At least so far as Twitter is concerned, Industry Minister Tony Clement might claim to be the most influential man in Ottawa. According to Klout.com, which measures the reach of and demand for one’s tweets, the frequently tweeting minister rates 72 (out of a possible 100) in influence—14 points ahead of his boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Social media—whatever its potential for embarrassment—has become a necessary public relations tool for the modern politician, and Twitter has brought in a new era of instant communication. Clement uses the 140-character messaging service to discuss his daily activities and taste in music, but also once related his attempts to save a drowning woman. On several occasions, Clement, who has been front and centre on a number of controversial issues over the last year, has taken to Twitter to battle criticism of his decisions and policies. Earlier this month, he used Twitter to announce his government’s intention to overturn a CRTC decision on Internet usage—an announcement that has started a debate over the role and place of Twitter in the business of government.
For all that, Clement has won a reputation as a prominent tweeter. His score of 72 outpaces not only Harper, but also cabinet colleagues Jason Kenney and James Moore (57 for both), who post regularly on Twitter. Harper trails both Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff (69) and NDP Leader Jack Layton (65), but is four points ahead of Gilles Duceppe (54). Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae rates a 58, while Layton’s wife, NDP MP Olivia Chow, scores 55. For the sake of comparison, U.S. President Barack Obama rates an 88, while Sarah Palin scores 75. All remain well back of Justin Bieber, who rates a perfect 100.
Clement’s unquestioned domination of the tweet may soon be challenged, though. The House of Commons recently approved Twitter applications for government-issued BlackBerries, potentially enabling many more MPs to succinctly discuss their musical preferences in the near future. Indeed, following Clement’s lead, MPs might soon be hashing out complicated matters of public policy 140 characters at a time.