|Picture courtesy of Wiki Images
Love it or hate it – virtual politics is all about the numbers. 100,000 to be precise. This week Londoners took part in an experiment, a virtual telphone townhall that was part of Ontario’s pre-budget consultations. There have been several of these townhalls across the province and they began in February. Telephone townhalls have taken place in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Kitchener already as well as a few other areas. Last week the consultation process took to Ottawa. The virtual stop in London was the most successful so far with 20,000 people taking part. Ontario’s Finance Minster Dwight Duncan led the townhalls to consult with more members of the public prior to the budget’s release next week. Other consultations in person have already taken place over the last few months. Private organizations and non profits have already made their ideas known about how to balance the budget, what the government is doing right and where they need to invest now to save more later. London MPP Deb Matthews, also Health and Longterm Care Minister, along with Attorney General Chris Bentley and London MPP Khalil Ramal were all on the ticket seeking out questions and answering them. Topics ranged Monday night from the economy to HST to job retraining. There is one more virtual townhall coming prior to the budget’s unveiling March 29th. That one will be open to those who are invited from Durham area. You can also visit the Ontario Ministry of Finance web site http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/ If you are from the area of Durham you can still call the number to get your name listed for the virtual chat. A virtual townhall takes place over the phone with 20,000 people listening and looks a bit like a conference call. “By the end of this process we will have talked to almost 100,000 people,” said a spokesperson for Deb Matthews office in Toronto. In previous years we have held these townhalls in person in London and we end up hearing from maybe 60 people, she stated. This is a much better way of consulting the voters. “The key benefit is accessing more people. It’s much more wide reaching.” When questioned on the fact that the one hour townhall wasn’t really that interactive and asked about social media being employed more in future the spokesperson indicated: “we are always looking at ways to make things better.” The Ontario budget will be released March 29th at 4 p.m.