We Have A Winner!

Sometimes, it's just bloody good to be proved wrong.

The party leader I thought would be the long shot candidate when I called odds on who would start a campaign blog first, has surprised me and pleased his supporters by getting out ahead of the competition.

Ladies and gentleman, the first official party leader to launch a campaign blog for the 2006 Canadian Federal Election is Gilles Duceppe.

"Fortunately, the Bloc is here", as their campaign slogan puts it. Who woulda thunk it?

Now, a note to any Tory fans reading. Yes, your party does indeed have a Campaign Blog prominently linked from your home page. And yes, your blog was up before the Bloc's. But it doesn't win the race in my book for three main reasons.

First, it's not a party leader blog. That's specifically what I was looking for. In fact - it's impossible to glean who the author of the blog posts is at all. Although the blogger writes in the first person ("Over the next several weeks, I will attempt to provide an "inside" look at Stephen Harper's national tour..."), nowhere are we told who the anonymous camp follower is, or what their relationship to Mr. Harper might be.

Second, it's not a blog. No permalinks, no comments, no trackbacks, no RSS, no links to external sites - nothing.

Listen - I don't want to wade into the mud of the "what defines a blog" debate again, but really - if your site is just a reverse-chronological series of articles, without:

i. the clear, unedited, personal voice of a real human being, and;
ii. a means of conversation and interaction (comments, trackbacks, etc.);

... then you can call it whatever the hell you want, but it sure ain't a blog.

Le Blogue de Gilles Duceppe may only have one post so far, but at least it's signed by M. Duceppe himself (entirely likely it was actually written by one of his flacks, of course), and it has comments and a permalink.

And finally, the third reason I can't award first place to the Tories is that, quite simply, their campaign blog is bollocks.

Let's look at a sample from the top of the latest post to illustrate my point. The big campaign news yesterday was the Conservative's announcement that they plan to cut Canada's hated Goods & Services Tax by 2%, if elected. So what pithy, back-story insights does the blogger with special access to the Harper strategy team offer us? Here:

"Stephen HarperÂ?s promise to reduce the GST to 5% makes a lot of sense to me."

Thanks for the epiphany there, bud. If you're going to have a blog to help build a dialogue with voters, you've got to do something more than just recycle the same cant we already get in your press releases.

So, the Liberals have a kinda blog, of sorts. No RSS and no comments, but it's entertaining.

The Tories have something called a blog, but it isn't.

The Bloc have something that might well become an actual blog, but it needs a little help (and again, an RSS feed, dammit). UPDATE: In fairness, btw, it's worth noting that the whole of the Bloc's main website is arranged to be awfully blog-like. A stream of posts down the middle, with comments, permalinks and other goodies on each. That's pretty cool. It's a natural and smart way to run a constantly updated website.

The NDP, meanwhile, haven't even presumed to call their thingy a blog - but they do have a thingy, and it's something approximating what the others offer. Their "Rapid Response" page is certainly blog-like, and could be great if they'd open it up for dialogue (and add, you guessed it, an RS-bloody-S feed).

On reflection, then, maybe nobody wins. The race is still open.

Bonus link: "The good, the ugly and the stupid." The Globe and Mail critiques the party websites.