Economic issues are the most popular topic among Canadian Facebook users who are discussing and sharing election-related material, according to new data released by the social network.

Facebook says the top three issues since the first federal leaders’ debate on Aug. 6., have been:

  • Economic issues (54%)
  • foreign policy (37%)
  • social issues (32%).

And the top three national economic issues are government finances (45%), taxes (36%) and employment (36%).

Kevin Chan, head of public policy for Facebook Canada, said the company measured user engagement on those topics by tracking specific keywords. For example, words like “surplus” and “deficit” were used to track discussions related to government finances.

By measuring the number of unique Facebook users who are discussing and sharing election-related content, the social network noted spikes in discussions that coincide with key moments in the election campaign. The conversation spikeswere on a timeline that included confirmation that Canada was in a technical recession and the surprise announcement of a $1.9-billion government surplus.

Economy graph
Chan said another example is Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s proposal to double infrastructure spending and run short-term "modest" deficits on Aug. 27. That kicked off plenty of news coverage about how each federal party leader would approach balancing the books and Facebook saw an increase in discussions about infrastructure and government financing.

When it comes to broader election issues, there has been a marked increase in foreign policy-related discussion on Facebook.

Chan noted that foreign policy issues surpassed discussions about the economy for the first time on Sept. 2., when the world saw horrific images of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach as thousands of refugees continued to enter Europe.

Alan’s death sparked intense debate about the refugee crisis on the campaign trail. 


Facebook says that three million Canadians have had conversations about election issues on the social network since June 1. Facebook has also recorded 18.5 million interactions -- posts, shares, comments and likes -- on election-related content.

“The broader point of all of this is that people always ask: ‘Do Canadians care about this election?’” Chan said. “If you look at our interaction numbers and when you look at how these conversations are happening organically on Facebook, they’re happening because real people are having conversations with each about it.

“With this data we see that Canadians are very much engaged in the election and they do care and they are talking about it.”

UPDATE: Here are the top three moments Facebook Canada was able to identify when conversation spiked on the social network during Thursday night's debate. Again, it's all about the economy:

FIRST SPIKE: “Child Care Debate”

9:05 p.m. ET — Harper talking about encouraging home ownership, then child care tax benefits.

Mulcair: "You promised 125,000 child care spaces and you delivered the same amount as the Liberals: exactly 0."

9:06 p.m. ET — Trudeau "They want to keep sending UCCB cheques to millionaires just because they have children. We don't think that's fair. We're going to stop sending those cheques to the people who don't need it so we can send larger cheques to the families who do need it and lift 315,000 kids out of poverty."

Harper: "You don't have enough money in your budget to fund those promises."

SECOND SPIKE: “Harper attacks the NDP and Liberal economic plans”

8:44 p.m. ET: Harper talking about his economic record, knocking Mulcair’s plan

Harper: "Mr Trudeau says he will raise taxes, Mr Mulcair's plan is the same old NDP playbook. We saw it in British Columbia, we saw it in Ontario, we're seeing it in Alberta. A whole bunch more spending and we can finance that just by raising taxes on a few big corporations and a few rich people. What happens is you start putting people out of work, slowing the economy, killing jobs. That's the reality of the NDP plan wherever it's been tried."

THIRD SPIKE: “Harper foreshadows outcome of Trans Pacific Trade Partnership”

9:36 p.m. ET: Harper and Pacific Trade Partnership, auto sector

Harper: “What I say to the auto sector in particular, I'm not suggesting they will necessarily like everything that is in that but what I am saying is that we simply cannot afford as a country to have our auto sector shut out of global supply chains."