The B.C. government has gone on Twitter in a search for ideas on creating jobs.
The appeal to British Columbians comes on one of the quietest weeks of the year, when many were heading to shopping malls for Boxing Week sales, and four months after the government formally unveiled its jobs plan.
"Your turn. What can be done in your community to create more jobs," says a tweet sent out Tuesday morning. A link to a survey on the government's website was included in the tight 140-character message.
B.C. Jobs Minister Pat Bell did not respond Tuesday to a request for an interview. He may be away from his phone this week, a staff member said.
NDP critic Bruce Ralston questioned why the government would undertake public consultation on government policy during the week after Christmas.
The tweet reflects "a certain desperation," he said in an interview. "It's the one week of the year that most people are preoccupied with family and friends. Who does it reach?" he asked.
"There's nothing wrong with using social media to talk to people. But they should have done it before they launched the jobs plan," Mr. Ralston said. "It's backwards to do the consultation now."
Mr. Ralston added that he did not expect the tweet would lead to any changes in government policy. The messaging was "a communication exercise, not a job-creation exercise," he said.
Peter Chow-White, a communications professor at Simon Fraser University, said Twitter could be an effective means for the government to connect with British Columbians, in the same fashion that the messaging system has been useful for anti-government forces in Arab countries and elsewhere.
The government bypasses traditional media and reaches people directly, he said.
However, its activities on Twitter cannot replace traditional efforts to communicate with British Columbians. "There's a digital divide," he said. "People who do not have smartphones or an Internet connection will be left out."
Prof. Chow-White added that the technology is too new to say whether sending out tweets is an effective tool for developing government policy. At this point, observers cannot say whether the exchanges are anything more than casual conversation, he said.
Those who click on the link in the tweet are taken to a government website that asks for ideas to create jobs, expand markets and improve distribution of products and services. The government also asks for topics to discuss at regional jobs workshops, what's needed for training and the role of communities in planning and delivering training programs.
Although the website has been soliciting comments since late November, only 45 responses have been posted. The first posting on Tuesday came about an hour after the government tweet was sent out. The posting stated: The small moorage of sailboats at the end of the White Rock pier should be turned into a rental facility and used to take people for a sail to nearby Point Roberts.
Premier Christy Clark, who often tweets messages about her political activities, announced the jobs plan in September. The program includes a $3-million increase in the venture-capital tax credit for small business, a three-year extension of annual funding for the B.C. training tax credit and reductions in red tape.