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:
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.
Do you have any more? Share them with me on Twitter: @smithjoanna