Low turnout for pre-budget session

Peggy Revell

Only two people showed up here last night for the fourth of a series of pre-budget consultations being hosted by local MP John Rafferty’s across the riding.
A handful attended the sessions in Rainy River on Monday and Stratton on Wednesday, with roughly 20 showing up for the one in Emo on Tuesday night, noted Rafferty.
But despite the low numbers, he is positive that similar “town hall” meetings will catch on down the road.
“This is something new as I’ve said, and politicians have always promised to have town halls, and I’m determined to have them because I said I would,” Rafferty stressed.
“I think it’s going to take a couple of rounds for people to get the idea that they can come.”
Rafferty said input gathered from these sessions will go towards “enhancing” the package the NDP has put together on what it recommends for the federal budget that will be presented to Finance minister Jim Flaherty.
Another pre-budget session is planned in Atikokan tonight before wrapping up in Kakabeka Falls and Thunder Bay by Monday.
Rafferty also has been consulting with district councils and reeves throughout the week.
“There are a lot of things that have already come up in these four town halls that have enhanced the package that we’ve been already putting together,” said Rafferty, noting issues such as a need for Employment Insurance reform that have arisen at every meeting so far.
“So it will be interesting that when the debate comes on for the budget, when I stand up in the house, and I can reference these town halls, and I can reference what people have said, and say, ‘This is important for people in the Rainy River District.’”
Meanwhile, he hopes future town halls will catch on and get the public more involved with the political process.
“What we’re doing with all the town halls for the rest of the year is we’re going to be tying them to other events,” explained Rafferty, citing one way he hopes to increase turnout in the future.
“So the third week of March will be a town hall, but it will also be a passport workshop,” he noted. “The next one we’re planning to have a federal disability tax credit workshop.”