On social media, minister's strategy is Mitchelmore, not Mitchel-less

Minister in a Santa hat. Minister on a train. Minister in a sou'wester.

Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore's social media accounts are full of selfies and videos, along with pictures of meals, books, scenery — whatever catches his fancy in his work and travels.

Occasionally, his use of social media raises eyebrows, if not hackles; his video introducing the province's newest tourism ad earlier this year drew criticism — both online and in the House of Assembly.

But Mitchelmore, the MHA for St. Barbe-L'Anse aux Meadows says his social media motivation is simple.

"Social media is a very important outlet to be able to get a message out as a member of the House of Assembly representing a very rural riding," he said Thursday at Confederation Building.

"For example, on the Great Northern Peninsula … I would not have the opportunity to get into 60 communities. It's the size of the Avalon Peninsula. So I like to keep people up to date with matters of which I'm working on, on behalf of constituency issues, and also in my ministerial portfolio in tourism, culture, industry and innovation to highlight the various experiences and events and activities and communities that are out there across this province."

Some posts have been shared, but with mockery

He says he considers it his job to use social media to highlight what's happening in the province.

His online omnipresence, though, sometimes backfires.

Mitchelmore was mocked earlier this year when he posted a handmade video of himself introducing the province's newest tourism ad.

Social media is a very important outlet to be able to get a message out. - Christopher Mitchelmore

Communications specialist Conway Fraser called the minister's video "uncomfortable" and "awkward" and said it didn't square with the authenticity of the ad itself. 

In the House of Assembly, PC MHA Tracey Perry asked Mitchelmore to admit his video was a mistake that "could have hurt the tourism brand" of Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Will you admit your own awkward video took away from featuring the province's natural culture and heritage?" said Perry.

Christopher Mitchelmore/Twitter

Mitchelmore defended his video — which he had already taken down by that point — by noting it cost "zero dollars" to produce, and said it spoke volumes that the Opposition was making "personal remarks at how an individual speaks or how they conduct themselves."

To reporters Thursday, the minister said it's "unfortunate" that people will use social media for derogatory comments or personal attacks.

"We're all human beings. Politicians are human beings as well. I've never took to social media to make negative comments to personally impact any other individual, and I would hope that other people would have the same respect. If there are issues and disagreements that people have, they can certainly make those, and make their views known."

Christopher Mitchelmore/Facebook

Oh, people make their views known.

Just this week, with Arts NL pressing the provincial government to increase its annual grant to the organization, Mitchelmore in the House of Assembly — and on Twitter — outlined all the ways he said the province supports arts beyond the Arts NL grant, and suggested artists have moved to Newfoundland and Labrador because of government support for the arts.

Pressed for specifics by On The Go host Ted Blades, Mitchelmore pointed to a Central Voice article from November 2017 noting acclaimed writer Sharon Bala, author of The Boat People, moved here.

But Bala bristled at the suggestion — accusing Mitchelmore of lying — that she moved here because of government support for the arts.

"These absurd tweets are a diversionary tactic. The fact is funding to artists via grants has been steadily declining over the past 7 years," she wrote on her blog Thursday, in a piece she headlined, "Put your money where your mouth is."

As of Saturday morning, Mitchelmore hadn't tweeted a response.

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