St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud held her first telephone town hall to take questions and hear the concerns of her constituents.
On Thursday night, Renaud spoke to about 3,770 constituents and listened to their concerns on topics ranging from jobs and the economy to access for people with disabilities.
“It was great,” Renaud said. “The technology is really cool to be able to reach out to that many people.”
During the one hour talk, the St. Albert MLA took 17 questions from St. Albert residents. Callers had the option to leave a voice message after the call if they didn’t get their question answered or if they felt too shy to speak during the public question period.
Renaud will soon get access to the voicemails and begin returning calls.
“I think it’s just another way to connect with people,” Renaud said. “I had a lot of fun.”
Renaud had planned to host the town hall at a future date, but had to switch dates with another MLA with short notice. She only had a chance to inform her constituents about the event around 24 hours in advance.
“We had something planned and then our date changed,” Renaud said. “Next time we could probably reach out to more people by letting them know about it. I was really pleased with the amount of people given the short notice.”
For the residents who did get time with the MLA, they came armed with questions on a diverse range of topics.
“I was surprised by some,” Renaud said. “I anticipated questions about the economy and jobs and that is preoccupation right now. It was wonderful to answer a questions about AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped).”
One caller was concerned about elderly couples being split up because of a lack of suitable care facilities for seniors. Another caller was wondering how the government was diversifying the economy beyond the oil and gas sector.
A few callers sounded frustrated with the government’s action on the economy. The first caller was upset with the government’s plan to increase the minimum wage.
“Is the government still planning on going up to the $15 an hour? I had to sell my business last year because we just didn’t see how going forward we would be able to continue without having huge price increases,” said the caller.
The man said the cut to the business tax would have saved his business $3,000 a year but the cost of the increase to the $15 per hour minimum wage along with changing the entire pay structure would have cost him around $250,000 per year. He said he had to shut his doors and lay off employees because he could no longer afford the costs of doing business.
Another caller was frustrated with the business climate in Alberta and was wondering how the government was planning on attracting new investment to the province.
Along with taking questions, the MLA asked a couple of questions of her listeners. She asked the callers what they thought the priority should be for her and the NDP caucus. Forty six per cent of respondents thought the government should focus on jobs, while 25 per cent wanted to see the NDP tackle healthcare. Twelve per cent of respondents were concerned with climate change and the environment. The number of people who responded to the questions was not available to the Gazette by press time.
MLA Renaud will hold a constituency office open house on Feb. 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.