MP puts constituents on speed dial

The idea of an MP holding town hall meetings is not unusual. But the way Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day plans to hold his next town hall meeting this Tuesday night is expected to be a first in Canada.

The idea of an MP holding town hall meetings is not unusual. But the way Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day plans to hold his next town hall meeting this Tuesday night is expected to be a first in Canada.

Day will hold the meeting — a gathering he says will allow him to hear directly from constituents — via telephone. And he says thousands of residents in his sprawling riding will be invited to participate.

According to Day, the latest telephone technology will allow him — or at least his recorded voice — to call as many as 40,000 numbers in the riding and invite those who answer to either stay on the line to attend the meeting or call a toll-free number to participate. He will be live during the meeting.

During the town hall, in which Day will speak and listen to constituents, participants will be invited to join a virtual queue to ask questions, key in numbers to respond to questions from the MP and hear what the Day has to say on several issues facing the federal government.

“This is one of the ways I am using to keep up with the what the constituents are thinking,” said Day earlier this week.

A telephone town hall meeting of this size is believed to be a first for any MP in Canada, say officials in Day’s Penticton constituency office.

According to Day’s assistant Doug Sharpe, calls will go out to 40,000 numbers in the riding at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and the meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. and run for an hour.

Given the projected number of participants, it’s not clear how much time people will have to ask questions or how many will be answered. But Sharpe said phone numbers will be provided for people to send in questions and provide the local MP with additional input after the meeting ends.

Day, who is also president of the federal Treasury Board and travels outside the riding a great deal, prides himself on spending as much time as possible listening to his constituents.

He said in addition to his regular door-knocking and meetings with constituents throughout the riding — a constituency that includes most of the South Okanagan and the Nicola Valley — the use of this new telephone technology will allow him to hear directly from even more people here.

“I want it to be another way to stay connected,” he said.

Unlike a traditional conference call, the telephone town hall meeting is expected to be more interactive and include many more people.

When the initial invitation call goes out, it will identify if it reaches voicemail. If that is the case, a message will be left to call back on a toll-free number if it is received in time. If someone answers, they will be asked to hold on the line if they want to participate.

The number to call if you want to participate but did not get a call or missed the invitation at 6 p.m. is 888-886-6603. It is a toll-free number. When it is dialed, the caller will be prompted to key in 16241 and the number sign to follow further instructions. Anyone answering the call from Day will already be connected and will not have to dial in.