MP covers a lot of ground with telephone town hall

Tuesday evening, Okanagan Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day demonstrated that communications technology has spread its reach to encompass one of the oldest forums for political debate by using a new system to call every phone in the riding and invite his constituents to participate in an hour-long telephone town hall meeting.

Reaching out to every phone in a riding that stretches from the South Okanagan to the Nicola Valley, over 10,000 square kilometres and 80,000 electors, Day managed to get an even larger audience participating.

“Approximately 9,000 people stayed on the line for some period or another,” said Day. “I was very happy with that, it is more than usual for this type of thing.”

But as cutting edge as the use the technology was being put to, the content of the call dealt with everyday issues and standard political fare.

Day started the conversation out with a speech outlining the federal Conservatives’ plans on dealing with the ongoing economic recovery, citing lowering taxes, freezing government operational spending and job strategies.

“Overall the economy is going pretty well, it’s still a fragile global recovery, so we want to stay on track here and we want to stay focused,” he told his audience. “That’s my brief picture of what’s going on. I could talk a lot longer than that, but I want to hear from you.”

The question went to a woman from Penticton, who asked what was being done to lower the interest being paid on the federal debt. Day responded that first the government had to stop the deficit itself, which he said would be happening by 2015 under the current plan. Once that was done, he told the caller, work could begin on retiring the overall debt, in turn reducing the amount of interest paid.

Most of the questions Day answered over the hour-long town hall showed that many had similar things on their mind, questioning what the government was going to be doing to improve the financial situation for families and people on fixed incomes, like seniors on Canada pension.

Interspersed with the questions were three polling questions Day was throwing out to the people of his riding, asking whether the government freeze on operational spending should continue and whether the government was proceeding the right way on lowering the deficit, offering the alternative of higher taxes to speed things up. He also wanted to know if his constituents thought the government should be investing federal tax dollars in helping build arenas that professional sports teams would play in.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the overwhelming response from the people responding to the poll was against raising taxes, with about 80 per cent casting their vote in support of current policy on each of the questions.

While the results of the poll and the nature of the questions was unsurprising, Day said his first telephone town hall meeting helped him be sure of the voter’s opinions.

“I have had way more questions in this one hour than I would have time for at a public meeting,” he said, adding that it was a great opportunity to get direction from the constituents on the polling questions.

“I got a lot of questions and we got a lot of other ones that came in after the call,” Day said. “Overall we are very pleased and we will probably do it again.”


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