MP tele-townhall includes 3,700 constituents
Wild Rose MP Blake Richards hosted a tele-townhall using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology to communicate with about 3,700 people in his riding, Jan. 21.
VOIP delivers voice communications and multimedia sessions over networks such as the Internet, allowing a large number of people to take part in the conversation at the same time.
“I think it was great and well worthwhile,” said Richards.
“I hope it was a virtual way to get a lot of residents in one virtual place all at once.”
A contracted digital communications service provider managed the technical aspects of the event, including contacting thousands of households across Wild Rose simultaneously.
Other residents could call in if they wanted to take part.
The conversation included questions from those participating, as well as poll questions that residents could vote on such as: What issues should the government focus on? What party best respects your views? Is Blake Richards on the right track?
Questions from residents included a wide range of topics such as the 2013 federal budget, tourism in Banff and Canmore, native relations, foreign aid, the Keystone pipeline and income splitting.
“I think we had a good range of questions and it is a good way to engage people, which is something I try to do as often as possible” he said.
An Airdrie resident asked Richards for his stance on income splitting, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s platforms during the election in 2011. Income splitting is a tax break the Conservatives propose that would allow the higher earner in a family to split up to $50,000 of his or her income with a spouse, if they have children under the age of 18, when the budget is balanced.
“This is an initiative that has a lot of support,” said Richards.
“It remains a policy of our government at some point in the future. We have come through a tough economic time and our priority now is to balance the federal budget. I share your thoughts on the issue and when we meet our prime objective, I’ll bring that idea forward.”
However, when he was asked when the federal budget will be balanced, Richards said that will depend on the “global economic position.”
“When we set about looking to balance the budget, our objective was prior to the next federal election,” he said.
He said the budget will not include increasing spending or new taxes and residents can expect to see a continuation of the changes made in the 2012 budget such as decreasing red tape for small businesses and cutting spending.
A woman from Olds asked why the country is spending so much money overseas when there are so many people in need in Canada. Richards said the government is always looking for better ways to take care of Canadians in need but our country is fortunate and many countries look to us as an example.
“We give aid based upon the priorities of Canadians and match the donations of Canadians so that the money is going towards causes and countries residents want it to.”
During a discussion about the Keystone pipeline, Richards said it is important the country has opportunities to export our natural resources and that we are open to new markets.
“From what I’m hearing, Keystone sounds positive, but there are still some major hurdles to be cleared,” he said.
“There are billions of dollars being left on th table. For those who invest in our resources and have jobs that depend on them, those people deserve for us to do our best and move forward on those projects, but we need to have responsible development. We have stringent regulations on those pipelines.”
When asked about global warming, Richards said he is against “hurting the economy” with carbon taxes but thinks responsible measures such as reducing vehicle emissions should be taken.
“Our approach is a sector-by-sector approach,” he said.
“We need to make decisions based on fact, not fear mongering.”
Richards closed the conversation by saying it reflected on the quality of the people in the riding and their passion for the country’s issues.
“Thank you for taking the time to talk to me tonight,” he said.
“I know not everybody has the time to come to the face-to-face meetings so this is a great way to hear the concerns of constituents.”
Richards said he plans to host another tele-townhall but no date has been set for the next one yet.
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