By John Rafferty
I think a good MP should, whenever possible, consult directly with the people he or she represents as often as possible.
We can do this through mailings and correspondence, phone calls, door-to-door visits, private meetings, and public meetings like town halls.
The other methods are all good, but I would like to deal with town halls this week.
I view town hall meetings as a chance for us to get together as a community to learn about the issues that affect our lives, and to work towards finding solutions to the shared problems we face.
They also are a chance for you to let me know if I have been focusing on the right issues or missing the boat on those that matter the most.
These meetings generally are inexpensive to host, and what they do cost generally goes directly into the various community organizations that share their facilities.
For my part, these meetings have proven to be very useful so far. After the first two rounds, I’ve found that while we all live in the same riding, we often face very different issues.
For instance, during the round of budget town halls back in January, I was very surprised to hear just how much the infrastructure and Employment Insurance needs varied from community to community.
Shortly after those first gatherings, I decided to hold several rounds of meetings across the riding over the next year to exchange opinions and ideas, and to ensure you have the effective and accountable representation you deserve.
The two rounds of town hall meetings I’ve hosted so far this year have been more general in nature, but the next two are slated to deal with the forestry crisis and the AbitibiBowater bankruptcy more explicitly.
One is planned for next Thursday (May 21) from 6:30-9 p.m. at La Place Rendez-Vous in Fort Frances (coffee will be served starting at 6 p.m.), with the second planned for Friday, May 22 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. (EDT) at the Da Vinci Centre in Thunder Bay.
I’ve heard from many families over the past few years that have found themselves in a constant struggle to make ends meet because of the decline of the forestry sector.
But the recent bankruptcies of Buchanan Forest Products and AbitibiBowater have taken the problems in our communities to another level, and thousands of jobs, pensions, and small businesses across the riding–from Fort Frances to Thunder Bay–are now threatened.
At the same time, we also are hearing very little from the employers and our federal government as to what they plan to do to help.
It’s been hard at times to keep up with developments in these cases, so the next two town hall meetings are devoted to sharing information from my end about programs that may exist to help you during this uncertain period, and for you to share your personal stories with me about you have been affected so I can bring them to the House of Commons, the national media, and into households across the country.
Feel free to write or call my office if you have any thoughts on the town halls I’ve hosted to date, and likewise if you have any ideas for future meetings.
Have the meetings been useful so far? Have we had enough of them, or too many? Let me know.
Please join me for next week’s meetings to see what we can do to get through this crisis together.