Townhall Question Period or Campaign Kick-off 
Posted to Jim Elve's Group Election Blog

I'll take a short break from the frenzied build-up going on right now for the Sens-Leafs game here in Ottawa to complain about the CBC's “town hall meeting” between the Prime Minister and the Canadian public.

From what I saw, which I think was most of it, it seemed to be a great time for Martin to lay out his plan for his next mandate. The guests, under the pressue of lights and a national audience, could not, when they tried, get PM the PM to account for actions of the last Liberal mandate. Martin deftly directed such questions into how he was, “and let me be clear on this”, going to get all the information so they can make a proper decision going forward.

Whether it was on our foreign aid spending, democratic deficit and electoral reform, or how to deal the problems that “communities” are having - not just cities - don't want to offend too many rural folks that are already pissed about the gun registry and the government's inaction wrt the BSE issue - Martin would lay out the grand plan for the future of the country.

I understand the benefits of having the Prime Minister do such events as these, however, I wonder if it should have something more. Perhaps some journalists to ask some questions like the debates have or bringing the Leader of the Opposition there as well to provide some balance.

Regardless of my problems with the current structure of CBC's townhall meetings it was a joy to actually understand our Prime Minister and be able to listen to some indepth answers on some of the issues. I didn't feel embarrassed as I did when listening to Jean Chretien in those settings.

Here's one of the memorable exchanges during one of Chretien's townhalls:

UNIDENTIFIED: Mr. Prime Minister, I'm Johanne Savoie, from Montreal. Recently, your government awarded itself a very generous grade, "B+", based on your Red Book of campaign promises. Anyone who has taken a test, knows that on any test, some questions are worth more than others. When I voted for you, I voted for you -- I didn't read the Red Book. I voted for you, based on your promise to repeal the GST. And you did not ...

CHRETIEN: Did you read the Red Book on that. It's not what we said in the Red Book. You should have read it. (Audience laughter)

UNIDENTIFIED: You were saying in all your speeches, that you were promising to repeal the GST.

CHRETIEN: We always said that we were to harmonize the tax with the provincial government and we have done it with the Quebec and the Maritime provinces. We never say that it was to be repealed. Read the Red Book. It was written quite clearly.

UNIDENTIFIED: What we heard during the campaign, for those of us who didn't read the Red Book and that's most of us, was that the GST was going to be repealed.

CHRETIEN: No, no -- we said that we were to harmonize the taxes to have a better system, because of the duplication that existed, tried to make it more simpler; but we never said in the Red Book, or directly, that it was to be scrapped.

UNIDENTIFIED: I didn't hear simpler -- I heard scrapped.

CHRETIEN: From whom?

UNIDENTIFIED: From you on television and on the radio.


UNIDENTIFIED: During the campaign. This is what I heard. Maybe they should pull tape. I don't know.

MANSBRIDGE: Stay with us; our combined CBC/Radio Canada Town Hall with the Prime Minister, continues in a moment.

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