It’s a new day and Dr. Stephen Duckett is now out of a job because of a viral YouTube video.

Just to recap, Dr. Duckett was brought in from Australia by the former Alberta Health and Wellness Minister, Ron Liepert to head the Alberta Health Services or the “Superboard” (the Big Old Board, or “BOB” as the head nurse in the province calls it). BOB is a huge experiment in health care delivery and so far, it looks like it has largely failed.

After the disastrous roll-out of the pandemic flu vaccination program last year, Liepert was forced out of his portfolio and Gene Zwozdesky was brought in. Still, the problems remain. Then, the second most powerful guy at Alberta Health and Wellness, emergency room physician and PC MLA Dr. Raj Sherman sends an emotional email to the Premier accusing him of breaking promises and revealing that he is losing faith in his own government. That email is leaked to the media and Dr. Sherman is hailed as a hero. Of course, he was then promptly kicked out of the PC caucus by the Premier.

Traditional media joins forces with social media

Enter Dr. Duckett. Already a pretty controversial character for many reasons, not the least of which is his generous salary and bonuses in a time of a $5B deficit. Dr. Duckett, while being pursued by the media for comment on the unfolding crisis and Dr. Sherman’s email, refuses to answer questions saying seven times in a two-minute video, “I’m eating my cookie.” The irony was not lost on one blogger who pointed out that Dr. Duckett once complained about nurses taking too much time for tea!

In case you missed it: Watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/v/5DxeCK5Ne_Q?fs=1&hl=en_US

What’s fascinating about this is that historically (the last 40 years) Alberta’s nearly bulletproof ability PC government has been able to withstand hundreds of missteps and scandals with very little backlash (memories of Ralph Klein’s drunken visit to a homeless shelter–if only there had been a YouTube video!). Yet, here is a short video of Duckett’s inane cookie rant, posted by CTV and now viewed by more than 140,000 people all over the world, creating an unprecedented crisis. There is an emergency meeting called, the AHS board appears locked in debate over what to do about Dr. Duckett. His video makes a mockery of AHS and overshadows any work being done to fix the problems (by his own admission in a hasty apology).

At one point, the cookie video is the top video on YouTube’s home page under News and Politics. The video has now spawned numerous music videos, spoofs and responses. I mean, where do people find the time??!! But, I digress…

You can’t “make” a video go viral, it just happens

Now to understand the role of social media, you must understand that having a video go viral is no easy feat. I’ve had bosses and even colleagues tell me to create a video and “make it go viral.” No one can “make” a video go viral. Sure, there are some tricks and tips you can use to increase the probability of a video going viral, but a viral video is spread by “the people.” They, and only they, decide what goes viral. It’s a lot about timing, content, relevance, agenda-setting and good old-fashioned luck. The power of YouTube is that, at least for now (find out more about net neutrality at: http://saveournet.ca/), it is free.

Change for the better? Or not?

It will be interesting to see if this “cookie exchange” video, will claim any further victims. There is already talk of AHS board members resigning. Will it bring down any Alberta cabinet ministers? It seems unlikely at this point. But, is the Alberta public reclaiming some measure of control over its wayward government via social media (with a little help from a national and a global audience)? Let’s hope.

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