Posted by Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau
New Democrat Leader Jack Layton sat down for a multimedia town hall at the University of Toronto on Tuesday evening, where ordinary Canadians were invited to ask him questions in person, over the telephone or online via the social networking site Twitter. The party says about 20,000 people signed up to participate via its website.
The questions put to Layton were a little easy. Would he bring a national child care plan to Canada? What would he do to make post-secondary education more affordable? What about improving pensions and help for seniors? Layton had an answer for every one of them somewhere in his package of stump speeches and policy announcements.
Here was one selected from Twitter:
robertperrier #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41 Jack, you got my vote...but, help me convince my 53-yr old 'conservative' dad, what should I say to him?
The last one from the phone line was from a woman named Joyce:
"I wanted to say how proud I am of the campaign. It's pretty exciting. Every time I turn on the TV, there you are," she said to loud applause and cheers before asking what she could do to help her local NDP candidate get elected.
You get the idea.
Campaign spokeswoman Kathleen Monk says the way the questions were chosen were mixed. The questions from the room were "totally random", with a staffer holding a microphone choosing people who raised their hands. There were about 2,000 people listening on the telephone, and if they wanted to ask a question they pressed 9 and shared it with someone on the other end. "Then we chose a few questions to show a variation of topics, geography, gender, language, etc.," Monk said. Online, about 1,200 people tweeted their questions with the hashtag #AskLayton. "Our staff selected a few that seemed interesting, while paying attention to French and English," said Monk.
I wasn't privy to the unselected questions on the phone (and I couldn't read the minds of people in the room), but I could see the questions that people were submitting via Twitter and I have to say: many of them were far more interesting than the ones the staffers deemed to be so.
I'm including a sample of questions I found that might have prompted Layton into saying something we hve not heard before, just so you can get a sense of what kind of questions real ordinary Canadians (with the caveat that I have not researched these people and so some might not be as ordinary as they appear) wanted to ask Layton. I might end up asking him some of these myself.
jason_metcalfe Deciding how to vote. I respect that you allowed free vote on Gun Reg. On what science are you basing policy? #AskLayton #elxn41 #Cdnpoli
glyn1123 @jacklayton do you or will you have a strategy to increase/engage the number of "mentally challenged" into regular work force? #AskLayton
judymclarty #asklayton If Jack could, would he appoint #ElizabethMay to a cabinet or senior gov't position? She would be an amazing addition to gov't.
justinhine @jacklayton What would you do with the PBO? And would you legislate the gov't to use their estimates with budgets? #asklayton
Vimy1917 #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41 Do think it is time to talk about abolishing monarchy?
lesterleesm #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41 Jack, many of my fellow artists are forced to leave Canada, citing lack of work or support. Your solution?
causerie so what are the chances of mr. layton showing up to his own all-candidate meeting *this* time? #asklayton #elxn41
Stephistan #askLayton #ndp Can you explain how your idea to cut % rates to credit cards won't cause them to deny credit or worse?
marciesharp #AskLayton what is the NDP's stance regarding supply management within the farming industry?
sakelly29 #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41 What will you do to improve living conditions for our native brothers and sisters?
Topp_Gun #AskLayton Is a Liberal-NDP coalition feasible? Which goals from your campaign will suffer most if this happens?
leesabee #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41 Will you revisit changing the words to the national anthem?
pekoe_j #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41What would you do to contribute to the ever growing problem of mental illness among Canada's youths?
Equinamin What would u do to ensure maternal heath and safety in Canada for First Nations women? ps. Urock4ever : ) #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41
frogturtle can we do better than Cap and Trade? #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #elxn41
confute Jack, would your government introduce and get passed Prop-Rep legislation in first mandate? How to get past Senate? #AskLayton #elxn41
cyberwuff @jacklayton #askLayton I know you advocate needed #electoralReform. What would you say to NDP/LPC/GPC voters in tight ridings now tho'? :(
CWhite20XX Why do you say Ottawa is Broken while you've been there 4 the last eight years. What have you been doing? #askLayton #ndp #cdnpoli #yegfed
melbeaulne #AskLayton #Cdnpoli #NDP #elxn41 How do you plan lowering violent crimes and (mostly teen) bullying?
davidsflying Do you have any policies to assist Canada's aviation industry, including addressing pilot training costs and infrastructure #asklayton #ndp
martantomkat #elxn41 #asklayton What makes you different from other politicians who promise the moon but then don't deliver on vision or accountability?
Do you have any more? Share them with me on Twitter: @smithjoanna