One Langley man. 338 Canadian ridings. A virtual cross-country adventure.

Langley-born theatre student Maxwell Cowan is taking his Twitter followers on a virtual tour of Canada's 338 federal ridings.

By Grace Kennedy | January 11, 2022 |5:30 am

Theatre student Maxwell Cowan is ready to take Canadians on a tour of their country, one federal riding at a time. The catch? You have to follow him on Twitter to come along.

Cowan is the creator behind the Riding of the Day account, which aims to profile every federal electoral area in the country. The Langley-born student already has nearly 900 followers on his account, which he uses to share ridings and develop hypothetical ward systems for the Township of Langley. He also has an appetite for Canadian politics that has earned him more opportunities than he expected. We met with Cowan via video call from his university in Toronto to ask him more about his cross-country journey and how the project has impacted his understanding of Canada.

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FVC: How did you first get this Twitter account idea? I expected someone who would be doing a riding of the day thing to be in political science or something like that.

Maxwell Cowan: What made it kind of my interest was having the BC provincial election and the US presidential election within three weeks of each other. I was just very interested, like, ‘Oh, wait, so this is two elections I can follow at the same time.’ And then I didn’t really get too deep into it… [But] from March to April, that’s when I got a bit more into the social media side of it. So on Twitter, there’s a bubble of us called Election Twitter… and I was like, ‘You know, what, I want to be here, but I want to contribute something.’ So I found this one account that was doing the same thing I’m doing now but for US congressional districts. He’s done now—he actually finished around the same time I started, but that’s kind of how I got the inspiration for this account.

FVC: So what’s it been like for you putting this together? I saw you went on a little bit of a hiatus during the federal election.

Cowan: It’s been amazing. I started in June, I have like [900] followers and it’s created opportunities that I didn’t think I would have. Like, this is just a thing that started on Twitter and I have a blog to go along with it, just to keep it all in a forum. And then I got approached by the owner of Lean Tossup, which is a polling aggregate firm. And he approached me to write a piece for the Toronto Star on ridings to watch for this election. (Note: The article ran in iPolitics, which is owned by TorStar, the company that owns the Toronto Star.)

So just a little bit of backstory: I graduated in 2018 and I went to Kwantlen Polytechnic for journalism. I really enjoyed it. It’s not like I’m not a huge fan of journalism. I just found my love of theater. After the first semester, I was like, ‘I can’t. I have to go into theater…’ But I still enjoy journalism. And that’s kind of how I got my skills into blogging and going on Twitter and that kind of thing. It was just crazy how, after not going to journalism school anymore, I still had an opportunity to do journalism. And now I’m getting interviewed for a paper I was following when I was still just back at home.

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FVC: So you did that story on ridings to watch for the Toronto Star. How else did you interact with that federal election campaign?

Cowan: I did take a bit of a backseat because I also was moving across the country and going to school. So I took a bit of a break. I was still on Twitter, just posting just my thoughts and opinions and just current events from the election, that kind of thing. But it was pretty much just taking a backseat and letting more intelligent people talk during the election. Because that was the main thing about not posting daily: I didn’t want to contribute to the noise during the election. It seems like there’s a lot more important information that could be out there during this time. And that’s why it started back up after the election.

FVC: How are you finding that your understanding of Canada is evolving as you’re going through? Because you’re going through alphabetically, but you’re also hopping around the country geographically as well.

Cowan: It’s really interesting going through, especially Quebec. I’ve never been east of Montreal so it’s really interesting learning about how Quebec has had these huge waves in the past four elections and all of a sudden this election there’s only one seat that changes. So what happened to make that happen? And then you go into PEI that’s been solid red for you know, however long it has. So it’s just interesting being from the Fraser Valley seeing how things are different outside of the Fraser Valley.

FVC: What kind of response have you been getting from people?

Cowan: It’s honestly been amazing… especially whenever people are like, ‘Oh, that’s my riding,’ or like, ‘Oh, this is my hometown.’ Or if I know that I have a riding coming up that somebody has mentioned they’re from, I message them and say, ‘Hey, is anything I should mention? Anything that is important?’ And then they usually give me a full thread of things I should mention. And I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll put two of these things in there.’ And then I credit them afterwards.

FVC: So it’s kind of like creating a community sourcing for some of the things that you’re putting in there.

Cowan: It’s been great, because obviously Wikipedia and Elections Canada and the census don’t give you everything about a riding. It’s all about the people that live there and the communities in the riding.

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Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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