the rising of the "netroots" - a term that plays on "grassroots" - as a force in politics, this group has been largely untapped and unreported in Canada.
Keith Ashfield was not the netroots candidate in Fredericton and that is abundantly clear. In response to my first post, one person was annoyed that Ashfield was the only candidate in the race that didn't have a website. In response to my second post, and to a lesser extent the first, there has been near unanimous criticism of Ashfield from all commenters, yet he won the nomination meeting.
Certainly there is a great potential to harness those interested in politics through the internet. The fact that at least 10 (it is hard to figure out which anonymous posters are distinct from each other) Tories, most of whom seem to have attended the meeting, have come to a relatively obscure Liberal blog that gets between 100 and 200 page views per day is evidence of that.
Ten people may not sound like a lot, but the margin of victory on Wednesday night was 8 and at the last Tory nomination it was 3. Wednesday's nomination meeting had just under 1000 delegates and it was considered "huge"; 10 people represents 1% of the attendees of a "huge" meeting, a relatively significant sample.
Canadian political parties have done very little - when compared to their American counterparts - to reach out to the netroots constituency. As far as I know, New Brunswick parties have done nothing at all. I think the reaction that has been shown on my blog shows that there is great potential to engage some very enthusiastic and well informed voters and would-be political activists here.
I wonder if any party will take on the challenge and whether or not the netroots will make a difference here like they have south of the border?
FOOTNOTE: I do have to tap myself on the back about my pre-nomination analysis. I said, Ashfield "can only win if a second ballot is required and Forestall supporters move to him en masse" but that many Forestall supporters would skip the second vote. The results were as follows: Ballot #1 - Macdonald 428, Ashfield 397, Forrestall 134; Ballot #2 - Ashfield 440 (+43); Macdonald 432 (+4); missing from voting 87.