During a question and answer session the Progressive Party AGM on November 7, 2009 Premier Stelmach – reeling from recent bad press over everything from the oil and gas royalty framework, to Bill 44, to Bill 50, to H1N1 vaccinations – announced to Alberta what “the biggest challenge we’re facing as a government” is. The answer? The media. Specifically he said, “I really do feel that the policies we have are the right ones for Alberta, but it’s difficult to get it through the present media that’s available to us.”

Yes, I laughed too when I heard it. Surely the biggest challenge could not possibly be that mistakes were being made on each of these issues, but instead it must be that the media was pointing them out.

But let’s put that aside and just say for a moment, that the Premier is right. If this is so, how the heck do you get around the media to give your message directly to the people? This is something many different companies are trying to figure out so they can reach consumers of their product too. Just like the Government is lamenting they’d like to do.

A few decades – even a few years – ago this might have been a problem, but with the advancement and building popularity of social media tools such as Facebook, a portal directly to the people now exists. And Premier Stelmach could rightfully take his message to the streets by using this grand new tool and bypass the mainstream media’s web 1.0 model entirely.

Yes! Now they’re starting to get it. The tools DO exist for you to actually have a conversation with citizens directly. All you have to do is open up and start doing it. The solution is so simple, but would be a groundbreaking change to the people of Alberta! A Premier who actually talks with the people instead of at us! It would be a revolution if undertaken properly.

So I waited.

I would have thought the first step in a process like this would have been the Premier taking over his Twitter account himself and starting to use it to actually interact with citizens, instead of allowing staffers to push out nothing more than 20th century-style public relations talking points and boring photos of him shaking hands with people I don’t know at uber-structured press announcements. (Seriously, how am I supposed to identify with a man that is only presented in such a way? No wonder people think he’s boring.)

But instead I was saddened by the reaction simply being a ramp up in the Premier’s online presence. His Facebook page and Twitter account increased the volume of craptastic PR available to the public, while he started a new e-newsletter. And nothing actually changed.

However a little over a week ago, the Premier’s office announced something new: a program called AskEd. The concept is so simple, but long over due: citizens can ask the Premier questions via Twitter or YouTube and the Premier will respond. It’s foolproof!

Well, it looks like the fools are running the program.

For those that don’t know, here is how Twitter works:

  1. You say something via Twitter.
  2. When I’m online, I respond via Twitter.

Here’s how the fools have decided the AskEd program on Twitter will work:

  1. You ask the Premier a question – but only before December 4 – via Twitter.
  2. A third party will vet the questions and decide which ones might be answered.
  3. In about two weeks time check our website and see if he responded.

Wow. I’m going to go out on a limb and say maybe Premier Stelmach should stick with mainstream media, he’ll probably have better luck with it because it sure doesn’t look like he gets social media.

So I’ve done what any responsible citizen could do. I conformed. I’ve asked three questions via the AskEd program. They may look tongue in cheek but I’ve asked them in all seriousness. We’ll see if I ‘make the cut’.

The questions are:

Ask @premierstemach a Q on Twitter & in 2 weeks he’ll answer on his website. #askEd: Do you understand why that is a social media #fail?

#askEd Can I still ask @premierstelmach Qs after Dec 4 or is that the end of the accountability period?

.@premierstelmach Why is #askEd not an ongoing thing instead of a short term marketing campaign? Can openness & transparency be the default?

Please feel free to re-tweet my questions (here and here and here) and to ask your own questions too. You have until tomorrow, after that, it looks like you can keep your questions to yourself.